This morning, Budget Director Jeff Zients went before the Senate Budget Committee to testify about the Obama proposed budget. The Senate Budget Committee Republican staff found that the proposed budget would raise spending by $1.5 trillion. With that statistic in hand, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking Republican on the committee, asked Zients a simple question: would the budget raise spending or not? Here’s the video:
And here’s the key portion of the transcript:
SESSIONS: Let’s go back to the simple question I asked you: does your plan spend more money over the next ten years than the agreement in current law that we reached just last August? Yes or no?
ZIENTS: I think what we’ve got to focus on here is the bottom line, and we’re taking deficits down to 2.8% of GDP.
SESSIONS: You’re not answering my question. I asked a simple question. You’re the director of the OMB. Does your budget call for spending more money?
ZIENTS: I’m suggesting that our budget is a more honest budget, that looks at what’s happening on a business as usual basis.
SESSIONS: Will the witness not answer this simple question? I just asked a simple question.
ZIENTS: It’s a more accurate reflection of what we’re going to spend.
SESSIONS: Will it spend more or less?
ZIENTS: It will actually spend less money because of the deficit reduction that we have and a baseline that reflects the current policy.
The conversation continued:
SESSIONS: Let me ask you this. If you are incorrect in saying that you do not increase spending more than current law, would you consider resigning your office?
ZIENTS: [laughs awkwardly] Let me go back to …
SESSIONS: We looked at the numbers. Are you that confident?
ZIENTS: I’m confident that with our baseline, which accurately reflects current policy and business as usual, that we have deficit reduction of $4 trillion and we do it in a balanced way. For every $2.50 of spending cuts, there’s a dollar of revenue. That’s a good balanced approach.
SESSIONS: Mr. Zients, there is no spending cuts in this budget. This budget increases spending. Surely you know that. It increases taxes. So to say that you cut $2.50 in spending for every dollar in tax increase is beyond the pale.
Zients is wrong, of course; Sessions is correct. That’s why Zients won’t stake his job on there being actual budget cuts. That’s why he avoided the question. The truth is that the supposed cuts Zients touts amount to just $273 billion over the next ten years; the debt, meanwhile, skyrockets another $11 trillion over the next decade. Zients and the Obama Administration aren’t willing to make a re-election bet over the truth of their phony numbers.