EDITORIAL: Solar shingles won’t save America

Bloated government needs more than $100 billion in cuts

Whether it’s “solar shingles” or smart grids, President Obama just can’t imagine a world in which government isn’t deciding how to spend your money. Despite Mr. Obama’s best efforts Tuesday to dress up the classic tax-and-spend agenda as “investment” in the future, merely freezing the current budget maintains a course that only can end in fiscal ruin.

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the current fiscal year’s deficit had grown to a record $1.48 trillion. That’s one new Obama program away from exceeding the entire productive output of Canada. Out-of-control spending of this magnitude has left us $14.1 trillion in debt, a figure CBO estimates will grow to $18.3 trillion in the next decade. Mr. Obama’s “freeze” would only lock in these nose-bleed inducing spending levels, guaranteeing each taxpaying American a $200,000 mortgage payment - that’s how much each of us will owe for yesterday’s federal spending excess.

According to the White House, there’s no need to take a “hatchet” to budget problems that can be solved with a “scalpel.” House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, isn’t buying that. He started with a symbolic 5 percent cut in the budget for the House of Representatives. He engineered a 239-160 vote in the House yesterday to end taxpayer subsidies for presidential election campaigns, saving $616 million over 10 years. These are great starts, but returning spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels will still leave the budget dangerously out of balance.

The mainstream GOP plan proposes first-year savings that add up to just $100 billion, a number small only in comparison to the administration’s spending excess. The Republican Study Committee, which represents the conservative wing of the party, is looking to boost the cuts to $141 billion for 2011. The RSC also would set the budget clock back to 2006 to achieve $2.5 trillion in savings by 2021, bringing the books closer to balance.

The most fiscally responsible proposal of all comes from the upper chamber, a place not known for its spending restraint. Freshman Sen. Rand Paul has traded his surgical tools for a set of foreclosure signs he proposes to hang on the doors of the Departments of Energy and Housing and Urban Development. The Kentucky Republican introduced a 12-page bill that projects $500 billion in first-year savings.

While some claim proposing radical cuts is pointless with Mr. Obama wielding a veto pen, Republicans have an unbeatable advantage. The federal government only has about $200 billion left in borrowing authority. The president cannot spend beyond the debt ceiling without explicit House approval. That means the vote on raising the debt limit will be the first test of the new House majority’s commitment to saving the economy.

President Obama had his chance to test his Keyesian economic theories. He spent trillions to pump up the economy with “stimulus” for his shovel-ready projects. The scheme failed. It’s now time for Mr. Boehner to step up to the challenge and use his leverage to put America back on a track that focuses on private-sector economic growth.

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