The Obama Spending Nightmare Continues
This morning White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and budget director Peter Orszag will release a memo directing all federal agency heads "to develop plans" to cut at least 5 percent from their budgets by "identifying programs that do little to advance their missions or President Obama's agenda." This spasm of fiscal responsibility can mean only one thing: the Obama administration is about to go on another wild spending binge. And sure enough Politico reports that while Blue Dogs in the House managed to whittle what was a $200 billion "jobs" bill down to $146 billion last month, the Senate is now larding it back up again with a $24 billion Medicaid bailout and a $23 billion teachers union bailout.
This spend-now/cut-later act has become a staple for the Obama administration. In February 2009, after signing the largest single-year increase in domestic federal spending since World War II, President Obama held a "fiscal responsibility" summit designed to "send a signal that we are serious" about putting the nation on sounder financial footing. Then in June 2009, the day after promising faster deficit spending to stimulate the economy, Obama called on Congress to pass "pay-as-you-go" legislation (PAYGO), a rule Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has violated by a mere $1 trillion since she took power in 2006. And then after President Obama signed his trillion-dollar health spending plan, he convened his toothless National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.
The American people have caught on to Obama's fiscal responsibility farce. According to Gallup, federal government debt is now tied with terrorism as the most worrisome issue to Americans. In particular, independents identify federal government debt as their top concern, a full six points ahead of terror. And the latest Pew poll shows that for the first time ever, more Americans now believe that the president's economic policies have made economic conditions worse than made them better. And Bloomberg reported this week that President Obama's policies are poised to increase the U.S. debt to a level that exceeds the value of the nation’s annual economic output, a step toward what some called a "debt super cycle."
While the recession is chiefly responsible for collapsing federal revenues, it is runaway government spending that is the main driver of our nation's long-term fiscal crisis. And not all of that spending can be pinned on President Obama. Since 2000 spending on anti-poverty programs surged by 89%, spending on K-12 education exploded 219%, and Medicare spending grew 81% (largely driven by President George Bush's Medicare drug bill). But considering his short tenure in office, President Obama has contributed more than his fair share. Heritage fellow Brian Riedl details:
Washington will spend $30,543 per household in 2010—$5,000 per household more than just two years ago. While some of this spending is a temporary result of the recession, President Obama’s latest budget would replace this temporary spending with permanent new programs. Consequently, by 2020—a time of assumed peace and prosperity—Washington would still spend nearly $36,000 per household, compared to $25,000 per household before this recession (adjusted for inflation).
There is a way out of this deficit nightmare: stop spending. If the federal government managed to return to the per-household spending level of the Reagan administration, the budget would be balanced by 2012 without any tax hikes. Too ambitious? Just returning to the per-household spending levels that existed before the current recession would balance the budget by 2019. There is a way to stop this spending nightmare. We just need the will.