Budget

Jacob Lew, the White House's New Budget Romantic

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Budgets are sooooo dreamy…

Today, the White House announced that Jacob Lew, currently the United States Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources under Hillary Clinton, will replace Peter Orszag as President Obama's director of the Office of Management and Budget. Lew will probably be sold as a politically experienced deficit wrangler, but the picture that emerges from a brief review of his public record is of a dogged budget battler who brings a progressive romantic vision to the sterile business of fiscal prioritizing.

Here's a look at what President Obama likely sees in his newest senior wonk—and what the rest of us should expect:

He sells fiscal discipline as a path to liberal policy goals: In 2000 testimony before Congress, he said: "The fact that we are running a surplus does not mean, however, that fiscal discipline is no longer needed. To the contrary, fiscal discipline is essential to protect Social Security and strengthen Medicare, so that both will be there in the years ahead." Advocates of fiscal restraint might find comfort in the idea of a White House budget director touting the need for fiscal discipline even in times of surplus. But taken as a whole, the quote suggests that Lew's approach very much resembles Orszag's, which at this point ought to be worrying. Orszag, as many will recall, was initially touted as a deficit-conscious centrist. But he successfully sold the administration on the idea that health care reform is entitlement reform—an idea that sounds a lot like Lew's notion that fiscal discipline is a tool for advancing large-scale entitlements—and served as a chief advocate for the so-called fiscal responsibility of ObamaCare.

He's romantic about budgeting: Orszag's press apologists built him a persona defined by nerd-cool. Lew seems like less of a geek and more of a poet. "Budgets aren't books of numbers. They're a tapestry, the fabric, of what we believe." Lew told The New York Times in 1999. "The numbers tell a story, a self-portrait of what we are as a country." So we're spending-crazed entitlement nuts on a path to fiscal catastrophe? Let's not answer that. 

He's a true believer in government power: In the same New York Times piece, Lew said that he believes that "the purpose of power is to get things done," which would seem to inform his stated belief "you [can] make a difference in people's lives through politics."

He's a wartime Consiglieri:
From 1998 until 2001, Lew served as OMB director under Bill Clinton, which means he has experience negotiating fiscal priorities with a Republican-controlled Congress. If the GOP overtakes the House this year, as many expect, that experience will definitely come in handy.

He has experience with health care: From February 1993 through 1994, Lew served as a Special Assistant to President Clinton, and was involved in the president's failed effort to overhaul the nation's health care system. Even if you buy the rosiest assumptions about ObamaCare, managing a trillion dollars in new health care funds will be no small challenge. And, as the CBO has laid out in excruciating detail, the nation's long-term fiscal problem is, in fact, largely a health care cost problem. That means that public health care expenses are likely to dominate America's budget debates for years to come.

NEXT: Free and Fleeting Speech

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  1. If Obama’s for him, I’m against him.

  2. “United States Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources”
    What does that do? The title makes no sense.
    The revolution cannot come quick enough.

    1. What does that do?

      Its a jobs program, silly. (Just don’t call it patronage).

    2. Ladels out foreign aid?

    3. Fuckin “United States Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources”, how do they work?!

    4. Sometime in the past, someone was offered a title, instead of a raise.

  3. Why does the man have a Brillo pad on his head?

    1. It looks like he’s got a bad wig, just like his predecessor.

  4. I think Lew is an appropriate last name for this clown since he’ll probably do a shitty job and shit all over us.

  5. Another member of the Harvard cabal.

  6. I would not take a job as budget director for a president who doesn’t know what budgeting is, i.e. the last two.

  7. Lew said that he believes that “the purpose of power is to get things done,”

    Not ironically, that was also a major purpose of slavery.

    1. Stupid fake names get nothing done, however.

  8. This guy sounds very much like an official enemy of libertarianism. Offical enemies are the best sort.

  9. This guy sounds very much like an official enemy of libertarianism. Offical enemies are the best sort.

    1. You got a twitchy finger today Max?

      1. I’m not sure not sure how that happened how that happened.

        1. Max, is your last name Headroom by any chance?

          1. I thought it was “e-pad.”

    2. That would be like killing a mockingbird.

      No one can be an enemy of a retard.

  10. If the GOP overtakes the House this year

    Main Entry: over?take
    Pronunciation: \??-v?r-?t?k\
    Function: transitive verb
    Inflected Form(s): over?took \-?tu?k\; over?tak?en \-?t?-k?n\; over?tak?ing
    Etymology: Middle English, from 1over + taken to take
    Date: 13th century

    1 a : to catch up with b : to catch up with and pass by
    2 : to come upon suddenly

  11. “He’s romantic about budgeting”

    Well I guess he’ be in the lonely hearts club this year, since the Dems in Congress have decided the best way to hide their spending orgy is to not have a budget at all.

    1. “He’s romantic about budgeting”

      That’s obscene.

  12. He has experience with health care

    I must have missed that part. Was he an EMT or nurse practitioner at some point, because that would provide an infinite amount more health care experience than being one of Bill Clinton’s many failures.

  13. “I enjoy working in the Garden.”

    “What do you enjoy most about the Garden?”

    “Being There.”

    1. I like to watch.

      1. I like to watch TV.

  14. Budgets aren’t books of numbers. They’re a tapestry, the fabric, of what we believe.” Lew told The New York Times in 1999.

    And yet he’s still taken seriously….!

    1. You probably think the phone book is just a book of numbers too…wait, oh, nm.

  15. The object of power, is power, Lew.

    1. The first rule of being Deputy Secretary of Management and Resources is never talk about being Deputy Secretary of …

    2. What do all men with power want? More power.

  16. his stated belief “you [can] make a difference in people’s lives through politics.”

    That’s not a belief, it’s a fact.
    Too bad the difference is as often a negative as a positive one, and that even in the best case it’s unlikely for a government action to please more than 60% of the population.

    1. Judging by percentage of affirmative votes generally tallied, try reducing your 60% by something on the order of two-thirds.

      If I remember correctly, the numbers show that this president, for instance, was elected by about 22% of the population. Funny thing is, if there were only 5% turnout, they’d still consider the system to be a manifestation of majority rule.

      And in any case, they would never entertain debate regarding what is supposed to be so righteous about majority rule. I suppose slavery would’ve been just fine, so long as there were more owners than there were slaves, and everyone were given a vote? That would still represent the so-called will of the people, would it not?

  17. Reason, always worried about the unfunded pension liabilities attacks someone for, wait for it, worrying about unfunded pension liabilities: “The fact that we are running a surplus does not mean, however, that fiscal discipline is no longer needed. To the contrary, fiscal discipline is essential to protect Social Security and strengthen Medicare,”

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