April 14, 2011
Obama's Budget, AgainBy Jeffrey Folks
Pardon me, but I thought the President had already submitted a budget, and that was just two months ago. Now he devotes another of his many "major speeches" to the budget and comes out with another policy makeover -- or the appearance of one. This time it is a budget that wrecks the country by raising taxes and cutting Medicare and defense instead of simply doing nothing, as was proposed in February.
In reality, nothing has changed, especially the President's faith in Big Government. As he repeated over and over on Wednesday, "there are some things we can only do together, as a nation." Not as individuals and not even as states but only by way of the federal government.
So Obama's plan for a balanced budget includes no cuts whatsoever in big expenditures for welfare, education, or green energy. It cuts nothing from the President's pet projects in high-speed rail or alternative energy or failed job training schemes such as Job Corps. It fails to deal with out-of-control Medicaid spending. It turns out that the President actually thought the spending cuts agreed to this week were "historic" in nature. That's $20 billion in actual cuts out of annual spending of $3.73 trillion, or 0.00536%. The only thing that's historic about those cuts is Congress's gutless willingness to go along with the President's ruinous spending proposals.
As Obama put it on Wednesday, "We need to use a scalpel and not a machete" to cut spending. How about a pin? Instead of across-the-board cuts, Obama's plan relies on tax increases, cuts in Medicare spending, and cuts in defense spending.
Obama wants the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of 2012. Not just that, as he has proposed in the past, he wants to reduce or eliminate tax deductions for mortgage interest and charitable giving. As the president pointed out, millionaires benefit from these deductions -- that is, by building new homes that add jobs to the economy and by donating money to churches and non-profit organizations. We wouldn't want millionaires to benefit from these deductions, even if society at large benefits as well. From the way Obama talked in this speech, millionaires don't have a right to keep any of their hard-earned cash. It all belongs to government.
As for cuts to Medicare, Obama made it clear that he was going to "protect" Medicare services for seniors. And he was going to do this by cutting more than $1 trillion over 10 years. Obamacare already reduces spending for Medicare by $1 trillion. Now he declares that his new "approach would build on those reforms." And how is that possible? By reducing "unnecessary spending" on health care for seniors.
What if these cuts to Medicare aren't enough to bring down the deficit? Obama says he would give a government commission "the authority to make additional savings," that is to say, more cuts. That's reassuring to seniors who were worried about death panels when ObamaCare was crammed through in 2009. They'll still be able to buy generics from the government commissary.
On the topic of cutting defense, Obama was about as cagey as he has been about closing Guantanamo. Eliminating "waste and inefficiency" would go a long way, he suggested. But then he plans to make other cuts as well. "I will make specific decisions about spending"...later. After a thorough review. After Secretary Gates has consulted with the Joint Chiefs. After the 2012 election.
So what if, after all this cutting, the national debt continue to balloon out of control? Here's the best part of Obama's budget plan: it contains a "debt failsafe." That an iron-clad pledge to raise taxes even more if the national debt continues to rise after 2014. No discussion, no deliberation. Just raise taxes.
Perhaps the most disingenuous quality of the Obama's speech was the way in which it attempted to shift responsibility for the ruinous level of spending of the last two years. And then to take credit for offering a "balanced" solution and claiming it's what Ronald Reagan would have done. Yes, Reagan! If that sounds like fantasy, welcome to the future. You'll hear it a lot in the upcoming reelection campaign.
Since taking office, Obama has increased the annual deficit to five times the amount of the largest deficit under George Bush. And yet Obama had the audacity -- which, to give him credit, he has a lot of -- to suggest that even now his deficits are George Bush's fault. Adding another $5 trillion to the national debt is no big deal. It would have been worse under George Bush. After all, Obama remarked, "a little credit card debt isn't going to hurt if it's temporary."
There was also something pretty troubling about the fact that once again Obama chose to present a major speech in front of a group of liberal college students. It's not just the sense that our nation's leader is straining to find a friendly audience -- one that will challenge nothing he has to say. It's that this President refuses to engage in serious discussion with anyone.
In line with the adolescent audience, Obama repeated over and over that his budget plan would "win the future." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but it sounds like the President is thinking about the budget as some sort of game. Maybe he just can't get his mind off basketball after his annual picks for the NCAA finals did so poorly. Or maybe he just had his signals crossed and meant to say, "Win the election." In any case, unless the President puts an end to his perpetual campaigning and starts showing some leadership, no one is going to win anything.
It seems like every time the mood of the nation shifts even by an iota, Obama is there with a new plan -- or at least the pretense of having one. This is not the kind of leadership one expects from a chief executive -- it is a spineless attempt to salvage his popularity by disguising his socialist agenda as if it were some kind of national consensus. But socialism will never be the national consensus, no matter how many times it is rejiggered and resubmitted. It will still be the destroyer of jobs, prosperity, and liberty that it has always been.
The American people do not want what Obama is selling, even if it is watered down by a few billion dollars. No matter how it is dressed up, Obama's budget is still an assault on American freedom.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and article on American culture.