Who woulda thought that President Barack Obama would take a PR cue from former President George W. Bush? At least on one key measure, he will promising at a budget summit Monday to cut in half the $1.3 trillion deficit that he inherited by the end of his first term.
Thats a neat trick, given that Obamas reported deficit projection in four years is a whopping $533 billion, which itself would be a record if it werent for the current years ocean of red ink.
In 2004, while running for re-election, Bush proposed cutting the budget deficit in half by 2009. But that was only after a large surplus morphed into a large deficit during his first term. Bush technically succeeded in reaching his goal and even projected a return to budget surpluses before the bottom dropped out of the economy on his way out the door.
Which is why one might want to take any of these budget projections with, say, a trillion-dollar grain of salt, or two.
Congressional Democrats who made a living whipping out charts of skyrocketing federal debt will have to figure out a way to put a shine on an Obama budget that will explode the federal debt faster than any other president in the nations history. And those old charts could quickly become props for a smaller, feistier Republican minority hoping to regain the mantle of fiscal responsibility.
Bush, of course, blamed the 9/11 attacks, among other things, for the budget bloat that he amassed, but Democrats pointed to his unprecedented juxtaposition of tax cuts and wars.
Obama, for his part, can point to the enormous deficit that he inherited from Bush and set himself a low bar to jump over.
In the meantime, amid several trillion in additional borrowing, Obama and the Democrats plan to talk a lot about fiscal responsibility in the coming months.
Obama told top House and Senate leaders at the White House on Monday that he is committed to a range of new budget rules to improve transparency and promote action on long-term fiscal challenges.
I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay, and that means taking responsibility right now in this administration for getting our spending under control, Obama said. We'll start by being honest with ourselves about the magnitude of our deficits. For too long, our budget process in Washington has been an exercise in deception, a series of accounting tricks to hide the extent of our spending and the shortfalls in our revenue and hope that the American people won't notice.
The new president said he will budget for wars, natural disasters and other costs that were previously left out of budgets to present a rosier picture.