The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Kerry mantle of fiscal prudence slipping

It seemed too good to be true: that Kerry could outflank Bush on the left by moderation on cultural conservative issues, and at the same time outflank him the right on fiscal responsibility.

A WaPo piece today suggests that, yes, it is indeed too good to be true.

Jonathan Weisman and colleagues have crunched numbers - or spoken to those who have - and find that the projected increase in the deficit from the Kerry tax and budget proposals could come in at up to $1.3 trillion over a decade. Compared with the Bush plans raising the deficit by $1.35 trillion over the same period.

Words like could and up to are the advertisers' weasel words of choice; clearly, since chance is involved, one is looking at bell curves, standard deviations, 95% confidence intervals and all that jazz. At a minimum, one would like to see the numbers worked out on a high/low/likely range of scenarios.

From the Post, we get a less than informative graphic.

There is a short paper (PDF) on the Kerry site which includes a summary of numbers for initiatives and offsets. No totals are given for either - which stinks. Not least because I have to do the math to find that they are $1,190 billion and $1,535 billion (plus or minus - there is a range for one category).

The proposals combine large elements of the trivial - eliminating the Office of Thrift Supervision - with larger elements of the drutherful - cutting top-heavy bureaucracy at Federal agencies.

The Weisman piece also mentions - but does not link - an AEI analysis of the Kerry spending plans, which, naturally enough, is less drutherful.

The piece also boasts a first-rate blind quote:
"The deficit issue has just not been salient enough for Kerry to justify the pain required to address it in a political campaign," said one Democratic economist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering the candidate.

(Pleased to see that the Post is really taking the frugality with anonymous quotes thing seriously: several hacks still facing Club Fed vacations in the Plame saga, I gather.)

And there's delicious sleight-of-hand in the spin from the Kerry side: on the one hand, Leon Panetta (!) says
You have to begin with the premise that the steps you need to take to reduce deficits are almost diametrically opposed to the steps you need to take to win elections.

In elections, politicians lie about their intentions. Live with it.

On the other, we get Gene Sperling:
If savings cannot be found, programs will have to be jettisoned, Sperling said. "This is the first time I've ever seen a candidate say, 'Even my top priorities will be constrained by fiscal discipline.' "

But - isn't that slightly less comforting with Panetta's line about pols lying about deficit plans?

I wonder when we'll see some gratitude from the Kerry boys to the Swift Boaters who single-handedly have been diverting media attention that might otherwise have focused on Kerry's flaky fiscal finagling?

Some folks don't know when they're well off...

Oh - Weisman's piece ran on A8. The voters' sleep will not have been disturbed.

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