“More” Or “Less”? Is that a Trick Question?

On Tuesday, Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, asked acting OMB Director Jeffrey Zients a simple question: Does President Obama’s FY 2013 budget–the matter on which Mr. Zients had come to the Senate to testify–increase spending compared with current law (most recently, the debt ceiling compromise that was reached last summer). For some reason, Zients was utterly stumped. He was never able to come up with a coherent answer, let alone a straight one.

Today it happened again. Tim Geithner took his turn at the Budget Committee, and Sessions asked him the same thing. Geithner, like Zients, was confounded. The concepts of “more” and “less” seemed to be too much for him. Check it out:

It is hard to know what to make of this arithmetic ineptitude on the part of the Obama administration. Is it possible that they don’t know the answer? No. The only explanation is that they know the answer, but prefer that the American people don’t find it out. So, in case you were wondering: President Obama’s FY 2013 budget does increase federal spending, not only above current levels (from $3.796 trillion in FY 2012 to $5.537 trillion in FY 2021, a 46% increase) but also above the levels approved by current law.

Why does the administration bother to duck such simple questions? I suspect it is because they believe that as long as they don’t actually admit something, no matter how obviously true it may be, the press won’t cover it.