The IMF Has Spoken!

In an alternate universe, today's Washington Post would have a screaming, 4-column front-page headline:

U.S. must reduce deficit, IMF warns

Responding to the imaginary lead story, a contrite President Obama, fresh from ignoring his own deficit-cutting panel's recommendations in this week's State of the Union address, would appear before the media with International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn at his side, looking on sternly. The president, with a glance back at Strauss-Kahn, would step up to the podium and sheepishly retract his newly-announced grab bag of spending plans. "Never mind. Back to the drawing board."

When pressed by reporters ("Really?"), the president would reply, "The IMF has spoken. What can we do?"

It is in this alternate universe that the hopes of G-20 enthusiasts reside. Despite the best efforts of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in Seoul last fall, the G-20 rejected plans for automatic criteria that might have pushed unbalanced economies into rehab. Instead, the countries settled for a world in which the IMF would play the leading role, naming and shaming countries with excessive borrowing or lending.

Back in our universe, the president continues with his plans for green energy 'investments' and promises to get serious about the deficit at some unspecified future date. The IMF did, in fact, issue its name-and-shame warning and the Washington Post did, in fact, run the story--on p. A16, just 15 pages after its lead story about how the Office of Personnel Management released federal workers too late for Wednesday's snow storm.

Philip I. Levy is a resident scholar at AEI.

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