Spend, Baby, Spend!

The trouble with Obama's economic agenda


Not long ago, President Barack Obama ordered the creation of a commission that would report back to him with policy recommendations on cutting the federal deficit.

And as great leaders throughout history have proved, the most effective way to tend to any intergenerational crisis is to create a bipartisan commission to study it—but only after midterm elections.

You, the public, are only asked to suspend your disbelief and accept that the president is deeply worried about the deficit, the huge national debt, and the federal spending explosion. As a candidate, after all, the president assured us that he would scour the budget "line by line" for any wasteful spending, yet today we've seen the national debt climb to $13 trillion, and federal spending is nearly 25 percent of gross domestic product. Washington likely will spend $1.56 trillion more than it took in last year—putting the Bush administration to shame.

At the G-20 summit, in fact, for the first time in history, the U.S. president is the one advocating that other nations hasten their bankruptcy agendas, increase government debt, and strengthen control economies by offering more "stimulus."

Hasn't the president heard? His own administration doesn't have the nerve to refer to the trillion-dollar government/union boondoggle as a "stimulus" anymore. Today the preferred White House parlance is "emergency" bill.

Yet the audacity of hope dictates that the president turn the tables on his critics and start kicking some serious tea party butt. That's why we heard this from him: "Next year, when I start presenting some very difficult choices to the country, I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficits and debt start stepping up, because I'm calling their bluff."

Now, by "difficult choices," rest assured we're talking about a bundle of tax increases—because no one in Washington right now will significantly cut spending. Democrats claim that nothing can be taken off the table in the budget fix. Which is good to know when the discussion turns to capital gains cuts, corporate tax cuts, or slashing entitlement programs and subsidies for those morally sound industries the left loves.

Republicans, on the other hand, face a political dilemma, as well. They are bluffing. Cutting funding for the National Endowment for the Arts? The Department of Education? Senate salaries? Is that going to do the trick? If the Republicans want to be credible on the issue, they must do more than reverse ObamaCare, which is improbable in the short term, anyway.

A recent Pew Research poll found that 23 percent—a growing number—of Americans believe that the federal budget deficit is the top concern facing the nation. If the opposition party—needing redemption on this issue—can't offer a coherent, viable long-term strategy to undo the damage done by reckless spending, it is going to be doomed to remain in the minority for a long time.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his website at www.DavidHarsanyi.com.