Obama’s high-rolling joke ‘budget proposal’
Say, isn’t there a “settled law of the land” that requires the President to submit his budget proposal at the beginning of February? Why, yes, there is. But that’s one of the “laws” that doesn’t trouble our Ruling Class. Laws they find inconvenient are mere suggestions, to be violated at a whim, without consequence.
It’s no excuse for violating this particular law to note that everyone understands Obama’s budget proposals are expensive jokes, lengthy wish lists that provide a bit of talking-point chum for Democrat campaigns. It’s basically an even longer, more absurd sequel to the State of the Union address. Why it takes an extra month to fill that chum bucket, I don’t know. This seems like a law Obama flaunts just because he can – a small gesture of defiance to reinforce his concept of the Oval Office that issues commands, rather than fulfilling duties.
Our environmentalist President kills an awful lot of trees flooding Washington with printed copies of his silly proposals. If we’re going to have laws requiring the creation of a presidential budget, and if everyone understands it’s not necessarily a serious document, why not legally require the President to submit a balanced budget? That would actually be useful to the country, wouldn’t it? Instead of using the White House budget to create an “election year playbook” for his party, as the Associated Press describes it, we could use it to get a real sense of the Administration’s priorities. We could use it as a roadmap to reach something approaching actual balance in the federal budget. One of the reasons Washington has grown so bloated is that big spenders never have to cut anything to make room for their latest vote-buying, economy-controlling program. New lollipops can be distributed, without having to take the old ones away from anybody. A mandatory balanced budget from the White House would provide an enormously clarifying, hard-to-spin look at what any given President really values, not just what he promises when he thinks somebody else’s children will be forced to pick up the tab in a future era of debt collapse.
But here we are, and Obama just dumped a whopping $4 trillion budget proposal that “underscores how pressure has faded to launch bold, new attacks on federal deficits,” as the AP delicately puts it. As if any Democrat was ever truly serious about that! I’ll tell you what has really faded: the opportunity for Democrats to use the deficit as a club to beat tax increases out of American industry. Those hair-raising estimates of job losses from ObamaCare and the minimum wage increase make it clear that another round of tax hikes would topple us right back into a full-blown recession. The ObamaCare debacle has also made the public grouchy about further tax demands from inept Big Government. And if you’re already digging what those ever-escalating ObamaCare cost estimates will do to the deficit, just wait until the insurance industry bailout gets under way.
At this point, there is no political gain for desperate Democrats to tug on those ridiculous threadbare “deficit hawk” costumes. They’re in deep trouble at the ballot box. It’s time to start throwing those lollipops around:
Obama’s 2015 fiscal blueprint, which he is sending Congress Tuesday, was expected to include proposals to upgrade aging highways and railroads, finance more pre-kindergarten programs and enhance job training. The White House said it would also enlarge the earned income tax credit to cover 13.5 million low-earning workers without children, expand the child care tax credit for some parents and make it easier for workers to contribute to Individual Retirement Accounts.
A revamping of corporate income taxes and higher tobacco levies would help pay for some of the initiatives.
White House aides say Obama’s blueprint would obey overall agency spending limits enacted in December that followed a pact between Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the heads of the House and Senate budget committees.
Yet Obama will propose an additional package of $56 billion in spending priorities, the aides say, half for defense and half for domestic programs. It would be fully paid for by cutting spending and narrowing tax loopholes, such as boosting collections from U.S. firms doing business overseas, they said.
That package, like much of the president’s plan, seemed sure to draw catcalls from Republicans. Their recipe for accelerating economic growth includes cutting taxes or overhauling the entire tax code, and they criticize higher spending as wasteful.
Anyone who doubts “higher spending is wasteful” is delusional. If we don’t start cracking down on the high rollers, we’ll spend the rest of our lives hearing promises to trim waste, fraud and abuse, but it will never actually happen. That would be another benefit of requiring the President to submit a balanced proposal: he’d certainly include some billions in savings from eliminating duplicate programs, cracking down on fraud, etc. We might then ask why those reforms are not implemented immediately, no matter what Congress ultimately passes.
This passage from the AP report illustrates how fundamentally unserious the “budget” process has become:
Obama is delivering his proposal to lawmakers as federal deficits, though still sky-high, have fallen dramatically. Last year’s shortfall of $680 billion was far smaller than initially expected and ended a skid of four straight years in which the annual red ink exceeded $1 trillion.
That has made it easier for lawmakers to avoid considering the politically painful tax increases and spending cuts needed to significantly reduce deficits.
Thus, the president’s budget will not renew last year’s offer — hated by many fellow Democrats — to save money by slowing increases of Social Security benefits. The White House says that plan was advanced only to entice congressional Republicans into deficit-reduction talks and was excluded this year after GOP leaders refused to reciprocate by offering tax increases.
To live within curbs Congress has imposed on agency spending, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said the Pentagon would reduce the Army’s size to levels last seen before World War II. The Navy would buy fewer ships and a new round of base closings would begin in three years.
As a result, the extra military spending that Obama is offering would be welcomed by many Republicans.
So the New Normal treats $700 billion deficits as a marvelous achievement, even thought that’s half again as much as the worst deficit left by Obama’s predecessor – deficits he portrayed as irresponsible when he was a Senator with grave misgivings about raising the debt ceiling. Actually, Obama seems to think $1 trillion deficits are the New Normal, because anything less than that is taken as an excuse to declare the “era of austerity” is over, and throw dollars around like they’re going out of style. Which, come to think of it, they are.
The cynical use of our military as a bargaining chip to lure Republicans into negotiations is also appalling. Ditto with entitlement reform. Obama’s clearly not interested in any of that stuff, unless it can be used as bait to lure the GOP leadership into a tax-raising trap. And we’re back to this dotty notion of government “stimulus” billions performing better than free people making their own decisions, an idea that Obama’s record has done so much to discredit. Will the voters be eager for more of the same old snake oil, after five years of watching it fail? Will cynicism from the botched ObamaCare rollout diminish public appetite for the latest “spend our way to prosperity” talking points?