Running Up the Score on the Budget

There’s something strangely fascinating about the big blow-out scores that occasionally appear in the sports pages. We don’t mean the 30-point differences that frequently occur in basketball games or the 50-point margins that are a regular feature of the football schedule, but rather those cringe-inducing triple-digit shut-out drubbings that only happen once a season or so. Seeing such humiliating scores always cause us to wonder how they came about, and whether it was the winner’s exceptional skill or the loser’s extraordinary ineptitude that led to such a lopsided result.

No such speculation is necessary after Wednesday’s big blow-out at the Capitol, where President Barack Obama’s budget proposal went down to ignominious defeat by the staggering score of 0-99. That follows a 0-414 defeat in the House of Representatives last month, for a congressional season total of 0-513, and there’s no point wondering why. It can’t be the high quality of the competition, because no other budget plan has found congressional approval for the past three years, so the rather convincing score can only be attributed to the low quality of the president’s plan.

Obama’s most stubborn defenders will no doubt downplay the significance of vote, saying that the president only proposed a budget because of some archaic legal requirement and never really intended that it be enacted. As The New York Times helpfully explained when Obama introduced the budget proposal last February, it “amounts to an election-year bet that a plan for higher taxes on the rich and more spending on popular programs like infrastructure and manufacturing will trump concerns over the deficit,” and the true Obama believers will no doubt see nothing wrong with such political maneuvering. Still, they can’t possibly unembarrassed when even the likes of Al Franken, Barbara Boxer, Maxine Waters, and Bernie Sanders can’t be persuaded to cast a vote for the staggering debt that the Obama budget envisions.

Although the budget proposal and the Republicans’ insistence on a vote were both mere political gimmicks, the outcome is nonetheless worth noting. When Obama takes to the campaign trail to tell voters that some Republican proposal or another cuts funding for some sacrosanct program or another by a certain percentage, he’s talking about how the Republican proposal compares to his own budget plan. The Republican proposals will inevitably seem stingy by comparison, and Obama is apparently calculating that by the time the Republicans explain the budgetary reality voters will too bored and confused to appreciate that the president is actually proposing to bankrupt the country at a rate even the congressional Democrats cannot condone.

The trick might just work, as many American voters are quite easily bored and confused, but being able to point to a scoreboard flashing 0-513 could help the Republican efforts. We’ve seen teams that have lost basketball games by 30 points or so wind up cutting down the nets at the end of a season, but the teams that suffer the triple-digit losses usually don’t fare so well.

— Bud Norman

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