stimulus recovery bill has now passed, for better or for worse. What is on the President's agenda now that he has succeed in having Congress pass the largest spending bill ever? Balancing the budget, of course.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Speaking Friday to business leaders at the White House, the president defended the surge of spending in the stimulus plan, but he made sure to add: "It's important for us to think in the midterm and
long term. And over that midterm and long term, we're going to have to
have fiscal discipline. We are not going to be able to perpetually
finance the levels of debt that the federal government is currently
Along those lines, White House budget director Peter R. Orszag has
committed to instituting tougher budget-discipline rules — once the
economy turns around. Those include a mandate that any "nonemergency"
spending increases be offset by equal spending cuts or tax increases.
That's all well and good, but I wished I could believe those words. When the American taxpayers are looking down the barrel of the largest spending bill in the history of our nation (even with taking inflation into account), it's hard to hear the words "balanced budget" as anything but words.
Obama's a politician. And like virtually all politicians, regardless of party, they says things that sound good in campaigns but are all but impossible or politically unlikely once you are elected.
It's easy to say that you are going to keep lobbyist from your administration. It's much harder to do. (At least 12 lobbyist on the last count, two of which had to be granted a waiver from Obama's own executive order on lobbyist serving in his administration.)
It's easy to say that you are going to post every bill on the internet and allow five days of public comment before signing it. It's much harder to do (promise broken three times already).
It's easy to say that you are going to balance the budget. It's much harder to do, especially when you begin your promise of doing so by allowing yourself gigantic loopholes.
Look carefully at Orszag's comments. These tougher budget rules will only be attempted "once the economy turns around." Who's to say when that happens? He also limits the restrictions to "nonemergency" bills. As we have seen already, every bill, specifically a spending bill in an economic downturn, can be called an "emergency" and be clear of the tighter regulations.
Republicans and Bush got into political trouble when they began to assert that Americans would die unless every foreign policy and national security bill they proposed was passed. It became almost a joke because it was so over used. If [insert bill here] wasn't passed, then the terrorists would win and kill us all. How can you be so unAmerican as to vote with Osama bin Laden? The constant use of the language undermined the times when that may have been precisely the case, or very close to it.
Obama and the Democrats are already going down that path with economic policy. If [insert spending bill here] isn't passed, then our economy will crater and children will die. How dare you vote against giving people jobs and healthcare for sick children? Are you that heartless and partisan that you could vote against restoring our economy?
How can you make any honest attempt at balancing the budget, if you've already set a precedent that spending bills are classified as emergencies?
I hope I'm wrong about this situation. I hope that Obama will work to cut wasteful spending in Washington and bring some type of fiscal disciple to our government, but none of his actions on spending bills so far give me any hope. Neither does the political (ie flexible) nature of campaign promises.