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EDITORIAL: Obama’s reality avoidance
The debt problem won’t go away by refusing to talk about it
Question of the Day
President Obama has a problem when it comes to acknowledging the seriousness of America's economic situation. The White House has been putting off release of its mid-session budgetary review for the last two weeks, finally getting around to dropping it off late on Friday. Given what's inside the report, it's no wonder the administration hasn't been enthusiastic about detailing its plans for the future.
The document updated figures from the president's February budget submission, revealing how the sluggish economy is dragging down tax receipts by $27 billion in 2012 and $138 billion in 2013. The net result is that the government will spend $46.2 trillion over the next 10 years, borrowing so much of the money that the national debt will soar to $25.4 trillion. There's no end to the federal red ink, as the president hopes to sneak in $1.4 trillion in extra spending over the limits agreed to in the August debt deal.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, is upset not just with the bloat but also Mr. Obama's lack of candor. In an interview with The Washington Times, the Alabama Republican explained the impact of the administration's reluctance to provide details to the House and Senate. "It's frustrating and damaging to good congressional analysis and oversight," said Mr. Sessions. "You can't make good choices and set good priorities if you don't have good information."
Mr. Obama has been consistently tardy in providing budgetary updates. His report was 41 days overdue in 2010, and last year's review arrived 47 days late. The complaint isn't even a partisan one, as both Democrats and Republicans are on the record asking the White House to be more forthcoming. On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously approved legislation introduced by Mr. Sessions and Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, which would force the administration within 30 days to outline a specific plan to deal with the sequestration that's scheduled to hit on Jan. 2.
The across-the-board spending reductions of $984 billion over nine years (from an increasing baseline) has defense hawks concerned that the military will be hit hard while many of Mr. Obama's favorite social spending programs remain untouched. "We just need to know what's going to happen if the sequester goes into effect," said Mr. Sessions. "When the enormity of the defense spending cuts are shown, it will give further strength to the argument that we need to find a better way to save money than taking a disproportionate amount from defense."
Mr. Sessions emphasized the overall need to cut the budget, but by his staff's calculations, defense outlays would drop 11 percent between 2012 and 2022 while nondefense spending would climb 35 percent. A total of 514 members of Congress agreed that the White House needs to be more explicit about how all this is going to be implemented, while only two saw no reason for change. That's a serious indictment of what was once billed as "the most transparent administration ever."
The Washington Times
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