If you need more than the usual reasons to start drinking and drugging this weekend, I suggest you peruse at length President Barack Obama's budget summary, which is titled "A New Era of Responsibility," calling to mind some godforsaken unfilmed Star Wars prequel. Earlier today, Veronique de Rugy worked the numbers over and concluded "There is very little to be happy about in Obama's first budget." Forget the numbers for a moment and take a gander at the president's budget message, which opens the document and reads like a greatest hits of the campaign trail, an alternately nauseating and infuriating compilation of platitudes and invective. To wit:
This crisis is neither the result of a normal turn of the business cycle nor an accident of history. We arrived at this point as a result of an era of profound irresponsibility that engulfed both private and public institutions from some of our largest companies' executive suites to the seats of power in Washington, D.C. For decades, too many on Wall Street threw caution to the wind, chased profits with blind optimism and little regard for serious risks—and with even less regard for the public good. Lenders made loans without concern for whether borrowers could repay them. Inadequately informed of the risks and overwhelmed by fine print, many borrowers took on debt they could not really afford. And those in authority turned a blind eye to this risk-taking; they forgot that markets work best when there is transparency and accountability and when the rules of the road are both fair and vigorously enforced. For years, a lack of transparency created a situation in which serious economic dangers were visible to all too few….
I have no particular feelings for wealthy Wall Streeters whose lives have gone in the crapper. But I never thought they were pursuing the public good. Similarly, I know very few who weren't completely aware of the debt they were piling up and the risks they were taking when they bought too much house or lived off credit cards. As for the accountability: Isn't the biggest problem with the bailout mania that struck last fall and continues apace precisely that it wipes away accountability? Both for big firms ranging from Fannie Mae to Citigroup to Chrysler and for little players like Uncle Joe with the underwater mortgage? How are we supposed to ever learn from our mistakes if keep getting do-overs? Which isn't to say people should be starving but, I don't know, maybe some companies should go out of business, some investors should get hosed, and some overextended plain folks should have to downsize.
It is true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or to generate long-term growth. Ours is a market economy, and the Nation depends on the energy and initiative of private institutions and individuals. But at this particular moment, government must lead the way in providing the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this severe and lay the foundation for future prosperity….
I suppose we should breath a sigh of relief that even Obama doesn't rely completely on government to create jobs. Note the copyeditor left in a misplaced prosperity above when the right word is more like panic or crash.
We will modernize Federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of millions of American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills. In the process, we will put Americans to work in new jobs that pay well-jobs installing solar panels and wind turbines; constructing energy efficient buildings; manufacturing fuel efficient vehicles; and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs and more savings, putting us on the path toward energy independence for our Nation and a cleaner, safer planet in the process….
What did you do during the recession, Daddy? I installed solar panels and wind turbines. If only Franklin Roosevelt had thought to put millions of Americans to work during the Depression doing make-work jobs that were gee-whiz futuristic…. Oh, that's right. He did. And it didn't work then, either. But this time is different, you know.
We also will fundamentally reform our health care system, delivering quality care to more Americans while reducing costs for us all. This will make our businesses more competitive and ease a significant and growing burden middle-class families are bearing….
It's good to see that Obama has bounced back from the Daschle debacle and is still rarin' to "fundamentally reform" health care, even if he's saddled with a Health and Human Services secretary who actually pays taxes. Here's an option that won't likely be considered: Reverse the long-run trend toward increasing the percentage of public spending in health care. Declare a deadline for withdrawal from health care just like you (sort of) have for Iraq.
This Budget does begin the hard work of bringing new levels of honesty and fairness to your Government. It looks ahead a full 10 years, making good-faith estimates about what costs we would incur; and it accounts for items that under the old rules could have been left out, making it appear that we had billions more to spend than we really do.
It's a seriously good thing that Obama has foresworn the use of supplemental spending bills to pay for a years-old war. One of the most casually despicable things that George W. Bush and a Congress that included Obama did year after year was not count war spending in the budget process. Instead, they would pass supplemental bills later in the year and tack on all sorts of bullshit to boot.
However, Obama's budget is not nearly as transparent as he wants us to believe. Beyond being undergirded by positively delusional estimates of economic growth, a lot of his "savings" over time comes from pretending that we were going to spend the same amount of money in Iraq in 2019 as we are now. Not even Dick Cheney in his deepest dreams imagined that scenario. But by saying no to that fantasy spending, Obama is able to conjure up big big savings over the next decade.
The government saving money by insisting it won't spend money that it doesn't have in the first place? It all sounds too good to be true, don't it? Especially when you consider that this budget increases total outlays over 2008 by 19 percent.
Oh, and by the way, the official rules of the budget drinking game? Take a drink after reading each sentence.