The Administration released its FY2009 budget today. To save paper, OMB limited the number of printed copies, but Senate Budget Committee chairman, Kent Conrad (D-ND) couldn't resist quipping that the Administration "ran out of red ink."
While everyone has focused on the individual elements of the stimulus bills working their way through Congress, few have paid much attention to the business provisions. They should, because they could turn out to be an awfully big waste of money.
California's health care reform may be the first victim of the economic downturn. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's ambitious $14.9 billion plan to reform the state's health insurance system has crashed, in part because it was unclear proposed funding sources would raise enough revenue to ensure the program's viability in the face of a deteriorating budget environment. The state is facing a $14.5 billion deficit.
Among all the magical tax cuts in supply siders' arsenal, one is believed to have almost magical powers—cutting capital gains taxes. Advocates take it as a matter of faith that cutting tax rates on profits from sales of assets spurs so much more selling that revenues must increase.
Six months ago, states were predicting balanced budgets and surpluses. Virtually all had surpluses at the end of fiscal year 2007 and more than half had ending balances equaling at least 10 percent of their general funds. Governors and legislatures were happily talking about property tax relief and expanding medical coverage to the uninsured.
Well, it could have been worse. President Bush and House leaders say they have cut a deal on a $150 billion stimulus package—about $100 billion for families and individuals and about $50 billion for businesses. The centerpiece of the plan: a cash payment of at least $300 for most wage earners, along with an additional $300 per child.
I wrote a somewhat provocative op ed in yesterday's New York Times that sparked a lot of feedback. My modest proposal was to accelerate the expiration of the Bush tax cuts by two years—to 2009. I said that doing so would generate a burst of economic activity in 2008 while reducing the budget deficit, a rare feature for a stimulus.
With stock markets around the world sucking wind, and the Federal Reserve approving a stunning emergency interest rate cut of 75 basis points to try to forestall a Wall Street plunge, there no doubt that Washington policymakers will jump into the fray with a fiscal stimulus of their own.