Paul Greenberg

Barack Obama's answers have a way raising more questions. Consider a few he offered during his White House press conference Tuesday evening:

He said his administration's economic program is already showing results because housing sales have increased at last. But economists offer a different reason. To quote a story in that day's paper: "Sales of previously owned homes in the U.S. unexpectedly increased in February as record foreclosures pushed prices down and lured first-time buyers into the market." Which is the way a free market is supposed to work. The lower prices go, the more buyers may appear.

Can the president really believe this first, hopeful sign of a turnaround in housing is his doing rather than the market's? It's a function of something called the law of supply and demand. Surely he hasn't repealed that one by executive order yet.

"We're doing everything we can to reduce the deficit," the president assured his listeners while proposing to increase it. His budget projects a total of $9.3 trillion -- that's trillion with a capital T -- in deficit spending over the next decade.

The figure is from the Congressional Budget Office, which is the honest, nonpartisan and independent source in these matters. But the White House says its deficits will amount to "only" $2.3 trillion over the next 10 years. Clearly its source is the well-known Rosie Scenario, every president's best friend when it comes to budgeteering. Miss Rosie may not have the best of records when it comes to economic prognostication, but every administration seems to rely on her.

Under this budget, government spending would account for more than 28 percent of the total economy this year -- the highest share since the Second World War. But the president says he's doing everything that can be done to reduce the deficit. Even more impressive, he said it with a straight face.

If you believe that one, here's another: The president said his plan to reduce tax exemptions for charitable giving will have no effect on the donations that nonprofits depend on for their good works. Those who run philanthropies tend to have a different opinion. They also tend to know their business.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


 


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