In “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the classic 1975 movie, King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table ride toward Camelot (well, there are no horses, just a guy clacking two halves of a coconut shell together).
“Knights,” says the king, “I bid you welcome to your new home. Let us ride to — Camelot.” Cut to a dance scene with knights tap-dancing and prancing on tables, singing lines like “We eat ham and jam and spam a lot” and “Between our quests we sequin vests and impersonate Clark Gable.”
Then back to the king, who deadpans: “No, on second thought, let’s not go to Camelot. It is a silly place.” The band rides off to clacking coconut halves.
That is Washington today. From the White House to the Capitol and everywhere in between, it is a silly place.
With the economy still sputtering and the federal debt topping $16 trillion, President Obama last week proposed spending $56 billion on new federal programs. That’s billion with a B. Who will he get to pay for it? The White House won’t say, other than to point to “a tax loophole out there for the wealthy and well-connected.” So, anyone with a job, it seems.
In the 2015 budget request, “Obama will call for an end to the era of austerity that has dogged much of his presidency,” the Washington Post reported. This, of course, comes on top of Obamacare, which is projected to cost Americans millions of jobs, and his latest minimum-wage hike, which could cost as many as 1 million jobs.
What’s always fascinating about Post stories is what the editors decide is less important. Halfway down the lengthy story is this:
“The latest estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office show the deficit falling to $514 billion this year and to $478 billion in fiscal 2015 — well below the trillion-dollar deficits the nation racked up during the recession and immediately afterward. But the CBO warned that deficits would start to grow again in a few years.” Superb! Our annual budgets are now only half a TRILLION short! Wait, that’s GOOD NEWS?!
And the very last paragraph of the budget story says this:
“The White House projects that annual budget deficits will fall below 2 percent of gross domestic product by the end of the decade. That outlook is much rosier than CBO projections, which show the deficit rising to 4 percent of GDP in 2024.” Hmm. White House versus nonpartisan CBO. Who to believe?
Meanwhile, Republicans are no better, having already caved on austerity. Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, helped craft a two-year spending plan that dramatically increased spending after cuts imposed by the dreaded “sequester,” and GOP lawmakers rolled over on the debt limit, voting to suspend enforcement until March 2015.
So, neither side cares a whit about spending more than Americans pay in taxes. President George W. Bush exploded the national debt during his two terms, and Mr. Obama has now created more debt than all 43 presidents before him. No politician has the cojones to actually cut spending, and they never will.
Politicians win office by promising everybody whatever they want. Going into the 2014 midterms, both sides want to spend more to lure voters. So, austerity is out, big spending is back in. And, of course, as both sides play politics, gridlock will be coming to Silly Town again, too.
House Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Republican, has already staked out his do-nothing ground on the president’s budget outline.