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Monday, February 24, 2014

Reviving The 'Real World' Scenario That's Disappeared From Government Reports -- Submitted by F.F.Wiley of Cyniconomics blog, Posted On Zero Hedge


For 50 years or so the federal government has deliberately and to an increasing extent misstated probable future budget deficits. Democrats and Republicans are guilty. The White House is guilty. And so is Congress. Private firms that deliberately misrepresent their financial statements in this fashion would be guilty of a crime… The magnitude of the misrepresentation is breathtaking.
- Former St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President William Poole, writing in the Wall Street Journal last April
In the op-ed excerpted above, William Poole harshly criticizes government budget projections, including those published by the Congressional Budget Office.

We’re guessing he was especially miffed with the annual budget outlook released by the CBO on February 5th.

Consider that Poole favored the “alternative scenario” that can sometimes be found deep within CBO reports and spreadsheets. This scenario corrects for at least a few of the absurd assumptions in the primary budget projections (the “baseline scenario”) that receive 99% of the media’s attention. Poole called the alternative scenario “the only truly honest and useful effort in town.”

Alas, the alternative scenario is no more – the CBO removed it from their annual outlook. Taxpayers can no longer find meaningful budget projections anywhere in the CBO’s work.

Let’s see if we can fill in the gap.

We’ll start with the baseline from this month’s report:
real world versus baseline chart 1
The chart shows a shrinking deficit over the next couple of years, but don’t get too excited. Apart from other issues we’ll discuss, this is explained by a long-standing prediction for a robust economic recovery, which hasn’t yet come to pass. It’s not so much a budget outlook as a hopeful forecast.

After the supposed economic boom levels off in 2018/19 (according to the assumptions), the figures no longer hide our deteriorating finances. But the deterioration is likely to be much worse than the chart suggests, as we’ll explain below.  To create a more realistic outlook, we’ll adjust the baseline scenario for four different types of deficiencies in the CBO’s approach:

Step #1: We deal with dishonest lawmakers

One of the challenges in budget forecasting is that tax and spending laws are full of provisions that are all but guaranteed to be reversed before they take effect. These dead-on-arrival provisions only exist to create the appearance of fiscal rectitude. And the deception works because the CBO is required by governing statutes to build the phony provisions into its baseline, which the media then endorses as an authoritative view of public finances.

Fortunately, though, the CBO’s new report provides data we can use to neutralize some of the lawmakers’ tricks, as explained in Table 1 below:

real world versus baseline table 1 (Click link below to read more)
READ MORE Sphere: Related Content

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