12/24/15 Gimmick Accounting

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The other day Congress overwhelmingly passed tax and spending measures totaling more than 1.8 trillion dollars.

They passed as a result of accounting tricks Congress has used for nearly 20 years.

Here’€™s how it works.

First, Congress avoids passing all 12 appropriations measures as stand-alone bills.  That would allow public scrutiny of what’€™s in them.  Republicans and Democrats love massive 2,000-page omnibus spending measures because they hide pork, waste and back-scratching deals for both parties.

This omnibus bill gets scored by the Congressional Budget Office.  CBO scoring outlines the true cost of a bill and whether it increases the deficit.

For more than 30 years, there have been dozens of tax breaks valid for one year at a time.  CBO doesn’t include these expiring tax breaks when they score the spending measure because they won’t exist in the next year.

Then Congress cleverly renews these tax breaks after the spending measure is scored by CBO.  A little trickeration.

Starting under President Bill Clinton and continuing under George Bush Congress would often pass supplemental defense spending measures.  This boosted spending even more.  But the process and timing would hide the true, total cost.  Even more trickeration.

This is how Congress – whether led by Republicans or Democrats — hides the true cost of discretionary spending.

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