Dazed and not so Confused about President Obama’s 2012 Budget

Posted by By at 15 February, at 14 : 19 PM Print

Perhaps assuming that the bulk of us were on a sugar rush after eating Valentine’s candy, the Obama administration released its fiscal 2012 budget yesterday. A distracted and apathetic public was probably about the best they could hope for, short of literally coating the 2403 pages of wishful thinking in chocolate.

Unfortunately for them, with unemployment still hovering closer to ten percent than nine and an economy that shows at best modest signs of life, most of us skipped spending money on Valentines Day.  If only we could get the Federal Government to show similar restraint.

The budget proposes to spend a staggering $3.7 Trillion. The President, undaunted by circumstance and unwilling to face the reality that his presidency will have to change focus, has run this out by harping on its “investments” in the future.

Let me start by saying that, of course, I have not read it all yet. Nor will I. NO ONE reads the entire budget and appendices cover to cover. No one wrote the whole thing. It is looked at in depth piecemeal, parsed over in sections by the committees and staffers that litter the Hill. Like most people – including almost certainly the President – I looked at the main heads. And what I saw was scary.

The allocation of resources reflects a fundamental disconnect between the will of the electorate and the wishes of the left. Increasing subsidies for technologies that are years and decades from producing any net positive effects is a luxury a $14 trillion debt can’t afford. Placing bets on green technology when we can buy time with proven, available and inexpensive technologies and energy sources (we have more natural gas than the middle east has oil) is risky with house money – and crazy with money you just borrowed from a quasi-adversarial power with hegemonic dreams.

In short the budget essentially assumes that the President should get his way and that we should all be comforted that he is confident it will all work out in the end: “Because I’m convinced that if we out-build and out-innovate and out-educate, as well as out-hustle the rest of the world, the jobs and industries of our time will take root here in the United States.”

But perhaps the biggest sham of all was the attempted sales job on the “deficit reductions” proposed. If you read the White House’s statements yesterday, you could easily think that they were proposing a belt tightening budget extraordinaire. In reality, the deficit reductions proposed are 1) too small to mean anything of significance; 2) are largely back-loaded; and 3) ignore the looming issue – entitlement spending.

Lets start with their size. A reduction of $1.1Trillion in the deficit over the next ten years STILL means, under the White House’s own projections, a national debt of $25 TRILLION in 10 years. So, under the rosiest of projections the White House can muster the very best we can hope for is to add $11 trillion in debt the next 10 years. I will grant you that it’s better than $12.1 trillion, but okay is not good, and not good is never good enough.

Think about it this way. I am a large animal and my doctor has been telling me for years to lose weight. I am about as disciplined with regard to food as Bill Clinton was, so I steadily – but only incrementally – gain weight each year. Is it credible for me to say that I am concerned about my health by only gaining 11 pounds rather than 12? Sure, from a limited view – but I am still bigger than the day I was told I needed to reduce the OVERALL amount of my water displacement (sounds better to me than weight).

Add to this the fact that most of the savings are back-loaded to the time the President will be living comfortably on the 8-10 book deals waiting – and it makes the “savings” even more illusory. Furthermore, none of those projections account for the increased cost of borrowing that is sure to occur when – as is coming barring a significant correction – our bond status is downgraded.

Projections generally are largely meaningless in politics because so much of what they project is uncertain. The events of the past 10 weeks in the Middle East were never factored in last year’s projections. Projections from weeks before 9/11 were dramatically wrong minutes after the planes hit.  Projections are rosey-eyed view, produced for politic purposes that are remarkably often totally wrong.

That makes the here and now the telling part of any plan – and shows the President’s true priorities. In 2012, he shaves $30B off the original projected deficit – a pittance that is a savings of less than 1% of the total budget and about 2% of the Deficit this year. Even worse, this is WITH a $78B cut to the defense budget – meaning net non-defense spending is increasing $48B while the overall deficit hovers near $1.6 trillion (yup – the President’s 10 year “savings” won’t even eliminate one year’s worth of deficit).

The reason this budget fails so dramatically is that, ultimately, all the measures fail to address the Blue Whale in the room (hey – FDR gave birth to it, LBJ expanded it and BHO doubled down on it – we ain’t calling it an elephant): entitlement spending.

You can’t cut spending for entitlements without cutting benefits as a class. It is just the way it works. The President, ignoring his own deficit commission, refused to lead. In spite of all his lofty rhetoric, this budget does not – AT ALL – address the reality that our entitlement framework, as currently constructed, is doomed to fail. And by not addressing the real issues, President Obama has failed, as well.

Don’t just take my word for it – listen to former Obama acolyte Andrew Sullivan’s assessment: “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.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

(To read some, or all of the president’s 2012 budget, click on Rock The Capital.)

This post was written by:
- who has written 77 posts for Rock The Capital
Scott Paterno is an accomplished policy analyst and political consultant based in Hershey, PA. Mr. Paterno, never one to sit still, has practiced law, run for a house seat, and worked as lobbyist in Harrisburg and Washington. Paterno is Vice Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Fund and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Political Science. He is happily married with three children. - Email scottp

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