WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's promise Thursday that everything in his jobs plan will be paid for rests on highly iffy propositions.
It will be paid for only if a committee he can't control does his bidding, if Congress puts that into law and if leaders in the future — the ones who will feel the fiscal pinch of his proposals — don't roll it back.
Underscoring the gravity of the nation's high employment rate, Obama chose a joint session of Congress, normally reserved for a state of the union speech, to lay out his proposals. But if the moment was extraordinary, the plan he presented was conventional Washington rhetoric in one respect: It employs sleight-of-hand accounting.
A look at some of Obama's claims and how they compare with the facts:
OBAMA: "Everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything."
THE FACTS: Obama did not spell out exactly how he would pay for the measures contained in his nearly $450 billion American Jobs Act, but said he would send his proposed specifics in a week to the new congressional supercommittee charged with finding budget savings. White House aides suggested that new deficit spending in the near-term to try to promote job creation would be paid for in the future — the "out years," in legislative jargon — but they did not specify what would be cut or what revenues they would use.
Essentially, the jobs plan is an IOU from a president and lawmakers who may not even be in office down the road when the bills come due. Today's Congress cannot bind a later one for future spending. A future Congress could simply reverse it.
Currently, roughly all federal taxes and other revenues are consumed in spending on various federal benefit programs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans' benefits, food stamps, farm subsidies and other social-assistance programs and payments on the national debt. Pretty much everything else is done on credit with borrowed money.
So there is no guarantee that programs that clearly will increase annual deficits in the near term will be paid for in the long term.
OBAMA: "Everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been supported by both Democrats and Republicans, including many who sit here tonight."
THE FACTS: Obama's proposed cut in the Social Security payroll tax does seem likely to garner significant GOP support. But there are a lot of other proposals that already have generated stiff Republican opposition.
For instance, Obama makes a pitch anew to end Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which he has defined as couples earning over $250,000 a year or individuals earning over $200,000 a year. Republicans have adamantly blocked what they view as new taxes. As recently as last month, House Republicans refused to go along with any deal to raise the government's borrowing authority that included new revenues, or taxes.
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