In Obama's Budget, 'A Lot Of Things To Question' : Planet Money Sean West, an analyst at Eurasia Group, pores over the president's budget looking for budgetary lies.

In Obama's Budget, 'A Lot Of Things To Question'

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From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

It has been an incredibly exciting week for a small subset of Americans: budget nerds. On Monday, President Obama released his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, which means a few thousand people took out their pencils and pored over the massive document to find out what's hidden inside.

Adam Davidson of NPR's Planet Money talked to one of those budget wonks.

ADAM DAVIDSON: For Sean West, an analyst with the Eurasia Group, the morning the budget is released is one of the most exciting days of his year.

Mr. SEAN WEST (Analyst, Eurasia Group): You wake up early, then you realize that they're at least a half-hour late getting it up on the website.

DAVIDSON: Hitting refresh on a Web browser every second for 30 minutes means 1,800 refreshes. But, finally, somewhere around refresh number 1,827, Sean West got to see the document.

Like lots of other analysts and reporters and politicians and lobbyists all over the country, he then got out his pencil and tried to figure out what this budget means, especially, is this budget for real or is it filled with tricks, with budgetary lies?

And Sean West says that the surprising answer, at least for people cynical about politics, is - not exactly.

Mr. WEST: There's nothing in there that necessarily jumps out at you as ridiculous. But there are a lot of things to question.

DAVIDSON: A government budget is not like your budget - hopefully not. You're supposed to make reasonable guesses about your future income and your future spending. The president, though, has what he hopes will be future tax income and government spending. But there's this other group that Congress, especially the now Republican House, that has its own take on how those should go.

So, for example, the president's budget assumes that somehow he'll get a Republican-led House to repeal the Bush tax cuts, even though he couldn't do that when the Democrats controlled the House. Even more ambitious, the president also assumes that those same Republicans will vote to repeal a host of tax breaks that benefit multinational corporations.

Mr. WEST: Well, presidents since JFK have tried to get rid of these benefits for multinational firms. And it's very hard to actually pass.

DAVIDSON: It's hard to imagine any president making pessimistic assumptions, you know, coming out and saying, in this budget I assume I will lose all my major political battles over the coming years.

President Obama, of course, is not going to say that. The president all but acknowledged that the budget is a bit of a fiction in the press conference he had this week, when he talked about the assumptions the budget includes.

President BARACK OBAMA: Those are big, tough negotiations and I suspect that there's going to be a lot of ups and downs in the months to come before we finally get to that solution.

DAVIDSON: Of course, Republican politicians make their own budget assumptions that everything will go their way, that only their agenda will pass.

Nobody knows what's going to happen between now and the end of fiscal year 2012, which happens to fall one month before the next presidential election, but it's safe to say the Democrats won't get every tax cut repeal they're hoping for, and the Republicans won't win every cut to government spending, which means that the actual deficit for the year is likely to be even worse than either party is predicting now.

Adam Davidson, NPR News.

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