The PJ Tatler

Analysis: Budget constraints limit Obama's second-term agenda

Andy Sullivan — no, not that soon-to-be-paywall-protected Andy Sullivan — wrote up one of those analysis pieces that will make you laugh in a low, painful moan. Here’s the gist:

President Barack Obama starts his second term in office facing unprecedented budget constraints that will challenge his ability to implement his economic vision.

Repeat after me: There is no budget. The Senate refuses to pass one, so we’ve functioned, as it were, these last few years on a series of continuing resolutions, following debt ceiling kabuki fights. If anyone thinks the sequestration will lead to any actual cuts*, they haven’t been paying attention these last four years. Heck, they haven’t been paying attention these last 30 years. That was when President Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neil agreed to fix the budget by applying tax hikes and spending cuts in a one-to-three ratio. Except the actual ratio was one-to-nothing, since the spending cuts never happened.

George H.W. Bush made a similar deal to raise taxes now in exchange for spending cuts never. Here we are again. In fact, the budget deal signed just last month cut discretionary spending by… raising it a little more.

Nevertheless, Sullivan whines on about all the belt-tightening we’re about to endure:

Because those caps won’t keep pace with inflation and population growth, the government will effectively have 16 percent less to spend in these areas by the time Obama leaves office in 2017, according to White House estimates.

Egads! If I’ve done my math right, an “effective 16 percent cut to vital programs like “education, scientific research, transportation and other areas that he says will help the country retool for heightened global competition and rapid technological change,” will result in shrinking the deficit by a fraction of 1%.

But again, we have to assume these cuts will come, when the GOP has already waved the white flag on spending cuts. Here’s Marc Thiessen to explain:

Unfortunately, House Republicans have already announced that they will violate the principle they established, and pass a three-month debt-limit increase this week without any spending cuts. Instead of cuts, the GOP will insist that the House and Senate pass formal budgets by April, or else forgo their Congressional pay. “The principle is simple: no budget, no pay,” Boehner declared.

Sorry, I thought the principle was “a dollar of spending cuts for a dollar of debt limit increase.”

Principles? The Democrats’ only principle is to keep the gravy train moving “forward.” And the Republican leadership? Now they’re the ones voting “present.” And the media, perfectly encapsulated here by Andy Sullivan, will go on helping the Obama and the Democrats scare us into unending spending increases.

If there’s a way out of this trap — without taking a trip through Athens — I’m all ears.

*Except to Defense, of course. Democrats can cut the heck out of Defense.