In a move that seems now too ridiculous to be believed, President Obama is hinting that his focus in 2010 will be on cutting the federal deficit in a shift toward fiscal responsibility. The move comes after the shocking gubernatorial defeats in New Jersey and Virginia amid rising voter concern about the growing gap between what the government spends and what it takes in.
It’s a great goal, but there’s a glaring problem – Congress is currently ramming through at the President’s behest massively expensive health care reform proposals that have been estimated to cost between $1-2 trillion over ten years after their spending kicks in. The spending is paid for by tax hikes and slashes to programs like Medicare Advantage. In addition, the administration has pushed through a bloated economic stimulus bill that has had little effect on the economy and, indeed, has seen its job numbers inflated by numerous states. This is to say nothing of the second half of the TARP money that Obama wanted released early and the industry-killing cap-and-trade bill that was passed by the House and is under consideration in the Senate (where it may languish eternally with both health care and increased deficit scrutiny hanging over it).
The bottom line is that the President is a little late to the party. Even the Politico reporters are highly skeptical that the Obama administration will be able to successfully follow through on cutting government spending in an election year – and that’s even if they plan on going through with it. It’s beyond disingenuous to posture yourself as a deficit hawk in the midst of pushing through one of the largest government programs of all time. It seems like a weak promise along the lines of a pathetic New Year’s resolution to give up soda, and what we’ll probably end up seeing is a few token cuts that will be held up as the model of fiscal discipline.
Myself, I’ll believe it when I see it, as it seems to me that the President’s new positioning is based strictly on political posturing and, based on his past profligacy, can hardly be believed.