BUDGET PREVIEW….Will George Bush’s newfound spending rectitude really cut the deficit in half in five years? Of course not, even if he really were serious about it. The grim details are here if you want to remind yourself of them.

But his budget will certainly claim to cut the deficit in half, and I have a certain morbid curiosity about what kinds of smoke and mirrors he will apply to get there. According to this Washington Post story, here are a few of the tricks we can expect to see:

  • Inflate the current year’s deficit from $480 billion to $521 billion. That way you only have to get to $260 billion by 2009 in order to claim victory.

  • Don’t count the effect of making the tax cuts permanent. After all, even though it’s one of Bush’s stated policies it hasn’t actually been approved by Congress yet.

  • Instead of a real proposal to reform the Alternative Minimum Tax, offer a one-year “patch” instead. This way you can pretend that it doesn’t affect the 2009 numbers.

  • Assume no further spending in Iraq or Afghanistan after 2004.

I’m just guessing here, but these are the early indications. Of course, I imagine there will be a few other ingenious dodges as well, and I look forward to giving them the full admiration they deserve when the budget is officially released.