Since the debt and deficit are being discussed so much now, I wanted to post what can make the rise in the deficit look like it happened more abruptly than it did. I don't agree with everything Obama does (especially in education), but his attempt to make the budget reflect what was really being spent has made some blame him for what looks like a big hike.
Obama: No More War Spending Tricks
In his address last night on the economic crisis, President Barack Obama made it official: No more budgetary sleight-of-hand at the Pentagon.
As we have noted here before, the U.S. military has largely paid for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through emergency spending measures, in effect keeping wartime costs off the books. In addition to masking skyrocketing budget growth at the Department of Defense, this process has allowed the services to treat budget supplementals as a piggy bank for new procurement. Members of Congress may have grumbled about poor oversight, but they have largely acquiesced.
Obama?s message? Not anymore.
"That is why this budget looks ahead ten years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules ? and for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price."
This is the first real move toward belt-tightening at the Pentagon; we?ll see if the new Defense Department budget reflects it, and Obama?s pledge to stop "paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don?t use."
Meanwhile, the president is weighing the options for a withdrawal from Iraq. In his speech, Obama said he would "soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war."
What that means is that combat troops could likely be out of Iraq by the end of next summer. The Washington Post quotes anonymous officials as saying Obama will announce a withdrawal plan later this week that would have U.S. forces out by August 2010. A substantial force may stay on, however, to train and advise the Iraq military and conduct limited counterterrorism missions. As the New York Times notes, one of Obama?s national security advisers said during the campaign that that the force could number between 30,000 to 55,000 troops.