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There's a recent quote from a White House "staffer" that has become a rallying cry for us stuck-in-the-mud empiricists, which is essentially a paraphrase of Marx's famous: "Philosophers have only interpreted the world.... The point is to change it." Before they came to power, the neo-cons weren't reticent about their view that Intelligence should serve the interests of Policy, rather than policy being framed by intelligence (i.e., facts). This is exactly what came to pass with Iraq, where the neo-cons used 9-11 as an excuse for going after Saddam (which Pappy Bush, Powell, and the other "realists" had denied them in the first Gulf War), freely cooking the evidence for Saddam as a clear and present danger and suppressing the intelligence that suggested the war would be deadly, costly, and difficult. The guru of the neo-cons at the University of Chicago (I'm blanking on his name) openly advocated a right-wing version of Bolshevism—since we are smarter than anyone else and know what is best, and since the timid masses are unlikely to follow our superior path if we tell them our plans, we have a right and duty to lie to get our way, and once we achieve our goal, they will thank us.

The right wing economic agenda—eliminating progressive taxation, destroying social security, leaving consumer and environmental protection up to "market forces," dismissing the economic safety-net, doing away with public education (university and grade school)—is not going to get much political support if debated openly. So, cooking the books is in order. This is why we get the continuous claim that cutting taxes for the rich leads to increased economic growth to the point that it generates more money for the government than before the tax cuts, with the lie that this actually happenned under Reagonomics—the "squeeze the beast" ideologues know better, and are simply trying to force cuts in domestic spending by creating an unmanagable deficit, without having to win a debate over tax cuts for the rich versus domestic spending as priorities. The complete fraud trying to panic the country out of Social Security by claiming it is in imminent danger of bankruptcy, instead simply needing some actuarial adjustment to sustain it indefinitely, is another example.

Cooking the books on the budget is also a means of achieving ideological goals in the face of "empirical reality." If you keep expenditures, such as Iraq (or borrowing somewhere around $10 trillion over the next 40 years to pay Social Security recipients, while waiting for private accounts to kick in their supposed advantage), off the books, and if you treat loans from Social Security as revenues, you don't have to confront the real deficit, which can only be dealt with by raising taxes or huge cuts in Medicaid (which in reality means huge cuts for indigent elderly and the working poor) and defense—nickle and diming environmental protection, student loans, Science, etc., all of which have strong public support (Science funding is essential to the business community) is only a drop in the bucket. Of course, it's easy to cut the deficit if you start from an inflated, imaginary figure of what the deficit might have been in a worst case scenario, instead of working from actual annual figures, using uncreative accounting.

I'm predicting the real, uncreative accounting, deficit in the General Fund for 2005 will be higher than for 2004. We'll find out (if we can sort through the creative accounting), at the end of the fiscal year, whether I am right or wrong. I'm basing my prediction on: 1) higher cost for Iraq, partly because some money that would have gone into 2004 expenditures got delayed to keep them from becoming an election issue; 2) lower than expected economic growth, since I see no way the housing boom and other consumer spending derived from borrowing can continue apace; 3) increased subsidizing of the general fund from the growing Social Security surplus, which gets treated as revenue in official budget statements; 4) an expectation that budget cuts being pushed by the White House will not come to pass, at least to the extent being asked, because the big military projects, some almost universally accepted as pork, have powerful supporters in Congress, and the domestic cuts would have an impact on ordinary citizens that could make life a lot more difficult for politicians than if they really could have their cake and eat it too, by tax cuts lifting revenues.

I will also happily predict that smoke-and-mirrors accounting will show a lower deficit.
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