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Best-case budgeting

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Congress has many ways to achieve its many purposes. The transparent way is to enact a program and pay for it annually out of general revenues or borrowing. The politically easier but less transparent method is to go “off-budget,” via government loans and credit guarantees. Guess which lawmakers prefer? That’s why the U.S. government has built a multitrillion-dollar portfolio, consisting of everything from mortgage guarantees to student loans.

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