“Americans of a certain age may remember J. Wellington Wimpy, a droll character from Popeye cartoons. “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today,” Wimpy would periodically implore passers-by.
That pretty much summarizes the opaque budget math behind the two huge spending plans now before Congress, one aimed at fixing our physical infrastructure and the other targeted at everything from child care to the climate crisis.
Unlike earlier pandemic rescue efforts, Democratic leaders have promised that these new bills would not add to the country’s enormous deficits. “It is zero price tag on the debt,” President Biden said recently. “We’re going to pay for everything we spend.”
Except they won’t. Take, for example, the bipartisan infrastructure bill. When it was unveiled with great fanfare at the end of July, a group of Democratic and Republican senators proudly proclaimed that its costs would be fully offset by new revenues.
“This is paid for,” said Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia. “Our infrastructure bill is all paid for.”
Just a few days later, the Congressional Budget Office — the official scorekeeper — delivered its verdict: The $550 billion in new spending would, in fact, mostly add to the deficit, with just $173 billion of offsets. A separate analysis by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Budget Model pegged the 10-year shortfall at $351 billion.”