Nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh returned to understating federal deficit projections: "The projection was $2.3 trillion, or $2.2 trillion, the deficit projection for the next ten years is down to $1.2 trillion." In fact, while the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) ten-year deficit projection has been readjusted from $2.3 trillion to $1.4 trillion, the CBO has emphasized that the revised estimate does not include billions of dollars that will be spent on military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the cost of many of President Bush's policy proposals such as extending tax cuts and privatizing Social Security.
Limbaugh's attempt to downplay the deficit came in the midst of attacking Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) on the January 24 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: She [Clinton] comes along and says [during a January 23 speech in West Palm Beach, Florida] America's leaders don't have a vision? The economy is on the brink of collapse. Do you know what? There are new numbers in on the ten-year projection for the deficit. It's down a trillion dollars. The projection was $2.3 trillion, or $2.2 trillion, the deficit projection for the next ten years is down to $1.2 trillion. Well, it's bad news, but it's better news than what the projection was! We've cut it in half! We're growing. The point is, the only reason the deficit comes down, because the economy is growing. She doesn't know what she's talking about. She has no clue what she's talking about.
But as the CBO noted in a January 2005 report titled "The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2006 to 2015":
At first glance, the current baseline budget outlook may appear to have improved relative to CBO's previous projections, which were issued last September. The cumulative deficit projected for the 2005-2014 period (the 10 years covered by the previous baseline) has declined from $2.3 trillion to $1.4 trillion. However, because of the statutory rules that govern baseline projections, the current baseline omits a significant amount of spending that will occur this year -- and possibly for some time to come -- for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and for other activities related to the global war on terrorism.
The CBO report also documented that -- even if significant U.S. military costs are excluded -- Bush's plan to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts would increase the deficit well above the CBO's original projections: "[I]f all of the tax provisions that are set to expire over the next 10 years (except for one related to the alternative minimum tax) were extended ... the 10-year deficit would total $2.7 trillion."
The CBO noted that the deficit estimate also excluded the potential transition costs of Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security: "[T]he Administration is considering broad changes to the Social Security program, including allowing workers to divert part of their tax payments into private investments. No details are yet available, but such a plan could affect budgetary totals during the baseline period and well beyond." Those transition costs have been estimated to be $2 trillion, as The Washington Post reported on January 12.