4:16pm

Fri February 18, 2011
Planet Money

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

This week, President Obama released the federal budget for 2012. It was an exciting moment for budget wonks around the country.

"You wake up early, you get there early, and then you realize they're at least a half-hour late like always. You remember last year when you were doing the same thing," Sean West, an analyst with the EurasiaGroup, told me.

Like lots of other analysts, reporters, politicians and lobbyists all over the country, West spent hours poring over the document. He doesn't necessarily care what departments gained or lost money. He's looking for something else: budgetary lies.

"There is nothing in there that necessarily jumps out at you as ridiculous. But there are a lot of things to question," says West.

One thing West questions: the president's assumption that Republicans will vote to repeal a host of taxes on multinational corporations.

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

When the president makes a budget he gets to make a lot of assumptions about what he hopes will happen. He doesn't have to make reasonable guesses about the country's future tax income and spending. He can just imagine the best case scenario and structure his budget around that outcome.

Take, for example, tax cuts. 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.

Of course, the president isn't the only one up to these tricks. Republican politicians will make their own budget assumptions — based on their belief that everything they hope for will come to pass.

Nobody knows what's going to happen between now and the end of fiscal year 2012. But it's safe to say that President Obama and the Democrats won't win every tax cut repeal they're looking for, and the Republicans won't win every cut in government spending. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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