The endless congressional wrangling over how much money to spend on a host of social welfare programs has entered a new and very Washington phase: hide and seek.

As the Manhattan Institute’s Brian Riedl writes, Democrats will use a number of gimmicks to hide the true size of their spending proposal…making is seem small, when it’s still very, very big:

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) openly discussed their use of budget gimmicks…when she told CNN that “our idea now is to look at how you make them funded for a little bit of a shorter time.”

Progressives have been abusing these gimmicks from the start. They began with a reconciliation proposal that would cost nearly $5 trillion over the decade. Then, in order to cut the bill’s “official” cost closer to $4 trillion, the bill’s authors included a December 2025 expiration of the $130 billion annual expansion of the child tax credit to $3,000 per child (or $3,600 for children under the age of 6). This made the 10-year cost of the proposal appear $750 billion smaller.

But no one expects the program to end, or even shrink. Instead, it will roll along as planned:

…Democrats purposely selected for “expiration” a popular middle-class benefit that they know even a future Republican Congress or president would not dare take away from voters. Congress already renews a small group of expiring tax policies each December, and this is expected to become an expensive addition to that list.

This is an ancient practice both major parties have used shamelessly to keep their pet projects alive, and look like they aren’t busting the budget to do so.

The result is an endless game of lies and debt that eventually ends in tears…when the bills for all those gimmicks come due.