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Budget buzz–Obama’s effort seems to be unpopular on both sides of the political spectrum (update)

All sorts of coverage on the Obama budget, most of it negative.  While the White House spin machine works overtime to attempt to fashion a message saying the effort confronts the harsh fiscal reality we’re faced with and makes tough cuts and decisions, that’s not the way others are interpreting it.

Andrew Sullivan figured out Obama’s budget is a very political one:

But the core challenge of this time is not the cost of discretionary spending. Obama knows this; everyone knows this. The crisis is the cost of future entitlements and defense, about which Obama proposes nothing. Yes, there’s some blather. But Obama will not risk in any way any vulnerability on taxes to his right or entitlement spending to his left. He convened a deficit commission in order to throw it in the trash. If I were Alan Simpson or Erskine Bowles, I’d feel duped. And they were duped. All of us who took Obama’s pitch as fiscally responsible were duped.

Uh, yeah.  And it only took 3 years for Andy to figure it out. Speaking of the Simpson Bowles commission, Sullivan cites a David Brooks column where Brooks talks about a group of Senators who are taking the lead in writing up the recommendations of the commission for implementation. Says Sullivan of the effort:

They have to lead, because this president is too weak, too cautious, too beholden to politics over policy to lead. In this budget, in his refusal to do anything concrete to tackle the looming entitlement debt, in his failure to address the generational injustice, in his blithe indifference to the increasing danger of default, he has betrayed those of us who took him to be a serious president prepared to put the good of the country before his short term political interests. Like his State of the Union, this budget is good short term politics but such a massive pile of fiscal bullshit it makes it perfectly clear that Obama is kicking this vital issue down the road.

Lovely to see someone else finally realize that leadership is something this president knows nothing about, never has exercised and wouldn’t know how to do with a self-help book in front of him.  And, as Sullivan correctly surmises, this atrocity of a budget is firm proof of that (and no that doesn’t mean I endorse the Simpson Bowles commission – the point is about leadership).  Sullivan also finally ferrets out that the commission was nothing more than an artifice the president used to cover his rear and make it appear like he was focused on doing something about the fiscal shape of the UFederalSpending0471.002-thumb-440x330S government.  Instead we get exactly what those of us who’ve been on to this president’s act all along expected – pure politics.

John Hinderaker at Powerline gives graphic proof (left) that the media water carriers who are parroting the White House line about the President’s budget containing “steep” or “painful cuts” aren’t fooling anyone.  As you can see the only steep incline over the next few years is up.  There is nothing significant about any “cuts” or “savings” the Obama budget puts forward on the overall level of government spending except to keep the slope headed in a direction we can’t afford.

Instead it is more of the same simply couched in the same old obfuscating rhetoric that calls spending “investment” and taxation “savings”.  Someone needs to get the point across to Obama that the smoke and mirrors company in which he’s so heavily invested isn’t working for him anymore.

In fact, just to make the point even more evident, take a look at this chart by Doug Ross.  The yellow line you see (right) are the “steep” and “painful cuts” the president and some of the media are trying to pretend his budget is making.   Tough stuff, no?  No.  His steep and painful cuts are a veritable drop in the bucket and really do nothing structurally to actually cut spending to affordable and sustainable levels.  As Rep. Paul Ryan has said, Obama “punted” with this budget.110214-budget

Megan McArdle thinks, given this budget by the president, that it may finally be time to panic.

I was a laconic hawk when the deficits shot up in 2008, 2009, 2010.  A few years of deficits in an unprecedented crisis weren’t going to kill us; we had time to get them under control.

But I’m starting to think that it’s time to panic.  This deficit is $700 billion higher than the CBO projected in August 2009, of which $500 billion is lower tax revenues, and $200 billion is new spending.  It’s also $500 billion less revenue and $100 billion more spending than the CBO was expecting as late as August of last year, thanks to the extension of the Bush tax cuts.  For all that I keep hearing about deficit reduction and PAYGO rules, somehow those "fiscally responsible" Democrats have given us the largest peacetime deficit in history, one that keeps growing beyond all expectations–and for all their alleged worries about the budget deficit, so the Republican role in all of this has been to goad Democrats into cutting taxes even further, so that the wealthiest earners could enjoy their fair share of our collective fiscal insanity.

I know the arguments for stimulus, but at this point, I don’t think we can afford the luxury of a more stimulating economy.  Our politicians can’t be trusted to do the right thing later; we need to make them do it now.

I can’t emphasize that last sentence more.  If ever there was a time to do what is necessary to take a knife to the bloated government budget, it is now.   The public is as much on board as it will ever be and while it may whine and even scream and holler about some thing’s, most of the voters in this country know something pretty drastic must be done and done soon.

Even “Johnny one-note” Paul Krugman isn’t happy – for the usual reasons:

Andrew Leonard is right: the Obama budget isn’t going to happen, so in a sense it’s irrelevant. But it still has symbolic meaning. What is Obama saying here?

The important thing, I think, is that he has effectively given up on the idea that the government can do anything to create jobs in a depressed economy. In effect, although without saying so explicitly, the Obama administration has accepted the Republican claim that stimulus failed, and should never be tried again.

My favorite line in the Krugman piece was this:

What’s extraordinary about all this is that stimulus can’t have failed, because it never happened. Once you take state and local cutbacks into account, there was no surge of government spending.

Remember, what was spent was about $300 billion more than Krugman recommended.  But if it never happened I assume Krugman will now quit attempting to say that the trillion dollars which was thrown out there to stop the fall and stimulate growth did it’s job, right?  That was his previous stance and all that was needed was more spending to have an even greater effect.  Correct?   Now he’s in the middle of rewriting history:

Yes, I know, it’s argued that Obama couldn’t have gotten anything more. I don’t really want to revisit all of that; my point here is simply that everyone is drawing the wrong lesson. Fiscal policy didn’t fail; it wasn’t tried.

MIA – a trillion dollars.  Yeah, it “wasn’t tried”, was it?  About the nicest thing Krugman can muster to say about the Obama budget (in another article) is it isn’t the Republican budget:

It’s much less awful than the Republican proposal, but it moves in the same direction: listening to the administration, you’d think that discretionary spending, not health care, is at the heart of our long-run deficit problems — and you’d also think that the job of rescuing the economy was done, with unemployment still at 9 percent.

It could be worse — the GOP proposal is — but it’s hardly something to cheer about.

Well, we’ll see how much either is to cheer about when we take a look at the Republican budget.

Finally, to inject a little humor into a basically humorless debate – even if the humor is unintentional – read Jonathan Chait’s piece in The New Republic.  You get the idea he was on his third or fourth scotch and up late when he wrote it.  It is the journalistic equivalent of trying to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse and coming up with an ugly fuzzy pouch that smells like bacon.  Even his title points to a very tentative approval, something he had to talk himself into in order to make the attempt:  “Why Obama’s Budget Is OK”.   And while some of his points are valid (the president’s budget is a political document) how he got from some of his observations to some of his conclusions can only be explained by booze and sleep depravation.

UPDATE: Steve Eggleston has a good post up full of charts that makes the point with the government’s own numbers that Paul Ryan was right yesterday – “doing nothing would be better than passing [Obama’s] budget”.



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26 Responses to Budget buzz–Obama’s effort seems to be unpopular on both sides of the political spectrum (update)

  • andrew sullivan is a farce and not worth using as a source.

  • well…I read further and feel stupid

  • Krugman has taken the Collective’s “failure meme” to its ridiculous illogical conclusion.  We all know it; “We did not spend enough–were not committed enough–never gave it a chance”.
    Always bullshit.  But Krugman is transcending bullshit to outright lunancy, and he insists we all take the ride with him.
    Meanwhile, in Realityville…
    At Power Line, John Hinderaker diagnoses the madness of King Barack:

    Obama’s game is transparent, isn’t it? He is playing a game of chicken. He puts forward a series of proposals that he knows are more or less insane; but he also believes that Republicans will come to his rescue. They, not being wholly irresponsible, will come up with plans to reform entitlements–like, for example, the Ryan Roadmap. Ultimately, some combination of those plans will be implemented because the alternative is the collapse, not just of the government of the United States, but of the country itself. But Obama thinks the GOP’s reforms will be unpopular, and he will be able to demagogue them, thus having his cake and eating it too. Is that leadership? Of course not. But it is the very essence of Barack Obama.

    What Obama DID propose by way of cuts were in-you-face “FLUCK YOU”s to the opposition.  Things like taking down heating subsidies for the poor.  Political plutonium for the GOP.  And you typical Collectivist ploy of targeting cuts where people LIVE FIRST, instead of going after the rampant waste, fraud, and abuse that they rely on for their graft.
    This needs to be exposed.  People need to be in the streets.

  • Stanley Kurtz instructs on Obama’s strategy and how it can be countered.

    Cold-eyed analysis.

    • Kurtz: “It will not do to chastise Obama’s budget proposal as a simple “refusal to lead,” a “punt,” or a “cynical political maneuver.” Obama isn’t failing to lead. He is very cleverly leading us toward an irreversible expansion of the welfare state. If Obama is reelected and in control when the entitlement crisis finally does hit, he will manage the country toward Euro-style taxes and Euro-style socialism. After all, in the midst of its current fiscal crisis, Obama is pushing Europe to expand spending, not contract it.”

      • But, Martin, that just leads to collapse.  We have flirted with Collectivism so long now, our only salvation is to turn away from it sharply.

        • Yes. He intends to drive the U.S. off a cliff.

          • Well, that leads back to your Manchurian Candidate supposition of several days past – now, is he doing it on his own, and why, or is he truly just a tool, and we can easily guess why.
            I try to imagine his ego fitting in a box small enough to fit in someone else’s pocket, and I’m not seeing it.  Causing me to wonder if he just thinks he really is all that and a bag of chips when it comes to being a leader (dare I say, tyrant).

          • What I know is that he is a man of the radical Left, a committed socialist, and by direct inference someone who is instinctively anti-American.

            Beyond that, to the Manchurian Candidate question, what would be the difference if all that unidentifiable foreign campaign money came from the Chinese laundry? Or if it was something as simple as true ideological vassalage?

            How could one tell the difference?

            See also this piece by Claire Berlinski on how the ghost lingers.

            And has he ever lacked for the megalomanic cult of personality framework of a Castro or Chavez or worse? Ah, No.

          • You know, as I sit here and review my own paradigm for what his motivation to wreck the US is, I realize I can’t fathom it, because I can’t get around the idea that we really DO have a better system than pretty much anyone else (with a polite acknowledgement to the Canadians, the Ozzies and the Brits, more or less).
            Having set myself on that side of the line, I can’t fathom what he hopes to accomplish, because, current methodologies considered against current results, most everything else just looks like varying degrees of crap to me.
            Rational thinkers can’t believe they could have a US (as is) with a Hugo Chavez (as is) or Fidel (in his youth) as President.  I’ve literally hit the wall on the goal since I equate any such goal with…oh….my swimming the English Channel with half a hundredweight of bricks strapped to my back.

          • Kurtz traces this perfectly in Radical-in-Chief, so you can refer to that for the nature of the template, but the bottom line is that radical Leftists do not, first, believe that the U.S. is pretty much the best thing going and will deny that it was, is, or could be anything but the saddest and sickest manifestation of bourgeois ideology ever, and, second, despise the U.S. because of the very success that they deny.

            Neither you nor anyone with a grip on reality can grasp that as a rational paradigm precisely because it is an inversion of reality and an inversion of values. Ordinary liberals, in their traditional role as fellow travelers of this madness, simply deny that there is any such thing present in the room, even if you dock several steamships full of the evidence right in front of them. They live in their own state of perfect denial, just in a different precinct than the radical Leftists. People like Howard Zinn ran communications between the two.

          • Well, wasn’t that the concerted design of Cloward-Piven?  Push the system to collapse, and then remake it in the Collectivist image?
            Hard to take in for anyone who has not quaffed the Collective’s kool-aid.
            They hate America as it was founded.  It really is an essential predicate for understanding who they are, and what they intend.  Revisit the Frankfort School if when you need a dose of reality.

          • Rags!  I’m shocked!  Why, I discovered just the other day to my surprise, the Frankfurt school detested Communism!  A highly respected and educated individual made that very statement hereabouts (can’t find it right now, the dog has eaten my search engine and my givadamn).

          • Jezzz…  I forgot!  How embarrassing!  And after he schooled me on how the Collective was all Enlightminty, an’ stuff…!!!

          • Anyone remember the phrase ‘The worse, the better’?

  • Krugman’s argument appears to be as follows: the government managed to screw up what should have been a pretty straightforward stimulus boost, and wasted almost one trillion dollars.  Therefore, they should be allowed to try again.
    Which is reason #1,517 why Paul Krugman is a worthless hack.

    • I diagree with the last sentence. Krugman is much worse than a worthless hack. There’s too much malice aforethought for him to be written off as just another hack. He reminds me of Ezra Pound at Mussolini’s microphone, and with a similar defense when its all over.

    • But he isn’t just saying they SHOULD be allowed to screw the pooch even further…he INSISTS that they MUST.

  • Megan McArdle has been saying for quite and while with much conviction that deficit spending was critical to our fiscal recovery despite her desire to see zero deficit spending in the long run.  So her reversal and panic/near panic is very telling. Even those who want deficits are seeing that we are very quickly getting ready to drive off the cliff! If you click through to the article, she makes another good point: the President’s budget and projected deficits are best case scenarios.  They will only work if everything goes right*.  The more likely outcome is that things will probably be worse and the deficit will rocket up even more.
    * It’s the government version of “Yes, I can afford this big house and big mortgage if I get a raise next year, the ARM goes down, pay for all of our groceries with the credit card, and we have no major unforeseen expenses like needing a new car or braces for Sally. Murphy’s Law is for the other guy!”

    • You’ve put your finger on one of the things that makes me detest the left, and one of the reasons I don’t argue with them anymore. When making their arguments, they insist that we accept their best-case assumptions. Any evidence or historical comparisons that suggest their pie-in-the-sky, best-case assumptions are flawed are simply ignored.

      The worst current offenders are Obamacare supporters. They’ve constructed a set of preposterous assumptions under which Obamacare will save money. The fact that no such precedent has ever been seen, and similar cases such as Medicare, RomneyCare, and TennCare went the other way and spent way more than projections, is just out of bounds in the discussion, as far as they are concerned.

  • Megan McArdle[T]he Republican role in all of this has been to goad Democrats into cutting taxes even further, so that the wealthiest earners could enjoy their fair share of our collective fiscal insanity.

    This is infuriating because it’s such transparent nonsense.  Frankly, it smacks of a knee-jerk reaction.  Even as Meggie comes to the (to her) SHOCKING conclusion that The Dear Golfer and the rest of the morons in DC are driving us off a financial cliff, she has to toss in the canard about “tax breaks for the rich!” Is she so ignorant (stupid?) that she doesn’t know just how much of the tax burden is already borne by “the rich”?  Or is she just dishonest?

    And lets look at the other side of the coin: economic activity and growth.  How does screwing “the rich” even harder entice them to do things like spend their money and invest in businesses?  I realize that The Dear Golfer told US businesses that they should “ask what they can do for their country” (i.e. hire people even if they don’t have the money or need for more labor), but the real world doesn’t work that way.  Companies that hire when they can’t afford it quickly go bankrupt, and ALL their employees go on the dole.  Jeebus, it’s not that hard to understand, so why do people like McArdle and Crazy Paulie just not get it???

    Crazy PaulieThe important thing, I think, is that he has effectively given up on the idea that the government can do anything to create jobs in a depressed economy. In effect, although without saying so explicitly, the Obama administration has accepted the Republican claim that stimulus failed, and should never be tried again.

    If so, then HALLELUJAH!  It means that, unlike Crazy Paulie, The Dear Golfer CAN ACTUALLY LEARN!  “I spent a trillion dollars that we didn’t have and… unemployment pretty much stayed the same.  Hmmm… Maybe that whole Keynesian thing doesn’t work like people told me it would.  Maybe I shouldn’t try that again.”

    McQIf ever there was a time to do what is necessary to take a knife to the bloated government budget, it is now.   The public is as much on board as it will ever be and while it may whine and even scream and holler about some things, most of the voters in this country know something pretty drastic must be done and done soon.

    Yeah, but they want it done to somebody else.  Further, I don’t think that most people have a solid idea of just how boned we are.  With all the yap about cuts in “discretionary spending” and the politicos wrangling over reducing the budget by $60B or $100B, I suspect that people think that we can just trim a bit of fat here and there and be OK.  Not so: we have to make MAJOR cuts (the sort that hardly anybody in DC talks about except in the most general terms) just to balance the budget, let alone start paying down our debt.  “Cut fraud and waste”, “regulatory reform”, “tax the rich”, “reduce defense spending”… These are the prescriptions offered by the political class, and I think most people think that they will work.  They won’t.

    We’re screwed.

    • The public will get more and more on board as the crisis deepens. However, the flip side is that at some point we won’t be able to stop it.