"The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale." --Thomas Jefferson
Government & Politics
It's the Deficit, Stupid
Barack Obama apparently suffers from his own brand of ADD -- Addiction-to-Deficit Disorder -- as demonstrated by his recently unveiled proposal to freeze one tiny portion of government spending at current levels for three years, which by the way wouldn't begin until 2011. He highlighted the proposal again Wednesday night in his State of the Union address.
At first blush, the idea sounds like something conservatives would cheer. In fact, other than Democrats, who isn't for stopping the spending juggernaut? But as a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) quipped, "Given Washington Democrats' unprecedented spending binge, this is like announcing you're going on a diet after winning a pie-eating contest."
A closer look at this diet reveals that the freeze would apply to a budget that enjoyed a 20 percent increase in 2009, courtesy of the Democrats' largesse. Under the guise of "tacking to the center" in the wake of his trip to the woodshed in the Massachusetts election, the president's proposal would actually lock in a sizable spending increase during those years, as opposed to a real freeze. (No wonder Republicans burst out laughing during the SOTU.)
Furthermore, while the plan claims savings of roughly $250 billion over the next decade, the freeze applies only to non-defense-related discretionary spending, or roughly 17 percent of the total federal budget. Even at that, however, the cap is by no means across the board. Education and job creation initiatives would receive increases, because everyone knows government creates jobs, and education ... well, as long as we keep throwing more money at it, it'll get better, right?
Other items exempted from the proposal are even more revealing. This includes entitlement programs (about two-thirds of the federal budget), virtually all legislation -- past or future -- with the term "stimulus" in it, including the unspent cash from the latest stimulus legislation, and the yet-another-stimulus-package proposal from The Chosen One's SOTU. Health care spending would also get a pass.
Naturally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, Lala-land) rushed to offer up defense spending as a sacrificial lamb to further the cause (so much for the "non-defense-related" caveat). Pelosi's suggestion was immediately lauded by Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-Il and a host of other despots.
For perspective, we would add that these hypothetical savings pale in comparison to the $1.4 trillion actual deficit in 2009 alone, and that the Congressional Budget Office -- a virtual shill for Democrats, no less -- forecast just this week that the deficit for 2010 likely will be at least as large. All told, in fact, the government will hit its current $12.4 trillion authorized debt ceiling by the end of February.
So given the president's call for fiscal "responsibility," one might assume Democrats would jump on the bandwagon. Not so. Every Senate Democrat -- every Democrat -- voted Thursday to raise the debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion. That's $45,000 of debt for every American man, woman and child. But as Obama so succinctly (and ridiculously) put it in the SOTU, "That's how budgeting works."
(On a related note, Democrats needed 60 votes to pass this increase and Sen. Paul Kirk (D-MA) provided one of those votes, despite Senate rules and Massachusetts law saying his term expired last Tuesday. So why did he vote?)
Columnist Charles Krauthammer wryly captured the true significance of the disingenuous spending freeze subterfuge, noting that it's "a $15 billion reduction in a year, 2011, in which the CBO has just announced we are going to have a deficit of $1.35 trillion -- it's a rounding error. ... It's not a hatchet. It's not a scalpel. It's a Q-tip. It's a fraud." As is any claim of fiscal responsibility originating near the Potomac.
This Week's 'Braying Jenny' Award
"In [the president's] budget, which we passed 100 days after his swearing-in, he had a blueprint for how we go into the future, create jobs, stabilize the economy [and] do so as we reduce the deficit -- [it's] very central to everything we do -- reduce the deficit." --House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who contributed to nearly quadrupling the deficit in Obama's first year
From the 'Non Compos Mentis' File
"You know, I was trying to think about who [Barack Obama] was tonight, and it's interesting: He is post-racial by all appearances. You know, I forgot he was black tonight for an hour." --MSNBC host Chris "thrill up my leg" Matthews, with a slobbering sycophantic (and genuinely racist) analysis of the SOTU
Election Preview: Democrats
Democrats have experienced a nearly unprecedented reversal of fortune lately, and the bad news just keeps on coming. Arkansas Representative Marion Berry became the sixth Democrat to announce his retirement, and his district is expected to go Republican in November. He told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he urged the White House not to repeat the mistakes of 1994, when congressional Democrats were defeated resoundingly at the polls. He said Obama fired back, "Well, the big difference here and in '94 was, you've got me."
The arrogance necessary to make that kind of comment suggests that Obama has been tapping the keg of his own Kool-Aid. Given the disastrous results of his efforts on behalf of gubernatorial candidates in Virginia and New Jersey, and on behalf of Ted Kennedy's senatorial heir apparent in deep-blue Massachusetts, he's vastly overestimating his marquee value. His much-vaunted health care plan is all but dead, and now House and Senate Democrat leaders will be lucky to keep more members from retiring early. So maybe the "big difference" Obama was referring to is the loss of even more than 54 seats in the House.
Even Vice President Joe Biden's son Beau has seen the writing on the wall. He announced this week that he would not run for the Senate seat vacated when his father became VP. Beau, who is Delaware's Attorney General, indicated that he's just too busy with a controversial child abuse case to focus on a statewide race. Yeah, right. If the Democrats in Massachusetts can't keep the "Kennedy Senate seat" that they held for half a century, what chance does the vice president's son have in Delaware? Republican candidate Mike Castle, a popular congressman and former governor, raised almost $2 million in campaign cash and has run virtually unopposed while Biden was still making up his mind about whether to run.
Election Preview: Republicans
The political landscape indeed favors Republicans, which also means tight races at the primary level. The contest for Florida's Senate seat has turned into a statistical dead heat between Gov. Charlie Crist and former state House Speaker Marco Rubio. The moderate Crist's comfortable lead has faded away in recent weeks, as he continues to take heat for Florida's economic difficulties. The state has double-digit unemployment and was the hardest hit by the housing collapse. Crist's popularity is dropping and Rubio, a solid conservative, is now closing the gap in the polls and in the cash department. Both candidates are comfortably ahead of Democrat Kendrick Meek.
In Arizona, erstwhile presidential candidate John McCain is facing a challenge for his Senate seat. Former Congressman J.D. Hayworth announced his candidacy, claiming he was motivated to take on McCain because the latter was an "enabler" of Obama's fiscal policies. McCain certainly is not as conservative as he or the Leftmedia fancy. To name but a few examples, he co-sponsored the McCain-Feingold campaign finance debacle that the Supreme Court partly struck down last week; the McCain-Edwards-Kennedy Patient's Bill of Rights imposing a new set of onerous mandates on the insurance industry; the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship cap-and-trade bill; and the McCain-Kennedy Amnesty and Open Borders Act legalizing dozens of millions of illegal aliens. And that's not to mention his opposition to the Bush tax cuts; his vicious attacks and vendettas against South Carolina Christians in the 2000 presidential primary, as well as the Swift Boat Veterans and Club for Growth; and his vote (one of six Republicans) against drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Of course, Hayworth's voting record in Congress is nothing worth bragging about, either. He voted for the hefty farm and highway spending bills and also had a penchant for earmarks before he was ousted in 2006. Barry Goldwater, call your office.
News From the Swamp: Bernanke Wins Reappointment
Talk about a case of bad timing. The economic outlook is anything but certain and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's term was just about to expire. A growing number of senators were less than thrilled with Bernanke's handling of the economy over the last two years and threatened to deny him confirmation for another term. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that Bernanke "must be held accountable for many of the decisions that contributed to our financial meltdown."
Nonetheless, on Thursday, the Senate voted 70-30 to reappoint Bernanke for a second four-year term. The Senate has never rejected a Fed chairman nominee, though Bernanke received a record-low vote total. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said, "To vote against confirmation could unnerve investors and exacerbate economic uncertainty in the marketplace, which is exactly what we do not need at this time." He was probably correct, though we also think McCain has a point. It was Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who, along with Democrats in Congress, were largely responsible for steering the economy into a ditch. Yet sacking Bernanke likely would have destabilized the market -- much like Barack Obama's populist posturing about bank punishment did last week.
Furthermore, if it's not Bernanke, then who? There's little chance Obama would have chosen someone satisfactory to succeed him. The one name that surfaced was former Clinton Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. In the end, the Senate simply went with the known quantity.