Economics

Obama's Budget Message, Drinking Game Version

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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.

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  1. Christ on a cracker Nick, you’re more depressing than Balko.

    Besides, I already have good reason to drink. Oh well, what’s one more?

  2. From the article:
    “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.”

    Umm, couldn’t this be said of every military recruiter who goes to the inner city?

  3. Obama’s budget accounting process reminds me a lot both of so-called “Carbon credits” (which Iowahawk did a brilliant send-up of here) and of a running joke that my family used to have. When I was in high school, my dad would come home and announce “I saved us $7,000 today!” When we asked why, he would reply with something to the effect of “I didn’t place a bid on the top-of-the-line Trek road bike that was on Ebay today” or “I didn’t fly to Paris to watch the last stage of the Tour de France.” Obama uses the same trick all over the place. Thus “jobs created” has become “jobs created or saved” and “deficit reduction” is now being measured against the assumption that we would pass 2 trillion dollars in “stimulus” and “bailouts” every year. The difference between my father and Obama? My dad was joking.

  4. “There is very little to be happy about in Obama’s first budget.”

    Paul Krugman today:

    “[T]his budget looks very, very good.”

    Considering the relevant philosophies’ histories in handling our economy, I’m feeling pretty good about it.

    And you really cannot rest an argument on a fundamentally dishonest reading of the history of the New Deal.

  5. 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.

    At least FDR had the excuse of %37 unemployment among non-farm workers for his boondoggle jobs programs.

  6. Take a drink after reading each sentence.

    Before, not after. Sadist.

  7. I think Krugman just bought himself a presidential medal of freedom with that NY Times column.

  8. Inadequately informed of the risks and overwhelmed by fine print, many borrowers took on debt they could not really afford.

    You see? It’s not their fault they took out loans they couldn’t afford to repay. It’s the fine print or inadequate information. Or maybre adequate information that was in the fine print. Or the loan lady had great gams making it difficult to concentrate, or something.

    Anyway, the message is clear. An unpaid loan is not the borrowers fault!
    Borrowers need a bailout!

    On January 8th, 2009, then President-elect Obama said

    … and some borrowers took advantage of cheap credit to take on debt they couldn’t afford.

    which we now know IS NOT THEIR FAULT!

    Nick, I’m not going to play the drinking game, I’m just going to get falling down, snot slinging drunk without keeping score.

  9. Tony,

    There is nothing fundamentally dishonest about this reading of the New Deal.

    I can personally make a very convincing argument that the New Deal enacted disastrous policies in part because the New Dealers admitted to such by backing away from policies which were pretty clearly not working.

    After all, aside from moronic things like the Hot Oil Act of 1935, why didn’t FDR’s administration take up again cartelization as it did in its early years once the composition of the Supreme Court had changed? I know why. Because those efforts failed and they were extremely unpopular with the populace?

    As for other attacks on the New Deal – why was so much money spent out West in per capita terms and in simple quantity as compared to the South during the New Deal? After all, there were a lot more Southerners than there were Westerners? Could it have had something to do with the fact that the South was solid whereas the West was a hotbed of electoral competition?

    Much of what was done during New Deal is questionable; and the people involved with it at the time realized that, which is why they backed away from policies which were clearly detrimental. We should too.

  10. Drinking line by line would be even more than this battleship can drink.

  11. 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….

    …moving forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!

  12. Tony-

    Life was worse in 1936, 1937 and 1938 than it was in 1930 and 1931.

  13. Much of what was done during New Deal is questionable; and the people involved with it at the time realized that, which is why they backed away from policies which were clearly detrimental. We should too.

    Choosing the New Deal and the worst period of economic activity in American history as proof that substantial government market manipulation is better than any other alternative is pretty silly. There has to be a better recession for Keynesians to choose, one with the substantial manipulation but without the starvation.

  14. I just got into an argument with someone who seriously thought that the NSF could do a better job deciding which technologies were likely to produce profitable innovations than the private market.

    Central planning redux.

  15. That picture is racist. It shows a black man’s body. And he’s black. Racist!

  16. Ineffectual rage looks good on you, Nick. You should do this more often.

  17. I must argue that a bunch of consumers, in order to borrow money they didn’t really NEED, ignored the fine print and the alarm bells.

  18. J sub, that’s the first thing I thought of too. I never realized that the fact that if you didn’t make your mortgage payments the bank would take your house away was buried somewhere in the fine print of the mortgage agreement.

  19. Christ on a cracker Nick, you’re more depressing than Balko.

    I like the new, pissed-off Nick.

  20. You know I really, really, thought Mr. Obama couldn’t possibly be any worse than Mr. Bush.

    Dang, wrong again.

  21. Paul Krugman today:

    “[T]his budget looks very, very good.”

    Ah, you listen to NPR, too?

  22. why was so much money spent out West in per capita terms and in simple quantity as compared to the South during the New Deal? After all, there were a lot more Southerners than there were Westerners?

    Because the West had more open spaces for pouring very large amounts of concrete.

  23. Whatever happened to the Credit Default Swaps? The huge over leveraging in those instruments is what tipped us over this time. Yet you never hear about them anymore, even though they are still out there as the forgotten “toxic paper”.

  24. You can take the politician out of Chicago but you can’t take the Chicago out of the politician. This entire budget proposal is payment for each and every liberal, progressive, and union vote.

  25. Shrug. What did you think would happen when we elected a socialist?

    Except for some positive movement on the drug war, Reason’s campaigning for Barack looks pretty foolish now, since it turns the adults didn’t really take any of your GWOT concerns seriously; a few cosmetic changes like Gitmo closing are the only bones they’re tossing you, while rendition, coercive interrogation, and indefinite detention all remain in play (Obamabots’ delusional insistence otherwise in the face of the facts notwithstanding). The long dark night of fascism under Bush continues, now with higher taxes.

  26. Sweet baby Jesus, Nick!!!!! You could have killed 3/4 of your readers in one fell swoop with the drinking game!!! I’m safe with only a 6 pack of Sierra Nevada but what about the others!!!

  27. The long dark night of fascism under Bush continues, now with higher taxes.

    Except instead of turning a blind eye to expanding government and making excuses for their party, the supporters are enthusiastic populists who want to recreate FDR and Mussolini. This will come to a head. 40% chance of pus, so keep your slickers on, folks. Good night.

  28. This will come to a head. 40% chance of pus, so keep your slickers on, folks. Good night.

    I agree. The Social Security bills are going to come due very shortly. And however Obama spins it, we’ll have a debt crisis looming, recovery or not.

    The result will probably be current devaluation and hyperinflation.

    The administration will respond with higher taxes, and we’ll be in economic stagnation territory for years to come.

    get ready for a lost decade.

  29. an alternately nauseating and infuriating compilation of platitudes and invective.

    You noticed that, too?

    Every time I try to listen to that bastard, I start to feel like some cartoon villain has put a galvanized bucket on my head, and is banging on it with a baseball bat.

    All that “on the one hand/ on the other hand” crap makes my head hurt.

  30. Who is being ‘fundamentally dishonest’?

    from
    Henry Morganthau, Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Treasury


    We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong . . . somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. . . . I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot.

  31. Well, I’ve got to say, one of the few things of enjoyment I’m getting out of this trainwreck is watching the reactions of the “libertarian” former (and a few present) Obama shills.

    Eh, that and probably a trip to Afghanistan, all expenses paid.

    Hope and Change! Now with ??? more socialism and political dishonesty.

  32. I have to admit, though, some of the major Reason writers straightened up faster than I expected them too. Suddenly it’s now Reasonable to refer to the New New Deal, outright socialism, and various other rhetorical flourishes that were supposedly beyond the sophisticates who knew better. Unfortunately, plenty of learning still to come. They are just getting started.

  33. “Shrug. What did you think would happen when we elected a socialist?

    Once again (and I know I may be belaboring this point) who’s “we”? I voted for Bob Barr. None of this is on me. It’s probably not on Dave either, but he probably voted for McCain, so he’d still have plenty to answer for.

    Weigel, maybe you should have more carefully considered your support for Obama.

  34. “Suddenly it’s now Reasonable to refer to the New New Deal, outright socialism, and various other rhetorical flourishes that were supposedly beyond the sophisticates who knew better.”

    What the hell are you talking about? Apparent from Weigel (who engaged in a little denialism about Obama’s socialist leanings) and Steve Chapman, who had a sickening Obama fetish, no one at Reason ignored Obama’s socialist rhetoric.

  35. Economist is correct. Though to be fair Weigel was more or less telling people to calm the fuck down over the “HE’S A SOCIALIST!!!” clamour. His attitude to me was more or less “Let’s wait and see before we start hurling titles that might one day embarrass us.”

    I now beseech the REASON gods to link to the voting patterns of reason writers. SHAZAMM!!!

  36. I now beseech the REASON gods to link to the voting patterns of reason writers. SHAZAMM!!!

    That’s the problem with the kids humanity today; everyone expects someone else to do their work for them.

    And they’re able to get away with it because someone always does.

  37. get ready for a lost decade.

    You mean another one?

  38. Not everybody “lost” in that decade, you know.

    I should start telling people I voted for Obama; I could use some free money stimulus.

  39. Ron Bailey enthusiastically voted for Obama.
    He sees him as a fellow science-worshiper.

  40. Talk about delusions of grandeur. I’m almost to the point of pining for Bush. At least he was much easier to ignore.

    Obama also promoted his economic proposals in a video message to a group meeting in Los Angeles on “the state of the black union.”

    “We have done more in these past 30 days to bring about progressive change than we have in the past many years,” the president in remarks the White House released in advance. “We are closing the gap between the nation we are and the nation we can be by implementing policies that will speed our recovery and build a foundation for lasting prosperity and opportunity.”

  41. SIV-

    The funny thing is that, despite Obama’s supposed belief in the scientific method, his response to this crisis has been to dust off every liberal policy that has been tried and failed in the past.

    Perhaps — just perhaps! — failing to raise your hand when asked if you doubt Evolution, and supporting federal funding for embryonic stem cell research are NOT sufficient conditions for one to be a scientific thinker.

  42. I’d just like to restate that during this crisis, I have lived in 2 states, and I neither know a single person who has been foreclosed on, nor have I talked to anyone who knows anyone who is being foreclosed on.

  43. i must have missed the post where you first discovered the “Naked -Obama-rides-a-unicorn-to-glory” pic. I just accidentally urinated all over the computer screen.

  44. 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.

    I don’t remember seeing nearly enough posts during the campaign characterizing Obama’s rhetoric as a nauseating and infuriating compilation of platitudes and invective.

    Better late than never, I guess. But not nearly as good as getting it right the first time.

  45. Perhaps — just perhaps! — failing to raise your hand when asked if you doubt Evolution, and supporting federal funding for embryonic stem cell research are NOT sufficient conditions for one to be a scientific thinker.

    Given a choice between a thoughtful, analytical believer in evolution who will double the federal budget, and a fundamentalist who won’t, I’ll take the latter.

  46. Given a choice between a thoughtful, analytical believer in evolution who will double the federal budget, and a fundamentalist who won’t, I’ll take the latter.

    And where, prey tell, can we find such a fundamentalist?

  47. And where, prey tell, can we find such a fundamentalist?

    Beats me. It was a hypothetical. Which would you prefer, Taktix?

  48. And where, prey tell, can we find such a fundamentalist?
    ___________________________

    There is this guy in Louisiana…..

  49. When apply for a reverse mortgage with a lender, they will hire an appraiser to determine the current market value of your home and an actuary to calculate your estimated life span.

    http://www.reversemortgagelend…..tgage-faq/
    http://www.reversemortgagelend…..s-it-work/

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