Monday, February 07, 2011

Rhetoric and reality on spending

President Obama less than two weeks ago in the state of the union address:
Now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.

...I recognize that some in this chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I'm willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without.
Yesterday we found out exactly where the rubber meets the road:
President Obama's budget director Jack Lew in a Sunday opinion piece outlined some off the “tough choices” Obama is willing to make to cut spending in his 2012 budget request due out on Feb. 14.

...The cuts are relatively small, however, in the larger scheme of things. In total, the $775 million in detailed cuts fall far short of demands by congressional Republicans and will do little toward tackling the deficit, which is estimated to be $1.5 trillion this year by the Congressional Budget Office.
$775 million is quite literally a rounding error in the context of federal budget math. If one looks at the budget for the 2010 fiscal year -- a fiscal year 2011 budget does not exist as Congress was so busy passing thousands of pages of unconstitutional health care legislation that it failed to discharge one of its key responsibilities and pass a budget last year (the first time this has happened since 1974) -- $775 million represents a cut of 0.02% of total expenditures, 0.056% of discretionary spending and 0.1% of non-defense discretionary spending. It's 0.05% of this year's projected deficit.

This is so far from being commensurate to the fiscal challenge we face as to be laughable and a clear demonstration of how married the administration is to big government. Centrist? Pragmatic? Please. Given the president's vow to root out spending that we can honestly do without this implicitly means that he regards something like 99% of federal spending as absolutely critical. While it may be possible to actually believe this, one cannot do so and simultaneously claim to inhabit anything other than the extreme left of the political landscape.

It is now clear -- if there was any ever doubt -- that those in search of leadership and bold thinking on the fiscal issues must look beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Fortunately Sen. Rand Paul has some ideas.

Update: Today's Wall Street Journal reports that the new budget set to be unveiled by Florida Gov. Rick Scott will contain $5 billion in budget cuts. In other words, Scott's proposed budget cuts for the state of Florida are roughly 6.5 times greater than President Obama's proposed cuts for the entire country.

Update: To clarify, the cuts proposed by the Obama administration are a sampling of broader spending reductions that will be unveiled February 14. That said, even if the overall cuts come in at several multiples of the cuts highlighted it's still virtually guaranteed to underwhelm. There is a massive amount of difference between the administration's proposal to cut $125 million from Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Sen. Paul's desire to cut the Department of Agriculture by $42 billion.

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