At least one side of the great federal budget debate has clearly gone stark raving mad. It might be us, a possibility one should always acknowledge, but we’re pretty sure it’s the Democrats.
Back in the dark days of the Bush administration the Democrats would become downright apoplectic about the half-trillion dollar deficits that the Republicans were racking up, with Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama going so far as to call it “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic,” but ever since they’ve been noticeably more insouciant about the trillion-dollar-plus deficits that have annually accrued. Lip service would still paid to notions of fiscal responsibility, always accompanied by a principled insistence on a “balanced” approach of mythical spending cuts and actual tax hikes, but without the same sense of urgency. There was reason to suspect that the Democrats believed the national debt wasn’t much of a problem at all, and wouldn’t be at almost any amount, but because they had simply dispensed with the budget process altogether it was never necessary for them to come right out and say so.
Democrats in the Senate have lately felt compelled to offer a detailed budget proposal for the first time in four years, however, and the document is jarringly candid even if the claims being made for it by the authors are not. The Democrats’ plan would never a balance any budget for the next 10 years, increase spending by 62 percent over that time, and add another $7 trillion to the national debt even as it raises taxes by $1.5 trillion. Those eye-popping numbers are almost certainly over-optimistic, too, as they are based on an assumption the nation’s gross domestic product will expand from 3.8 percent to 6.6 percent every year for a decade. Such robust growth exceeds the average performance of the American economy, and seems especially unlikely when another 62 percent of regulatory bureaucracy is added to the private sector and another $1.5 trillion is sucked out. Some Democratic Senators have been touting the budget’s spending cuts, which are mostly of the phony-baloney Washington accounting variety, but their own documents show they are fare outpaced by the added spending.
The president hasn’t yet submitted his budget proposal, being far too busy with international crises and golf to have met the legally-mandated February deadline, but that is of little matter considering that none of his previous budget proposals have yet to win a single vote in either chamber of Congress. Those past Obama budgets all included seas of red ink, and an interview with the ABC newsman George Stephanopolous the president signaled that the next one would do the same. Obama that “My goal is not to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance. My goal is how do we grow the economy, put people back to work, and if we do that we are going to be bringing in more revenue,” and the reliably friendly former Clinton staffer did not challenge the point. He might have noted that financial solvency is not something that is desired merely for its own sake, or asked how higher taxes and further government intrusion into the private sector is going to grow the economy and put people back to work, or why anyone should believe that the government wouldn’t spend beyond any additional revenue even if it did occur, but such questions never seem to occur to Democrats.
Obama warned that “We’re not gonna balance the budget in ten years” because the Republican plan to do so proposed Rep. Paul Ryan includes such horrors as medical vouchers for seniors and a tax hike on the middle class. The vouchers are only horrible because they offer citizens a choice, and the middle class tax hikes aren’t in the Ryan plan at all, but Obama nonetheless echoes the constant Democratic chorus that the Republican’s budget is a demented documented favored only by the most extreme right-wing radicals. To hear the Democrats and their media allies tell it, the Ryan would unleash such horrors on the poor and downtrodden that not even Charles Dickens could do them justice. Others are aghast that Ryan would even be so rude as to propose anything, given that he was on a losing presidential ticket and that the country clearly chose another decade or so massive borrowing.
Extreme right-wing radicals such as ourselves find Ryan’s budget a rather modest proposal, however, and are grousing for far sterner stuff. The plan includes such attractive features as a repeal of the budget-busting, job-killing bureaucratic nightmare that is Obamacare, but it also continues the recent Obama tax hike on the rich, takes ten years to reach a balance budget without making a debt in the existing debt, and despite its supposedly draconian cuts allows for 3 percent annual growth in federal spending. A more thorough downsizing of the federal behemoth would be much preferred, but at least the Ryan plan acknowledges the reality that the government needs remain financially solvent for than “it’s own sake.”
On the other hand, maybe a government can just borrow another trillion dollars every nine months for ever and ever. Perhaps governmental micro-management will produce an economic boom for the first time in history, and the Democratic politicians elected by a grateful public won’t spend all the money that comes in and then borrow even more. Maybe we should rack up some debt of our own, and not worry about avoiding bankruptcy merely for its own sake. It’s possible that we’re being crazy to try and stay in the black, but we doubt it.
— Bud Norman