Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Obama Budget: He'll gladly pay you Tuesday for some new spending today

"Obama promotes job training at community college." That's one of many headlines emanating from today's first look at the President's fiscal 2013 budget.
President Barack Obama called on Congress Monday to create an $8 billion fund to train community college students for high-growth industries, giving a financial incentive to schools whose graduates are getting jobs. 
The fund was part of Obama’s proposed budget for 2013. The overall package aims to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade by restraining government spending and raising taxes on the wealthy, while boosting spending in some areas, including education.
Nothing tastes quite like a federally funded burger
Thinking about the Obama Administration's record thus far, it is hard not to conclude that for all of the President's rhetorical nods to the deficit and the debt (which are exploding under his stewardship), his baseline spending philosophy is quite straightforward: 'We're only going to be in office so long, and eventually another Republican will come in to cut the budget again - so let's get every damned bit of spending that we can, while we can.'

Look at how the President characterized this latest ($8 billion) new spending proposal today:
"By reducing our deficit in the long term, what that allows us to do is to invest in the things that will help grow our economy right now," Obama said during remarks at Northern Virginia Community College.
So we're going to reduce the deficit "in the long term" by piling on new spending "right now"? This is the J. Wellington Wimpy economic growth model: 'I'll gladly pay you Tuesday (2050) for a new spending program today.'

To harsh? Too trite? Consider:

Sure the deficit is exploding, so what we need to do is pass the single largest spending bill in history. We'll call it the stimulus, and by the alchemy inherent in that nomenclature, it shall stimulate. Or

Sure the deficit is exploding, and that is very important, but not so important as paying as many people as possible to learn how to hang insulation. Or

Sure the deficit is exploding, and that is very, very important, but not so important as the rising cost of college tuition - so we'd better federalize student lending and then spend a bunch of money relieving former students of debt knowingly and willingly incurred. Or

Sure the deficit is exploding, and that is so crucially important, but not so important as taking a huge step toward realizing the long-cherished liberal dream of single-payer health care and in the process creating massive new entitlements. Or

Sure the deficit is exploding, and God, I just cannot tell you how important that is, but not so important as "creating" as many union jobs as possible before the election, so let's just go ahead and increase overall transportation funding by a factor of 50%. Or

Sure the deficit is exploding, and that is unfathomably important, and sure Chevy Volts are exploding too, and that is of ultimate importance to their (infinitesimally small number of) drivers, but not so important as convincing wealthy people to buy electric cars - so naturally we should double down on the massive Volt subsidy program. Or or or...

It goes on and on. Of course assessed in a vacuum, any one of the President's new spending programs purports to serve an end that is noble, desirable and good (jobs, health care, debt relief, energy efficiency...). But individually and collectively they both ignore fiscal reality and make that reality worse.

This is precisely the economic philosophy that many conservatives warned would characterize the administration of a former community organizer, a guy who was consistently rated one of the most - if not the most - liberal members of the US Senate.

In elections as in most things, you get what you pay for. Only now it's increasingly: 'you  get what the government pays for.'

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