Obama's Budget: Embracing Our Inner 'No!'
"No" is vastly undervalued. It is a complete sentence. It does not require, although it allows, explanation ("No, because ... "). And sometimes "no" has been precisely what the moment required at critical junctures in American history. No, the South cannot secede. No, the Soviets cannot place missiles in Cuba. No, we will not trade away missile defense. "No" has come in very handy.
The Congressional Republicans have been struggling to define themselves as not simply the "no" party. But at this particular moment, with an extraordinarily irresponsible budget in the offing, Republicans, and centrist Democrats as well, might be wise to embrace their inner "no."
Senate Mitch McConnell did his best on CNN this weekend:
"What we ought not to be doing is passing the budget that they propose we pass in the Senate and House next week that doubles the national debt the next five years and triples it in the next 10," he said. A massive tax increase, an energy tax of up to $3,100 per person. An effort we believe the nationalized health care, that has nothing to do with the economic dilemma which we confront at the moment."
McConnell said that he didn't think any Senate Republicans would vote for the Democrats' budget proposal. He suggested it's more likely to see Democrats vote against the budget plan.
"I think they have serious concerns on their side about this budget which is completely disconnected to and unrelated to the current economic crisis in which we're facing."
Republicans' mantra has been that the budget "spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much." If so, the appropriate answer is "No!" or more precisely, "Are they mad?"
Stephen Moore details the damage:
Already in the first 45 days of his administration, the federal government has authorized more debt spending than Ronald Reagan did in eight years in office.
Then last week the Democrats' own Congressional Budget Office found that the ten-year deficits of the Obama plan will be about $2.3 trillion higher than the $6.97 trillion the White House is projecting. This is the policy of the party that was swept back into power in 2006 and 2008 promising a return to an era of fiscal responsibility. ... But the news on the red ink front is much worse than the president or even the CBO's budget report suggests.
If all of Obama's "transformational" policy objectives -- from global warming taxes to universal health care to doubling the Department of Energy's budget -- are enacted, the debt is likely to increase from about 40 percent of GDP today to close to 100 percent of GDP by 2018. The ten-year debt is likely to be at least $6 trillion higher -- or more than one-half trillion of higher deficits a year from now until forever -- than the Obama budget projects.
Meet the Press, perhaps for the first time in months, had an interesting and educational exchange on the budget with John McCain as the guest:
MR. GREGORY: Let's move on to the budget and the deficit picture that you referenced just a moment ago. The Washington Examiner reported this this week: "Last week in a little-noticed conference call featuring Budget Director Peter Orszag. ... [Orszag was asked:] Are those deficits sustainable? Relenting, Orszag said such deficits, in the range of 5 percent of the gross domestic product, "would lead to rising debt-to-GDP ratios in a manner that would ultimately not be sustainable." The simple version of that is: "If the Congressional Budget Office projections are correct, we're headed for hell in a handbasket." How concerned are you that, with the goals the administration has for spending on major programs, they're going to have to raise taxes?
SEN. McCAIN: Well, that's always the inevitable result of increasing spending and increasing the size of government. They've earmarked $634 billion for cap and trade; by the way, a betrayal of everything I've ever believed in about cap and trade, which I'm a supporter of. They, they have earmarked or budgeted for hundreds of billions of dollars in increases in spending in health care to bring down the cost of health care. So my great worry, my great worry is the trillions. The $10 trillion we already owe, the $1 trillion or $2 trillion that the Chinese now own. The Chinese comments about a world currency and their complaints about our fiscal policies concern me. The -- you know, there's only one thing worse than, than the Chinese owning a lot of American debt, and that is Chinese stop buying American debt.
MR. GREGORY: Is that a real fear in your mind?
SEN. McCAIN: Oh, I think it's of a concern. I don't think in the short term. But we've got to get our fiscal house in order. We were talking about the party of saying no. Our proposal on the stimulus package was once this country reaches a two percent increase in GDP, inflation adjusted, then we'd be on an automatic spending reduction path. We've got to get the spending under control. And the old line about deficits as far as the eye can see is, is now so large that it staggers the imagination. And it can't continue. No country can continue to do this.
And that is the nub of the matter. If the president's pie-in-the-sky budget projections are off, if the Congress is only putting a "down payment" on health care, and if the stimulus spending is in essence irreversible (i.e., future efforts to return to pre-2009 spending levels will be vilified as heartless attacks on essential programs) then we are indeed headed for fiscal hell in a handbasket. That's the conclusion of not just John McCain and the CBO, but intellectually honest Democrats like Alice Rivlin.
So the Republicans have every right and certainly the responsibility to say "no." The real question is: Why anyone would say "yes" to a budget this frighteningly irresponsible?