Deficit Politics: Obama, The Comedian

Barack Obama released his proposed 2012 budget on Monday. It was not the Valentine many were hoping to get. The budget’s spending figure of $3.73 trillion includes $1.1 trillion, or more than 29%, in deficit dollars. Apparently, the flowery promises of budget cutting our way to fiscal health have died on the President’s lips.

He did propose $1.1 trillion in total reductions over the next 10 years. But, that isn’t even peanuts. The combined deficits in just 2010, 2011 and 2012 add up to more than $4 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office projects the national debt will increase by almost $8 trillion between now and 2020. The interest on the debt during that period will consume Obama’s proposed cost savings. He’s some comedian.

Even funnier is the fact that Obama’s proposed 10-year reductions are all in the “discretionary” spending category. His knife does not touch “mandatory” dollars to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or even unspent 2009 Stimulus funds. Obamacare is no where near the cutting table. Asked why his proposal leaves the mandatory category in tact, the President replied that he’s insisting on co-operation from Republicans before he even begins. Translation: in the Obama White House, political gamesmanship has run leadership out of town. Or, he prefers playing the role of President as a comic.

The President’s standup routine is not funny any more, if it ever was. He needs a different shtick. It’s time for him to try being a leader for a change. On the deficit stage, he needs to propose meaningful cuts. Cull the sacred cow herd before we’re all trampled by it. It’s not like he has no idea what to do. He did appoint a Deficit Commission one year ago. Last December, it filed its report recommending $4 trillion in across the board cuts through 2020.

To be sure, there was a lot of gnashing of teeth over the prospect of wholesale spending reductions. But, a leader’s job is not to please. It’s to take the hard road and convince the led that we’re on the right path. When the Commission’s report was released, the White House promised to “harvest” alot of its ideas for the 2012 budget. Unfortunately, from the looks of Obama’s offering, there’s been a serious John Deere malfunction. Commission members would be hard pressed to find many of their recommendations in the President’s 2012 proposal. None of the mandatory cuts made it.

Maybe the problem is that, when the national debt reaches critical mass and we have a major meltdown in ten years, Obama won’t be around. We’re not like the Chinese who take the long view on problem solving. Our politicians focus on the near term, between today and the next election. With Presidential term limits and a cranky electorate, it’s safer to play hide the ball with Republicans. Let future politicians deal with future problems. Hilarious.

White House insiders say that Obama will sit down with both Republicans and Democrats to kick around “mandatory” spending cuts but only behind closed doors. It will be the Stimulus and Obamacare all over again only with GOP’ers included this time. To the politicians involved, meeting in secret is just fine. After all, candidates, not candidness, are for voters. So, we’ll just have to sit on the sidelines and see how the game unfolds.

Meanwhile, 2011’s deficit, predicted by the Administration to reach $1.65 trillion, is the largest in our history and the greatest percentage of GDP since WWII. Not very funny after all.

See you on the left side.