Thursday, February 11, 2010

Openness Is Inoperative

President Obama promised unprecedented transparency in his Administration, especially in fiscal policy. He hasn't delivered, either in general or in budgeting. And it's getting worse.

Last year, the Administration pushed a cap-and-trade plan that included punishing taxation, conceived in part to offset Federal spending, but supposedly mitigated by plans to distribute free "allowances" (exceptions) back to the hardest hit businesses. These projected receipts and outlays were listed in the 2010 budget ($627 billion over 10 years, see page 26), under instructions from OMB Director Peter Orszag.

Now, cap-and-trade returns in the newly proposed 2011 budget--sort of. Specifically, in totaling the projected deficit in Table S-2 (page 147), there's a line-item labeled "Allowance for climate policy". So Obama's still presuming carbon tax receipts--but shows blanks where the revenue numbers should be. The Administration tries to justify the omission in footnote 3 on page 148:
A comprehensive market-based climate change policy will be deficit neutral because proceeds from emissions allowances will be used to compensate vulnerable families, communities, and businesses during the transition to a clean energy economy. Receipts will also be reserved for investments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including support of clean energy technologies, and in adapting to the impacts of climate change, both domestically and in developing countries.
Nonsense, explains Phil Kerpen on FOXForum:
[D]eficit neutrality is beside the point. This is a budget; it’s supposed to show us the total amount of revenue planned and what it’s going to be spent on. The blank line with the above footnote is simply a promise to spend every penny of this huge new tax hike. That's not very comforting to the millions of Americans who will pay the price for this tax, and deserve to see an honest budget that shows how much the tax will raise and precisely how it will be spent.

The blank line for hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars in higher taxes and spending flies in the face of every promise this administration has made about transparency and accountability, and conceals the true scope and cost of Obama's budget plans. . .

Now, for the sake of political expediency and to create a fa├žade of fiscal responsibility, Orszag has presented a budget that does exactly the opposite. Obama and Orszag have thrown transparency out the window and created a black box for taxes and spending on climate change hidden inside its 2011 budget. They are still proposing the biggest tax increase in U.S. history, but instead of lowballing the revenue estimate the way they did last year, they are concealing it entirely.
Conclusion: This could be good news -- Obama's "bailing" on cap-and-trade because it's politically dead. Still, budgeting isn't supposed to be on "double-secret probation." Especially when backtracking from the opposite approach a year ago. This White House whitewash falls well below the transparency the President promised.

Forget hope -- start demanding change.

(via Planet Gore)

No comments: