Games Lawmakers Play

Politicians are bipartisan when it comes to inventing budget gimmicks. In 1993, President Clinton proposed a Deficit Reduction Trust Fund to convince the public that his tax increases would not be used for new spending. Now, Capitol Hill Republicans promise to put Medicare savings in a trust fund, in order to fend off charges that they're trimming seniors' benefits to finance tax cuts for the rich. In truth, these separate funds are meaningless: All tax collections go into a single pot without being earmarked for special purposes. The trust funds contain only Treasury IOUs.

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