Reason Writers Around Town: Peter Suderman in The New York Post on White House Budget Gimmicks


In today's New York Post, Reason associate editor Peter Suderman takes a look at outgoing Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag's legacy of budget gimmickery.

No more budget gimmicks? That's what outgoing White House budget director Peter Orszag promised as the Obama team prepared to take control of the White House. "The president prefers to tell the truth, rather than make the numbers look better by pretending," he told The New York Times.

But numbers games turned out to be Orszag's specialty. He's set to step down at the end of July, but for the last 18 months, he's presided over a wave of fiscal trickery.

Whole thing here.

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  1. “The president prefers to tell the truth, rather than make the numbers look better by pretending,” he told The New York Times.

    “However, since telling the truth is so unsavory, actually impossible for the most part, we do pretend.”

    1. That’s exactly how I interpreted what he said. It’s not the “promise” that Suderman casts it as.

      1. I took it as just running a line of bullshit that looks good in print.

    2. Savor the distinction between preferring to tell the truth, and actually telling the truth.

  2. Gimmickery?

  3. There was a lot of chatter about the new FDR when Big O was elected. I considered a lot of it bullshit. Primarily because a lot of what FDR did required asymmetric information between government and the governed. That asymmetry has been seriously decreased, and articles like this are a pretty good example.

    The thing I’m left wondering today is how does such a tech savy administration underestimate and be so woefully incapable of dealing with the current management of information. Maybe they really did fancy themselves the new New Deal and FDR, but totally missed FDR’s ability to control information.

    1. That, and the fact that the Administration are utterly distrustful of the economic system formerly known as capitalism.

    2. I haven’t seen much evidence of them being particularly tech savvy (beyond Teleprompter technology). They got that rep from the 2008 campaign, where they benefited greatly by the skills of their supporters. Heck, Ron Paul’s campaign was just as tech savvy as Obama’s by that yardstick.

      1. tech savvy = online donations

        Nothing more.

      2. what Tulpa said

    3. I thought it was bullshit to. FDR for all his faults really was trying something new. The federal governmetn was the size of PBS. Obama in contrast is trying nothing that hasn’t already been done. The government is both broke and has little room for growth. For all the talk of hope and change, Obama was only offereing warmed over liberal policies from the 70s. It wasn’t anything like the New Deal. It was just Labor Britian.

      1. John, you’re missing the point: during all this you can see the NAACP applauding this whole effort!

        1. You’re missing the point: look over there, a dinosaur!

        2. Shut the fuck up, cracker.

    4. Hey – we’re doing our best!

      1. Reminds me of France, at any point since The Battle of Hastings.

  4. LOL, that dude is pretty funny.


    1. Nothing was funny about The Battle of Hastings, beyond the irony.

  5. In the short term, the best hope for fiscal restraint is divided government (i.e. gridlock).

    In the long run, I think it would be good to have some kind of constitutional amendment limiting the government’s tax and spend powers. (The PAYGO rule is not enough of a barrier to spending increases. This is not mainly because of “budget trickery” but because it is statutory: congress can simply vote to increase the amount of deficit they are allowed to have, or vote loopholes into the PAYGO rule.)

    The amendment could go something like this (but re-written in legal language):

    Section 1: At the beginning of each year the Congressional Budget Office shall estimate the expected federal revenue given prevailing tax rates. No budget passed by congress shall exceed this amount by greater than 50 percent.

    Section 2: No person shall be liable to federal government for more than two thirds of his or her income through income taxes, payroll taxes, and similar taxes.

    Section 3: Congress may suspend sections 1 or 2 only by a two thirds vote of both houses, but only during a national security emergency that requires it. All suspensions shall be temporary, lasting no more than 2 years, and renewal of such a suspension shall require another two thirds vote of both houses.

    Section 4: If a sufficient number of taxpayers (say 1,000) petition to challenge the government’s claim of a national emergency; this class of taxpayers shall have standing to challenge the suspension of sections 1 and 2 in federal court.

    Section 5: In any year that the sections 1 and/or 2 are suspended, there shall be no grants of funds from the federal government to state or local governments (i.e. pork).

    I’ve set the limiting amounts (50% deficit; 2/3 income in taxes) higher than what would be ideal. One could play around with these amounts, but the point is that they would have to be higher than what most politicians currently plan on taxing and spending in order to have a sufficient coalition in favor of passing the amendment. Although it won’t interfere with immediate big government plans, a future generation of politicians may find that they can not spend as much as they would have done without such an amendment.

    The prohibition on “pork” spending and the ability of taxpayers to challenge suspensions would be a deterrent to attempts by congress to suspend those limits on spurious grounds. The only reason that is in there is in case of the (highly unlikely) event that we find ourselves in a serious, all-out world war 3 scenario (which would probably require substantial deficits, as world war 2 did).

    1. Ooh, fantasy time!

      Section 1. Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

      Section 2. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises as necessary and proper for carrying into execution all other enumerated powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.

      Section 3. Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

      Section 4. The Congress shall have power the standardize the manner in which commercial agreements with foreign Nations, between peoples of different States, and with the Indian tribes shall be deemed legally enforceable.

      1. So you want to

        1) Get rid of the General Welfare clause.


        2) Rephrase the Commerce Clause to exclude all powers except the narrow interpretation of “making commerce regular”.

        I am somewhat sympathetic to the second goal; since I agree that this clause has been interpreted absurdly broadly since at least Wickard v. Filburn. I am less sure about the General Welfare clause, and I’d have to brush up on the range of things purportedly justified by this clause (I don’t have a problem with interstate highways or federal disaster relief activities, for example).

        But at any rate, it is clear that your amendment, which strikes down much of status quo policy can not get enough support to be passed (hence your statement “fantasy time”). By contrast, the amendment I proposed does not immediately negate existing policies (though it may help prevent future excesses), so it has a greater chance of getting widespread support.

  6. My favorite comment:


    07/25/2010 3:59 PM

    So now the Post reruns articles from the crazed anti-government magazine of the libertarians, “Reason”? These are seperatists and extremists who stockpile weapons in Idaho and fantasize that they can run a nation with no taxes and themselves as the military. And of course, no civil rights laws–those would impinge on their domination fantasies. But they would allow billionaires like Murdoch to run wild.[END]

    I really like how these people forget that Reason supported Obama over McCain during the election. The far left always ignores 90% of what Libertarians actually say so that they can pretend that we are just too insane to be real. Well, time to go clean my weapons stockpile.

    1. If they think we’re crazy… boy, have they got a shock in store.

    2. Stupidity has no boundaries and no guilt.

    3. You stockpile ammunition not guns. Sheesh what kind of moron just stockpiles guns?

      1. That’s like going to the strip club with a wallet full of 20s.

  7. The reason given for the red tape nightmare of businesses having to file1099 forms for vendor transactions over $600 per year in the health care bill is that, ostensibly, it will result in a significant increase in revenue. Anyone believe that it will result in any increased revenues whatsoever? Perhaps Obama prefers not using budget gimmicks, but Obama has shown he will do anything to advance his pet issues.

    1. No, the 1099 thing is not about revenue… it’s about plugging virtually everyone into The System.

      And guess where the plug goes.

      1. Homophobe.

        1. Hatemonger! Go suck Ron Paul’s cock, gay-basher!

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