Criticism and worries about runaway federal deficits and government spending are increasing ever so slowly among not only Republicans and conservatives, but Blue Dog Democrats and independents as well. Against this backdrop, President Obama again tried to conjure up an image of fiscal responsibility by calling on Congress to adopt stricter spending measures in an attempt to cut down on deficits. The so-called “pay as you go” legislation, which Dem. Sen. Steny Hoyer pledged to introduce on Obama’s behalf, calls for any tax cut or spending program to be paid for within the budget.
The proposal is already meeting resistance from Dem. Sen. Kent Conrad, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, who noted that pay-as-you-go (or just pay-go to some) “doesn’t address the deficits and debts projected under existing policy.” And one teensy little detail: discretionary spending, 40% of the budget, isn’t covered by the proposal, and there are several exceptions requested by the President. And one little quote from President Obama might be noteworthy to some:
…tax cuts need to be paid for. They are not free.
So you see, returning more money to the populace is actually costlier than letting government use tax dollars however they see fit. Heaven forbid the government, you know, actually shrink in size. Nope, gotta pore over budget numbers to figure out ways to let people keep more of their own money.
With this new proposal, I’m sure Obama’s 2010 budget will be promptly reviewed and pared down, right? I’m sure that with these new pay-as-you-go proposals, the upcoming health care bill might be a little more modest and a little less costly in its scope, right? The stimulus package and omnibus spending bills will be scaled back now, right?
The obvious answer to these questions is “no.” The fact is that Obama has already spent or pledged to spend trillions of dollars, and Sen. Conrad is right when he observes that this pay-as-you-go pledge will only cover new policy. In reality, this is just more campaign-style PR to shore up the administration’s numbers as people begin to doubt their effectiveness on the economy. I have a suspicion that this will be used as a half-step toward raising taxes in that the administration can claim, “Gosh, we tried to be mindful of spending responsibility, but we just have to have more money to pay for our very important programs!”
Sorry, Mr. President, but fiscally responsible just isn’t one adjective that can be applied to your administration.