Friday, March 27, 2009

That’s a Folder, Not a Budget

The House Republicans give a shot at the federal budget.

Stung by their stereotyping as the “party of no,” House Republicans eagerly promoted the unveiling of their alternative to President Obama’s budget today — but when they finished speaking, reporters had one big question: Where’s the actual budget? You know, the numbers that show deficit projections and discretionary spending?

There certainly was no hard budgetary data in the attractively designed 18-page packet that the House GOP handed out today, its blue cover emblazoned with an ambitious title: “The Republican Road to Recovery.” When Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) was asked what his goal for deficit reduction would be — President Obama aims to halve the nation’s spending imbalance within five years — Boehner responded simply: “To do better [than Obama].”

Okay, a little bit of personal insight is due here. I make my living writing and working on budgets for a government entity. I have seen a lot of budgets over the last seven years or so, and I have seen a lot of things people think are budgets. But I can say with a fine certainty that what the Republicans put out today doesn’t come close to being a budget. For one thing, budgets have numbers, and they add up to a total. What Mr. Boehner et al have come up with is not even a budget narrative, because those contain specific numbers that tell people exactly how much is to be spent on each item.

To be fair, the folder is pretty.