President Obama said on Thursday, “The politics of dealing with chronic deficits is fraught with hard choices, and therefore, it’s treacherous to officeholders here in Washington. As a consequence, nobody has been too eager to deal with it.” He then handed the problem off to a commission, thus proving his point.
Mr. Obama likes to use the expression “hard choices,” but he has yet to make any when it comes to federal spending. After announcing his fiscal commission, he went to Las Vegas and announced a $1.5 billion housing assistance program, seeking to bolster the flagging fortunes of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. It is hardly a hard choice to treat the government budget like an unlimited checkbook, funding targeted programs seeking political advantage. That part is easy. Paying for it is difficult, but that is not Mr. Obama’s problem.
When he introduced his 2011 budget proposal on Feb. 1, the president said, “We can no longer afford to leave the hard choices for the next budget, the next administration or the next generation.” But the next generation is exactly who will suffer from his astronomical budget deficits.
Mr. Obama refuses to recognize that he is the problem, but the evidence is hard to deny. He recently signed into law the “PAYGO” bill that commits the government to account for new programs with new revenue in order to keep deficits from expanding. Mr. Obama trumpets this as evidence of fiscal responsibility. But had the president adopted the same principle on his last budget and stuck to the common baseline - in other words, if he had continued the Bush administration’s budget model - the projected 2013 federal deficit would have dropped 90 percent to $156 billion. Instead, under Mr. Obama’s 2010 budget, the 2013 deficit more than tripled to $533 billion, and in his 2011 budget proposal the red tide for 2013 swells to $727 billion.
Mr. Obama claims to save more than trillion dollars over five years in his budget proposal, but the alleged savings are only against these types of massively inflated outlays. This is like proclaiming one’s virtue for using a 50-cent savings coupon at a gourmet food store, or bypassing the extra options package when buying a luxury car and calling it belt-tightening.
Under the president’s budget, public debt will triple from the level he inherited to 76 percent of GDP. In the out-years, deficits rise to over a trillion dollars annually and stay there. The current projected budget deficit for 2013 is more than 4 1/2 times greater than had Mr. Obama done nothing. If our spendthrift president made any hard choices putting together this budget, they are not evident.
On Feb. 13, Mr. Obama observed that, “The American people are tired of politicians who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk, when it comes to fiscal responsibility.” This is true, as the president’s sagging approval ratings illustrate. A Gallup survey from Feb. 8 shows that Mr. Obama’s lowest ratings are on the deficit issue. Only 32 percent approve of his policies, and among independent voters his approval is an anemic 24 percent.
This vanishing public support is probably why Mr. Obama has decided to start talking tough, but he cannot escape the numbers. His budget proposal is an assault on America’s economic future and dooms our young to permanent debtor status. His lack of strong leadership is something even Democrats have suddenly noticed. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia Democrat, observed earlier this month that there is a broad disconnect between what Mr. Obama says and what he does, “and he’s beginning to not be believable to me.” Welcome to the party, senator.