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February 23rd, 2009
11:02 PM ET

Truth in Budgeting: Is it enough?

Program Note: Tune in to hear more from David Gergen tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/22/obama.so.far/art.obama.news.gi.jpg]

David Gergen | Bio
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Political Analyst

President Obama is taking a significant step toward fulfilling another important campaign pledge this week: he is unveiling a federal budget that actually tries to tell us some hard truths about the government’s finances. Too many years in the past, the Bush administration engaged in deception by keeping the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan out of the regular budget, plus pulling off some other shenanigans that disguised just how much the government was growing and how much its deficits were growing. By the time he left office, President Bush had practically doubled the national debt – doing as much damage in 8 years as the republic had suffered in more than 200 previous years combined.

Obama promised truth in budgeting, and he is succeeding far more than in the recent past. The cost of both wars will now be included in this week’s budget, money will be set aside to respond to natural disasters, and the budget won’t show cost cutting in programs that everyone knows will be revived (e.g., the alternative minimum tax).

The results of taking a truth serum – along with the horrendous costs we are piling up in fighting the economic crisis – will reveal eye-popping numbers stretching far into the future. We can expect at least $1.3 trillion in deficits this coming year, another mountain the following year, before the deficits will be shown to slope down to some $533 billion four years from now. The Administration is touting that as serious progress, but only a year or so ago, an annual deficit of $500 billion would have been wholly unacceptable.

We need to know the hard truths about our country’s financial situation and the Administration deserves congratulations for going as far as it has, but the question arises: has it gone far enough? Will even this first Obama budget tell us everything we need to know? Sadly, that does not appear to be the case.

Here are just a few things the administration must still tell us:

  • How much are these outbursts of federal loans and loan guarantees likely to cost taxpayers in the next few years? How much are they likely to add to deficits in the next five years? For example, how likely is it that General Motors and Chrysler are likely to repay their billions in bailouts so far? If they are unlikely to repay, shouldn’t the books show these as additional costs to Uncle Sam? That’s what corporations are required to show when they make loans that are unlikely to be repaid. Why not Washington?
  • How should we think about the real cost to the taxpayer of the housing bailout program the President announced last week? Two leading newspapers (The Washington Post, USA Today) called it a $75 billion program; two others (New York Times, Wall Street Journal) put the cost at $275 billion. If some of the best journalists in the country cannot agree on the real costs to taxpayers, shouldn’t the government tell us?
  • What about all the unfunded liabilities that the government is facing just around the corner? The Peter G. Peterson Foundation bought a full -page ad in Sunday’s New York Times pointing out that our entitlement programs – Medicare and Social Security – have some $56 trillion in liabilities stretching into the future. Shouldn’t the Administration give us a full accounting of just how big and serious these monstrous liabilities are?
  • And what about all the different financial programs that the Federal Reserve has launched in an effort to stabilize the economy. How much do they add up to? How will they be covered? How much will fall upon taxpayers? How much might lead to more inflation? To his credit, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke promised at a National Press Club speech last week that the Fed would come up with a better accounting. The White House and Treasury need to hold feet to the fire.

In short, as much as President Obama’s truth in budgeting deserves praise for shedding more light on our financial condition, there is still far too much that is hidden in shadows. With hundreds of billions of dollars in new commitments being casually tossed about, almost numbing in size and always confusing in content, the Obama Administration will do a great deal to begin rebuilding trust and confidence in the future if it tells us what we need to know – and not just part of it, all of it!


Filed under: David Gergen • Economy • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics
soundoff (205 Responses)
  1. Wljones

    If we hide our own home deficts why would the government tell all?

    February 23, 2009 at 3:05 pm |
  2. Da Professor

    Obama is off to a running start re telling us the truth. Unfortunately, the Republican are still running off at the mouth with their lies. That Republican Senator from Minnesota is a perfect example. She has come out and said that the "Stimulus Package is directing millions to ACORN". There is NOT one drop of $$$ going to ACORN in the Bill. Of course she does not care. It sounded good to the GOP and it was anti-Obama. What a pathetic loser that woman is!

    February 23, 2009 at 3:02 pm |
  3. Ike

    I always wait for AC360 every night to hear what David Gergen has to say. Unbiased and clear. Unlike many other commentators. In Obama's quest to say it like it is, he runs the risk of relaying too much bad news, stoking the flames of a vicious cycle of mental depression and financial depression. He needs to strike a balance. A little bit of 'HOPE' at this time wouldn't hurt. To go all the way and give all the information right now might be counterproductive. Incremental dosages of bad information might serve better this time around.

    February 23, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  4. Mack NYC

    You fools are so worried about the deficit! Is that more important than getting our economy back. Everyone is worrying about the deficit when in actuality Obama isn' t and shouldn't be worried about the deficit because fixing our country's economy is at the top of the list. You fools were asleep at the wheel just like Bush was. You didn't see that spending in the wrong areas is what got us in this mess and the only solution to getting out is spending in the right areas qill help us out. Stop worrying about a deficit because it's not paying your bills or putting money on your plate. We should worry about the deficit after we get ourselves out of this recession. You people don't understand that if our economy crumbles, our country crumbles as a superpower, an economic giant and everything else that you folks think is so great about America. We don't get to restart the game with a bag full of money and 3 lives. Stop wishing for the destruction and failure of our country. it's called treason and you are lucky this isn't the old days where we would escort your un-patriotic butts to the guillotine.

    Mack, NYC
    God Enlighten America! We've become too stupid to lead.

    February 23, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  5. Tina in Canada

    I think that if America had as a whole started to endorse and adopt the accounting standards that the rest of the world had, they wouldn't be in this mess at all.

    America's accounting principles (or lack thereof) have created this mess by giving corporations and governments alike the ability to be vague and transparent and build the house of cards that has fallen.

    I also think it's somewhat ridiculous to "predict" a budget 4 years from now since there are so many variables that can and will change. In my line of work it is called a "forecast" and the caveat is always "If the sun is in conjunction with the moon".

    I certainly hope for all of America's sake (as well as for the overall health and strength of the global economy) that everyone pick up their socks and start over and do things right. It's truth and transparency time for EVERYONE.

    February 23, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  6. Richard Curtis

    How soon we forget that the Dems took Washington 2 years ago, not 2 months ago. That is when the budget started up at an increasing rate. Stop blaming it all on Bush, stop denying or evading facts.

    February 23, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  7. david harrington

    Gergen is not an expert on anything except being a liberal. Obama will not tell the truth now, when did he start. The stimlus bill is a frace that will double the debt that Bush created, "all this damage in just 1 month in office"

    February 23, 2009 at 2:47 pm |
  8. Mike in Fairfax

    @Dan Stewart

    Dan, the people are listening, reading, paying slight attention.. whatever... because while it took Bush 8 years to do that... it only took Obama 30 days to double it.. and he's nowhere near finished! I guess, in a sense, he really IS more talented than the Bush administration.

    February 23, 2009 at 2:46 pm |
  9. Millie Gee

    Did David Gergen ever see it fit to question George Bush over the last 8 years. It's not sufficient to give credit, he also has to criticize.

    February 23, 2009 at 2:45 pm |
  10. Michelle

    It is time to clean house. We might be able to get out of debt if we did an audit on all our government employees. We have house representative not paying taxes – judges being paid to put our young in jail. So, we have two choices hire more people to work for the IRS or get a government job!

    February 23, 2009 at 2:45 pm |
  11. Tom

    Bring in an army of auditors

    February 23, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  12. Jesse Elmore

    In our system of "checks and balances", the government can write checks but NO ONE KNOWS what the balance is. Think about it. The Government Accounting Office could not actually complete an audit of the Defense Department. That right there is hundreds of billions of dollars annually. And that effort was before the Global War on Terror. How far into the abyss have we really gone?

    February 23, 2009 at 2:38 pm |
  13. Brewer

    Look, ALL POLITICIANS ARE LYING CROOKS! whether your a GW Republican or part of the Obama Nation you have to believe they will hide truths, help their financial backers and themselves until the next batch of crooks come. The Gov't is a machine that is unlikely to be fixed soon. Too many hands out for $ and not enough to give assistance.

    February 23, 2009 at 2:36 pm |
  14. Joe G. (From Illinois)

    It is sad to see how Obama treats people who are either blinded or simply too dumb to understand a thing.. And then how he forcefully rejects those who do and know better such as the Conservative Republicans.. Transparency..?!! Someone ought to remind Obama that all those shallow and pitiful people who elected him have very limited regards for anyone or anything; That that's how he got elected! Money and their own pocket books is all they care about!!!

    February 23, 2009 at 2:35 pm |
  15. Milan

    Dan Stewart – and in the matter of 1 month obama has managed to double what Bush did the previous 8 years.

    First of all, why do we have federal reserve bank? why is that not audited. why are we taking out huge deficits now? if deficit spending were so great... then why would we even want to balance a budget in the future? this is all non-sense. be ready for hyper inflation:

    Ron Paul 2012

    February 23, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  16. Steve C

    Nice dig on the Bush administration's deception Mr Gergen... problem is, the current President may be worse. So far- his record on keeping his word is pretty grim.

    February 23, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  17. Edward

    Transparency also involves talking about social security. Now the government is taking our ss taxes and using that money to pay for current spending, leaving a big box of IOU's .

    February 23, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  18. Finrod

    To everyone complaining about what Bush spent on the Iraq War: Obama spent more with one stroke of the pen on this bogus 'stimulus' bill than Bush spent on all 6 years of the Iraq War.

    And that's not part of the regular budget, either!

    Obama wants to get the budget deficit *down* to 500 billion– a number higher than any of the budget deficits under Bush or any presidency in history.

    Obama supporters complaining about Bush's spending have as much credibility as a bank robber complaining about other people driving too fast.

    February 23, 2009 at 2:32 pm |
  19. Adam

    It's an interesting observation that for much of Bush's presidency, the rank and file republicans were of the opinion of, "He's our president, so we should support him even if things aren't going well."

    It's not all surprising now that there is a democrat president, that that nice little philosophy gets thrown out the window.

    February 23, 2009 at 2:32 pm |
  20. Patrick Lewis

    the four suggestions laid out here differ from the manipulation Bush's numbers in that Bush purposefully cooked the books to score political points and obfuscate the real picture.

    These four things are arguable accounting issues and possibly aren't considered part of the budget process, which has more to do with actual dollars being spent than possible liabilities. So these numbers may come out in a different context.

    I appreciate Gergen's comments, but to compare Obama's approach to Bush is to compare day to night, and thankfully night has passed in this country.

    February 23, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  21. pointofview

    the amount of hypocrisy is staggering from some of the writers here at CNN. On one hand they throw stones at all things republican while sweeping all the huge deficits of democratic leaning states under the rug. Not to mention that most of these democratic leaning states have some of the highest tax rates. My gawd you guys are so full of hate you can not see your own house is on fire because you are to busy beyatching about the guy's house across the street has not mowed his grass

    February 23, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  22. Harry Campbell

    David,

    How long will you continue to bash the Bush Administration? I suspect it will continue from you on the liberal left until Obama is elected to his second term.

    Please remeber that while Clinton was chasing Monica Lewinski he took time out to sign the repeal of the Glass-Stegall Act and began the mach to de-regulate the banking industry.

    You need to get off the blame game and get on with leadership to fix the problems. The Democrats wanted the Presidency. Now you and they have it along with both houses in Congress. Stop blaming, whining and crying about it.

    Fix it or get out of the way and let others do it.

    February 23, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  23. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    And draw the right conclusion, people:

    We can't afford Big Government!

    It's bankrupting us. It's even possible that the damage is already irreversible.

    The Soviet Union is now a part of history, not due to war or conquest, but because it's economy collapsed. And the Soviet government was the very definition of Big Government.

    Big Government is a vestige of a perverse period of world history, of an era in the first few decades of the twentieth century when a lot of people toyed with the idea that many, if not all, social ills could be solved by the wiser heads of good government. It was the era of the rise of communism in Russia, of Big Government Fascism and Nazism in Europe, and benign, Roosevelt-style, socialism in the US.

    Truthfully, we'll never know if any collection of "wiser heads" really can make for a better society–no collection of heads has, in all of history, ever proved wise enough.

    Big Government does not work. It can't. Society, and any large country's economy, are just too complex for the simplistic "solutions" that are the inevitable result of any attempt to centrally plan and control such things.

    February 23, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  24. Steve

    People please re-read your basic government books. The President proposes the budget and legislation. It is the Congress that passes the required spending bills and laws, which the President can sign or veto. After you all get done with your "Bush Bashing" remember which party has been in the majority in Congress since 2004!!! The same people that are saying "we will clean up this mess" in 5 years. They should know, they made it and our President was one of them that helped make the problem what it is today. If blame needs to be established the Congress should look within.

    February 23, 2009 at 2:21 pm |
  25. Bill Salem OR

    Truth in budgeting is an illusion as long as the politicians and bureaucrats can cook the books. Some states, such as California, have constitutions which mandate a balanced budget. The government simply says the law doesn't apply because some expenditures are "off budget". Where is the truth in ignoring the law?

    February 23, 2009 at 2:19 pm |
  26. Guy

    David,
    THANK YOU!

    Our national debt should be this nations biggest concern. Every voting American over the last 30 years needs to hold themselves responsible for the financial position this country is in- democrat and republican. These politicians didn't just show up and start voting. They were elected by us!

    The party is over in America. Personally we spent past our means on flat screens, SUV's and over-extended houses. Our politicians spent and promised to earn our short-term, election cycle favor. We willingfully bought it and we kept them in office. We have put trillions of dollars of our party on the backs of our great, great, great grand children. How selfish we were. Now we need to be adults and take responsibility for our decedance.

    We need hard truths now. We need to decide if we are going to leave tomorrow in better shape than today or if we are going to rub our fat bellys, put on the MSNBC or FOX jersey and yell at the talking heads (on our big screens!). We need to live within our means- to sometimes do without. We need to learn once again how to save and spend smartly. Then we need to teach our children.

    As an American I want to stand and take responsibility for my actions. I want to start now to apologize to the generations who will be burdened with whatever bill I'm leaving them and do my best to make amends. I promise to start paying attention to what MY politicians say and acting accordingly.

    I refuse to think it will be easy, but I refuse to think it is too late...

    February 23, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  27. Rick McDaniel / Lewisville, TX

    Don't look for too much, in governmental transparency. As soon as Obama figures out the impact of that, he will cut it off.

    Corruption in the government of this country, has reached epidemic proportions, throughout all branches, including the legal branch. Whether this country can be salvaged from the ravages of corruption, remains to be seen.

    I am not overly optimistic.

    February 23, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  28. tom

    Tell us now what the gov't has been hiding? That would do wonders for conumser confidence.

    February 23, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  29. Pat

    Actually the comment about Bush doubling the debt is a bit misleading. While he did double it, every administration is also doubling it as well. Unfortunately, 40 years ago, the total amount was a fraction to what doubling it now means today. What this means is goverment spending is out of hand period. Democrats and Republicans alike are spending money on things that aren't necessary and are not doing enough to keep jobs in America. You must create and retain good paying jobs in order to grow the governments taxable income. Perhaps it is time for the government to have layoffs, reduce the number of government employees. After all, they are paid by our tax dollars and if we don't have a job, they how can they retain their job?

    February 23, 2009 at 2:15 pm |
  30. Larry

    We blame Bush for spending but Who had majority in Congress? Why did Majority of Congress members also increase spending and Push Freddy Mack, Jenny May, and Banks into lowering loan standards so people who could not afford to pay back their loans would still be able to get a loan?

    February 23, 2009 at 2:10 pm |
  31. Bill

    Gergen is way off again. The true cost of all of these bailouts (before interest) is well over 7 trillion dollars. It's a travesty. The Fed is really screwing us. The US taxpayer loans the money to the Federal Reserve (which are private Central Banks run by a handful of people), the Fed then prints the money out of thin air – devaluing the dollar, and then has the gall to loan the money back to the government – with interest. We need to abolish the Federal Reserve immediately. I love how Gergen rails against the auto bailout but says nothing against the much larger Wall Street bailout, where there is no oversight and the money never has to be paid back. At least the auto industry is tangible and backed by a product. This analysis is a joke. People like Gergen and his boys at the Bohemian Grove are the ones to blame for this whole mess...

    February 23, 2009 at 2:06 pm |
  32. Tom C.

    Some of the responses to Mr. Gergen's article point up the fact that some Americans want the fairy tales to continue. Bush stated that after the tax cuts to the rich the budget would be balanced at the end of his first term; then at the end of his second term; then 2012. All the while the national debt almost doubled. And the wars were not included in those budget requests. As Jack Nickleson said "You can handle the truth!".

    February 23, 2009 at 2:04 pm |
  33. Mari, Salt Lake City

    WOW......... some of the far-right comments here, are downright ignorant!

    WHERE were ALL of you "so-called-fiscal-conservatives" when Bush was spending our Nation into oblivion?????

    WHY weren't all of you shouting mad when Bush doubled our National debt?

    And Mr. Gergen, we are Independents at our house. We sadly voted for Bush in 2000! Please give Obama a chance, he's been in office a mere 30 days!

    We support President Obama 100%. NO HE IS NOT GOD....... NOR MESSIAH! PLEASE STOP with the insulting references! NONE of us, Obama voters, believe he is a god or messiah! Knowing that the far-right claims they are Christian, it is disturbing to read some of your vile comments. Please let's have a respectful discussion, offer solutions, ideas, rather than tear one another apart!

    February 23, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  34. Ruth

    I am a mother of three children one graduating from college as a teacher and two more to go . medium income with no money to put our kids threw college and Ca cutting Education budget.How is the stimulus package helping is Arnold doing more damage to our state? tax increase? now have to limit our food supply.Education is ridiculous expensive , education only for the rich or the ones living on the streets who have no desire to study, What kind of education system is these?
    We will died paying loans from our kids education.What do you think about this country education system?

    February 23, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  35. Gary Martin

    The real problem is that we are going to be paying high taxes at some point to pay off this mess. This includes taxing our grandchildren with a forgotten social (so-so) security.

    I see one fat cat that has been living in luxury since the beginning of civilization AND tax free.

    Religious organizations are in fact a business. I am not undermining their contributions but, it is a business.

    When are we going to start taxing them? Would it really be a faux-pas?

    I think it is time to see what people really think.

    Start a poll on this topic. You will be VERY surprised what people really think.

    Are you against the goverment taxing organized religion?

    A. Yes

    B. No

    C. Would not make that much of a difference

    February 23, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
  36. Aaron Jones

    Obama has ran his campaign on transparency, although some will argue he is doing just that others argue that its not enough. I believe there will always be give and take even when it comes to President Obama. The fact that he is letting the American people know more about the federal budget is some what admirable even though were not getting everything. Tansparency could also be termed differently among individuals. One may believe that he is letting us know everything that we need to no while others agree that he should be showing and telling us more. The fact of the matter is Mr. Gergen is right but on the other hand Mr. Obama is giving more insight to what has happened, what is happening and what will happen without sugar coating anything. Although this may not be the change your hoping for alot of Americans are impressed. And thats change they can believe in.

    February 23, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
  37. karen-phoenix

    Thank you David!!! You are person I really listen to because you worked for both Repub and Dems. Bush totally destroyed the economy in this country or tried to. Thanks for the honesty! And I'm a registered republican who voted for Obama–thank goodness!!!
    How can I email this to friends. Great article!!

    February 23, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  38. Brian

    "doing as much damage in 8 years as the republic had suffered in more than 200 previous years combined"

    THINK ABOUT IT!!!!!!

    February 23, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  39. NS

    Where does it all begin and end? With Us.
    The problems of our econonmy are our own. We all, people, companies, govenment expected: consumers would continue to contribute to personal debit, buy houses beyond our means and expect that companies had our best interests at hand and that government groups assigned to watch over all of this, were doing so.
    Regretably placing the blame on a single administration or individual, though calming and sometimes gratifying, will not really help where we need to go.
    That direction up or down is up to all of us and it is going to cost; and we will all need to change to get there. The real difficult future ahead is – Both Republicans and Democrats will have to look beyond blaming one another and we will have to look at taking some of the blame ourselves and move forward.

    February 23, 2009 at 1:58 pm |
  40. Steve Talmadge

    The Truth? The nation can't handle the truth! reading these comments is evidence of a jaded, cynical populace that has lost faith in the institutions of this nation. We were fed so much pablum by previous administrations, that we don't know how to chew solid food.

    February 23, 2009 at 1:57 pm |
  41. Engram

    Either I'm missing something or Gergen has uncritically swallowed a misleading liberal talking point. Gergen says:

    "By the time he left office, President Bush had practically doubled the national debt – doing as much damage in 8 years as the republic had suffered in more than 200 previous years combined."

    Go to the IMF web site and look at "General government gross debt" as a percent of GDP for the U.S. and for the other members of the G7 going back to the early 1990s. If you do that, you'll discover that Gergen is either misinformed or is intentionally misleading his readers (I'd bet on the former). During the Bush years, gross debt increased from 54% (at the end of the dot-com bubble) to 61% of GDP. That's not exactly doubling, now is it? In the early 1990s, the figure averaged about 67% of GDP, so we are well within the normal range.

    In 2008, the figure for Canada was also 61%. For France, 65%. For Germany, 76%. For Italy, 104%. For Japan, a staggering 198%. Only the U.K. comes looking better at 43%.

    Hysteria over Bush's "doubling" the national debt is good for partisan politics, but discussions about these matters are best focused on the facts. And the fact is that the only sensible way to look at national debt is as a percentage of GDP. Looked at that way, the Bush years are pretty typical, whether compared to prior presidents or compared to the other nations of the G7. I don't like the fact that, during the Bush years, the national debt increased from 54% to 61% of GDP, but Gergen is playing politics by leading readers to believe that the problem is vastly worse than it actually is. That's his right, but I wish he wouldn't do it.

    February 23, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  42. Stan

    No doubt the Bush Administration was significantly involved in the creation of the deficit. But you cannot conveniently ignore the fact that Congress is just as culpable in this whole mess. All parties were involved–Republicans, Democrats and prior administrations.

    Yet ultimately, the American people are to blame. For too many years, through various administrations, the people have only wanted a government to take care of every problem they have, and absolve them from the consequences of their own actions.

    The American people got what they wanted, and unless the people step up and take responsibility for their own inaction and replace the inept representatives, this country will ultimately fall apart under the weight of its own selfishness and greed.

    February 23, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  43. edubbya

    Mr. Gergen raises some very good issues in this piece. Some of the points such as the issue of loan guarantees to the auto industry are not simple to address. If we really believed that GM will not survive then it really begs the question of whether we should provide the guarantees at all. However, the decision not to provide them virtually guarantees such an outcome. So there is likely to be some built in biases not due to ideological political leanings but rather associated with an inherent difficulty in thinking the unthinkable with respect to the calamatous effect on a lot of our fellow citizens if the auto industry fails. So, I don't find it surprising that experts would forecast that in the longer term the loan guarantees will be more than offset by the positive effects on our economy as was the case with the former Chrysler Bail Out.

    Lets all try to remember that the impact of deficits on our future economic growth is an important issue assuming that we have an economic future. Don't think for one minute that our entire socio-economic system and way of life isn't at risk of collapse. Would you rather have government spending right now to minimize the economic down side or would you rather have government spending on civil defense and law enforcement as they try to keep the disposessed from tearing down the fabric of our society because they have nothing to lose? If things get bad enough, much more than future economic growth rates will be at stake if history is any guide.

    February 23, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  44. Neil Michels

    This country is in bad shape and nobody sees the problem with this country and why may not recover. The answer is there is no manufacturing (or declineing) so that people can buy the products that can grow the bottom line for a company and make Wall Street grow too. I 'v work for 5 companys over the last 20 years and they are out of busness or have cut back and done outside of America.

    February 23, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  45. JD

    Truth in budgeting? What a joke! Other than the creator of the universe, who can wrap their mind around these huge numbers?
    1,000,000,000,000 is one trillion. If you were to divide one trillion dollars among the 300 million (300,000,000) people there are in the United States, that would be $3,333.33 for every man, woman, and child in this country...or $142.85 for every man, woman, and child on the planet (asuming there are 7 billion). Attempt to comprehend these numbers and what person or government agency can keep track of every dollar or oversee their rightful distribution to the various programs...have fun paying your taxes this year!

    February 23, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  46. Holden

    There has been no real transparency. He listed on the website the details of the stimulus bill 48 hours after it passed. If you look at it there is no real detail in it. They lump the spending in the broad categories that hides all the pork. This is just more veiled corruption on the part of Democrats. Get used to it as they say they won.

    February 23, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  47. Cochran Thompson

    David: Thank you for bringing reason to the politics of running our country. Obama has inherited an absolute mess from the failed policies of the past and there are no easy answers. Transparency is critical to understanding the magnatude of the problem and then considering ways to deal with it.

    February 23, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  48. Mike S.

    Mr. Gergen:

    There is a difference between what Obama says and what he does.

    It will be interesting to see if this new policy of budget openness will be implemented much unlike the "pay-as-you-go" policy that seems to be spoken of but never followed through on.

    Hold our president accountable. Because it has been too long that Washington tells us one thing and does another.

    Maybe I'm skeptical. But I might just be realistic.

    February 23, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  49. Come on!!

    Everyone, This mess is to be blamed on both sides equally. The DEMS got us into this and the REPUBS watched and let it happen! O'bama is just another Politician...don't get your hopes up.

    February 23, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  50. Bill

    Many very good questions have been asked in this article. No, truth in budgeting, by itself, is not enough. We should examine all privately run programs that utilize public funds.

    Let's also ask ourselves, And what about the money that is vented during each and every normal business day through programs that fund private industry using tax dollars, such as for-profit universities.

    Some say that these universities siphon off taxpayers' dollars through student grants and loans, leaving trails of scandals. This can be verified by checking the Internet to see how many people accuse these universities of being ripped off using taxpayers' dollars.

    We have to determine if starting off with some truth and honesty in our budgets isn't a good place to start. I think it is.

    February 23, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
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