Budget reveals the Boldness Deficit

posted at 8:48 am on February 15, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

My column for The Week ran yesterday afternoon rather than today, as it directly related to the budget proposal offered by Barack Obama and widely panned on Capitol Hill.  Given the President’s attempt to provide himself political cover with the deficit commission, one might have expected Obama to propose cuts that at least approached the level of cuts the panel proposed, over $4 trillion in spending for the next decade.  Instead, Obama could barely manage less than 30% of those cuts.

The real initiative on the budget crisis has come from the House Republicans, especially the freshman class:

Contrast this with the actions of the freshman class of the House Republican Congress. The GOP’s Midterm-campaign Pledge to America included a promise to cut $100 billion in spending during the 2011 budget cycle, which rested on the presumption that a heavily Democratic Congress and a Democratic President could actually pass a budget. When infighting held up the 2011 budget, House GOP leaders tried to pro-rate the spending cuts into the continuing resolution that would fund the rest of 2011, and came up with a figure of $32 billion, which amounted to less than 1 percent of the projected full year’s budget.

Newly elected Republicans in the House revolted at the shrunken target. Speaker John Boehner lost two floor votes within days of each other, indicating a massive rebellion among the freshman class. The caucus went into emergency meetings and emerged with a much larger figure in hand: $100 billion in seven months of spending, equal to $170 billion in a year. That falls short of the $4 trillion reduction over ten years proposed by the debt commission, but it far outstrips the President’s meager average of $110 billion per year.

Obama’s new budget proposal demonstrates a lack of leadership and initiative. A President looking to lead his nation to firmer fiscal footing would have used the debt commission report as a launching pad for a complete overhaul of the federal government and how it spends money, especially since the creation of the debt commission was intended to provide both the White House and Congress political cover to do just that. Instead, Obama watered down the proposal so much that it barely dents the debt trajectory at all.

It also exposes a boldness deficit. House Republicans managed to find those cuts within five weeks of taking control of Congress, without a debt commission to provide them political cover. Obama got outbid despite taking office over two years ago promising an end to business as usual. The incoming freshman class of the House Republican majority have taken the initiative, seizing the mantle that Obama has abdicated.

Note: the numbers for the budget in this column came from The Hill’s reporting on Sunday evening.

Allahpundit wrote last night that the cuts provided by the House GOP are “cosmetic” and don’t amount to much more than Obama offered, but I’d argue that it misses some important context.  First, the House GOP didn’t launch a commission to give them any political cover on this subject.  Instead, they took responsibility for their own budgeting process. They also met their pledge target in a seven-month budget rather than a full year.

Second and more importantly, the House GOP didn’t approve a ten-year plan that only averages $110 billion in cuts each full year of the next decade.  They have only started with the rump of the FY2011 budget; they have yet to tackle the FY2012 budget, but that process will begin shortly.  Paul Ryan assured bloggers and CNN Money in yesterday’s conference call that next year’s budget would have serious entitlement reform as part of the plan.  If Ryan and his team fail to propose and pass serious entitlement reform in the House, then we can call these cuts cosmetic, but right now the House only has the CR for the next seven months ahead of it.

Yesterday, I spoke with a few elected officials on Capitol Hill and their staffs, including one of the new freshman GOP class in the House, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee.  This was shortly after the White House budget proposal hit Capitol Hill, and Fleischmann was none too happy about it.  The taxes that Obama proposed were retreads over the past two years, and Fleischmann says it shows Obama’s true colors — which isn’t the flag of centrism:


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Obama’s budget shows that he’s either lost in a thick fog without a compass or that he simply doesn’t care what he’s doing to the nation. either way his behavior is frightening.

rplat on February 15, 2011 at 8:51 AM

It’s clear that Obama and his liberal counterparts still have no new ideas. They just keep running the same plays over and over again, as they have for the last 30+ years. That’s why they have to demagogue and assassinate the character of those that oppose them…

search4truth on February 15, 2011 at 8:55 AM

I have to believe that this is all by design.
Manchurian President. Nothing else makes sense.

Keemo on February 15, 2011 at 8:55 AM

Obama’s true colors: Red with a white hammer and sickle right next to a crescent moon. You wouldn’t thinks they’d work well together, but they’ll hold together just long enough to crush this republic.

SKYFOX on February 15, 2011 at 8:57 AM

Fresh(men) and bold. Heh. Why does this sound familiar?

apostic on February 15, 2011 at 8:58 AM

Obama’s budget shows that he’s either lost in a thick fog without a compass or that he simply doesn’t care what he’s doing to the nation. either way his behavior is frightening.

rplat on February 15, 2011 at 8:51 AM

I think it’s a little bit of both(either that or Cloward-Piven). He’s a far-left lib, so he doesn’t have a clue about what these kinds of deficits could do to this nation. I honestly think most Dems believe we can just print our way out of this if push comes to shove. Some have even said so on national TV(I’m looking at you, Eleanor Clift!).

And of course he also doesn’t care. If you look at when the fit is projected to hit the shan, it’ll likely happen sometime after the 2012 election. So the way Obama and the Dems see it, if they can hold onto the White House, they can then try to blame the GOP or Bush or Palin or the Mayan calendar for whatever fiscal disaster befalls the country.

I think they’re in for a rude awakening though. Even if they somehow do keep the White House, they’re gonna be in the driver’s seat when serious entitlement reform will be required and pointing the finger at someone else will not fix the problem.

Doughboy on February 15, 2011 at 8:59 AM

It is very clear that this is by design,which is frightening.
Combine this with the early list of r’s supposedly running for 2012 and we are in deep !@#$ and hello obama for 4 more years.We can’t survive another mccain.

ohiobabe on February 15, 2011 at 9:07 AM

So why can’t we just fire the new hires as a start?

tarpon on February 15, 2011 at 9:07 AM

Obama. Worst. Triangulation. Ever.

Nethicus on February 15, 2011 at 9:10 AM

Obama is a laughingstock on the world stage and has made our economy a ticking time bomb. When being clueless becomes this dangerous, it is obvious that he is unfit to lead. Ariel Durant said, “A great civilization cannot not be conquered from without until it destroys itself from within.” Barry Soetero is working to make this happen.

volsense on February 15, 2011 at 9:10 AM

I am holding onto hope that Rep. Ryan can “get ‘er done”…

After that, only Obi-Wan can save us (Star Wars IV)…

Khun Joe on February 15, 2011 at 9:11 AM

Obama’s “budget” is nothing but politics. It is an attempt to frmae the narrative. To make the GOP take the lead so that the dems can blame them for the cuts. the problem is the GOP is so brain dead that they don’t understand the mood of the country. the country wants deep meaningful cuts. they are so afraid of being seen as the mean one who take grandma’s check away that they will not seize the oppurtunity for a lock on 50 year majoirties.

they don’t understand that it is by not cutting that they will ber judged not be what they cut. the “optics” is bad if they do not cut and cut big. Obama has decided to take a nailfile to the budget when we need a freaking chainsaw. The GOP is taking an icepick to the frozen iceberg when they should be bringing in a 50000BTU furnace to melt the ice…

unseen on February 15, 2011 at 9:13 AM

Barry’s holding a press conference at 11AM EST. I’m surprised he’s not waiting til 3PM(i.e. after Rush). The White House must really be concerned about the fallout from his budget proposal for him to be going out there a day later.

Doughboy on February 15, 2011 at 9:14 AM

Do what the some of the Big Company’s do – cut to the bone and or shut down all (discretionary) departments and have them re-apply to see if they are still needed .

wheels on February 15, 2011 at 9:18 AM

Obama. Worst. Triangulation. Ever.

Nethicus on February 15, 2011 at 9:10 AM

Agreed. He’s even managed to alienate Andrew Sullivan.

apostic on February 15, 2011 at 9:18 AM

Obama’s new budget proposal demonstrates a lack of leadership and initiative.

Lack of leadership? From The Whine? Anyone at all surprised by this?

rbj on February 15, 2011 at 9:24 AM

If Obooba were merely a moron, occasionally his mistakes would be in our favor.

Akzed on February 15, 2011 at 9:26 AM

ODumbAss proposing new stupidity, backed up by a presser?

Wow there’s a shocker.

Good for the freshmen telling the old hacks to stuff it.

dogsoldier on February 15, 2011 at 9:27 AM

(Hmmmm…)

“Mr. President, we must not allow a boldness gap!”

(Nah. Too obscure and silly.)

apostic on February 15, 2011 at 9:28 AM

Barry’s holding a press conference at 11AM EST. I’m surprised he’s not waiting til 3PM(i.e. after Rush). The White House must really be concerned about the fallout from his budget proposal for him to be going out there a day later.

Doughboy on February 15, 2011 at 9:14 AM

any bets he answers Palin’s facebook post?

she really nailed him on that one.

unseen on February 15, 2011 at 9:30 AM

Obama is simply not a leader and doesn’t know how to be a leader. He has neither the smarts or desires to do anything to bring about prosperity. He is only considered in redistributive policies.

bopbottle on February 15, 2011 at 9:36 AM

any bets he answers Palin’s facebook post?

she really nailed him on that one.

unseen on February 15, 2011 at 9:30 AM

He’s probably doing it to answer everyone. He’s been getting it from all sides. When both Palin and Andrew Sullivan see eye-to-eye on something, you know you f’ed up bigtime.

Doughboy on February 15, 2011 at 9:40 AM

I’m finding this ‘freshman’class in the House very interesting and entertaining. Must admire their determination to bring about change. In the end I suppose both the old guard and the new will change to some degree since they have to learn to function together. I think the end meld will be positive and I hope we can do the same with the Senate in 2012.

jeanie on February 15, 2011 at 9:41 AM

This is all by design. The liberal’s dream come true…tax the rich, feed the poor, til there are no rich no more…they always forget, though, that when there are no rich no more, there is no one left to feed the poor.

What liberalism did to CA, liberalism is now doing to the whole country. And there will be rioting in the streets when Obama doesn’t pay Peggy’s mortgage and put gas in her car.

JustTruth101 on February 15, 2011 at 9:42 AM

Obama’s budget shows that he’s either lost in a thick fog without a compass or that he simply doesn’t care what he’s doing to the nation. either way his behavior is frightening.

rplat

He’s neither lost nor unaware. This is purposeful.

Crusader Rabbit on February 15, 2011 at 9:48 AM

At any point in that huge budget does it mention giving away cheese?

joedoe on February 15, 2011 at 9:48 AM

The real initiative on the budget crisis has come from the House Republicans, especially the freshman class:

Ron Paul and Rand Paul leading the fiscal conservative budget in Congress; give credit where due.

Allahpundit wrote last night that the cuts provided by the House GOP are “cosmetic” and don’t amount to much more than Obama offered, but I’d argue that it misses some important context.

Yet Allahpundit was quick to call proposals for real cuts wrong since they came from Rand Paul.

Paul Ryan assured bloggers and CNN Money in yesterday’s conference call that next year’s budget would have serious entitlement reform as part of the plan.

Sure, wait another year. Mañana.

Tomorrow never comes. No money, forget the money. Let’s live for now.

maverick muse on February 15, 2011 at 9:51 AM

I have to believe that this is all by design.
Manchurian President. Nothing else makes sense.

Keemo on February 15, 2011 at 8:55 AM

It sure looks that way. Although, we must remember, this is the guy who, during the health care debate, said he had lousy auto insurance because his (liability-only) policy didn’t pay for the repairs to his car when he caused the accident. No economic kung-foo in that one.

Malice? Maybe. But incompetence fits, too.

iurockhead on February 15, 2011 at 9:56 AM

Malice? Maybe. But incompetence fits, too.

iurockhead on February 15, 2011 at 9:56 AM

Combine the two and you get a budget designed by — if not children, than at least by a bunch of spoiled teens who think they’re smarter than they are and that nobody will figure out what they’re doing.

Since even folks like Andrew Sullivan and the op-ed writers at the Washington Post are on the side for the moment, the Republicans really need to hammer home the message to swing voters over the next few days that this is an unserious budget and a recusal by Obama from making tough choices, while that sentiment has bi-partisan support. If the swing voters can be alerted to the idea that the president is refusing to do the job he was elected to do in order to use the deficit as a “gotcha” game, and if future polls show that all but the hard-line Democrats have come to feel that way, it will force Obama to come back and make some sort of move, instead of waiting for the Republicans to go first so their plan can be demonized.

jon1979 on February 15, 2011 at 10:10 AM

Newest Job Creation from the White House—Snake Oil Salesmen/Saleswomen

Electorate to President Obama—NO MORE GOVERNMENT “INVESTMENTS”!

Rovin on February 15, 2011 at 10:16 AM

jeanie on February 15, 2011 at 9:41 AM

A new factor distinguishing the Tea Party Congressional Conservatives 2010 from the Republican Revolution of 1994 is the formal caucus rallying organization via Bachmann/Paul.

Conservative electoral victories have been sabotaged by progressive liberals of the Republican establishment that perpetually promotes “bipartisanship” meaning more socialism.

Having a Republican “compassionate conservative” socialist doesn’t hold in check government spending. Adding federal bureaucracies and programs only expands the “need” for more taxes and more borrowed funds from China. And temporarily holding taxes down or providing gimmick “rebates” that must be paid back is no solution to our nation’s growing deficit and national debt that matches production, with interest on debt overwhelming whatever production would be.

So the only question now is whether neoconservatives will join ranks with top-down budget cuts.

Given everyone’s vested interests, across the board leaves a valid coalition basis, omitting cuts from our troops. But our Military craft fleets and aeronautic fighters are yet relying on the expired ships and aircraft still in use. And we have no supply of parts for EVERYTHING, old craft and new. And the required craft for refueling in air are not in supply. And the new craft ordered built with tax funding are perpetually negated after only a small portion are built, with the next proposal put on design/assembly. Our Military is in jeopardy from its own Joint Chiefs and recent Sec./Defense agendas to downsize our Military so as to only be able to function on two fronts simultaneously. With America’s top kickback Brass, administrative Cabinet members, and legislators transferring upon retirement into the military industrial complex, their specific problematic “leadership” need be curbed. We need an abrupt about face for effective military budgeting to provide our troops with congruent means of effectively delivering national security while protecting our troops from administrative fraud.

maverick muse on February 15, 2011 at 10:17 AM

Rovin on February 15, 2011 at 10:16 AM

No more federally mandated snake oil.

maverick muse on February 15, 2011 at 10:21 AM

Are there even enough adjectives to describe Obama? My list is growing as I type. It’s just unbelievable that people would even fathom voting for this dipstick again.

capejasmine on February 15, 2011 at 10:25 AM

Obama to Geithner on revenue:

“Hey Tim, whats the cheat code for more money? I’m getting my butt whipped in SimCity.”

BobMbx on February 15, 2011 at 10:32 AM

No more federally mandated snake oil.

maverick muse on February 15, 2011 at 10:21 AM

There’s only one reason Obama is holding a press conference this morning—his proposed 3.7 trillion budget, (the snake oil), was not received well yesterday by millions who see this his ruse as nothing other than passing on his own deficit commission’s advice while waiting for the mean Republicans to take on serious budget cuts.

How Obama intends to spin this even further in his presser will be interesting to hear. I expect Bush’s name to come up several times during this latest sale of snake oil. And the public isn’t buying it.

Rovin on February 15, 2011 at 10:35 AM

People who get paid for reporting on, managing and arguing over complexity are over-complicating this. Balancing the budget is drop dead simple.

1) Determine the percentage that we are over-budget, 30% for example.

2) Vote once to cut every department by that amount.

3) Spend the rest of the year fighting over what remaining money to take from where in order to shore up what.
But no, we want to legitimize ourselves as politicians, bloggers or commentators with our blind insistence on placing blame or promoting our “brilliant insights” and agendas before balancing the freak’n budget first.

I just had a custom made bumper sticker made:
“Our Children are the Future
Owners of our Debt.”

This if freak’n insane what we’re doing to them. We’re putting them in debt more than a trillion dollars a year while we chip away at the amount. We are blind as bats for doing this.

elfman on February 15, 2011 at 10:46 AM

Stick your necks out, Republicans. Expose that b*stard in the WH. He (and his irresponsible party) is counting on painting us as a heartless crew, and the media are all too happy to follow that narrative.

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/259774/where-obama-leading-us-stanley-kurtz

onlineanalyst on February 15, 2011 at 10:46 AM

You would be correct Rovin….

Spin….bush

cmsinaz on February 15, 2011 at 10:46 AM

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/259774/where-obama-leading-us-stanley-kurtz

onlineanalyst on February 15, 2011 at 10:46 AM

A good quick read…

elfman on February 15, 2011 at 10:53 AM

America needs leader not more liars. She needs a balanced and transparent budget and she needs it now.

The Republicans need to stop preaching about political realities and do the hard jobs.

Here is a political reality for them, if the Republicans don’t get this fiscal situation in order immediately, the next elections may be moot. We are on the precipice of economic disaster the likes of which hasn’t been seen in anyone’s lifetime.

If they can’t force the votes, up or down, and let the American people see who is serious about each cut, then they aren’t leading and they are ensuring – in fact RESPONSIBLE FOR – the impending disaster.

I hear these things all the time, well most of them, and getting them voted up or down would not be impossible for a speaker of the house. Does he have the guts to:

a) Throw out the tax code immediately and replace it with ANYTHING that can be understood by a man of average intelligence and fit on fewer than 20 pages
b) Pass a law requiring all US Govt Accounting follow the same Generally Accepted Accounting Principles that US Corporations must follow. It is currently impossible for anyone to make any sense of the US Budget least of all voters. It is time the Govt was accountable.
c) Forget the Balanced Budget Amendment and pass a balanced budget.
d) Remove all non-retiree’s from Social Security – if they must be paid, group them into a new program and at least be honest about who is being paid and why. Social Security was not meant to handle that and it distorts the problems facing the system. Adjust the age of social security based on actuarial tables from previous after the 4th census of a person’s life. Between their 40th and 50th Birthday they’ll be told what age is their work-life-expectancy. This alone will ensure the solvency of the system.
e) Move all govt medical programs to vouchers, open medical insurance to cross state lines and cap punitive damages on torts. These will make medicare/medicaid solvent
f) Lay off 5% of the US Govt workforce. The American people can not afford them.
g) End public unions. There are good reasons why govt employees weren’t allowed to unionize for many years. It’s time to remind the people. Unions are great for corporate protection, but not for the US Tax payer.
h) End omnibus spending bills. Break all budget and spending into at least 3 dozen votes. Protect us from complete shutdowns this way and protect the american taxpayer from pork this way.

Political reality is that most of this will crash and burn, but fiscal reality is the budget would be balanced – for real. Real jobs would be created. Real growth would occur. And real freedom would be protected. If they can’t get those votes onto the floor, pass or fail, and then FIGHT during election season on the fact that their opponents were not serious about our future – then they don’t deserve to be there.

Republicans are about to lose me forever, and i’m conservative. Where will I go next? I don’t know, but it won’t be either of the current two disasters on the hill.

WashingtonsWake on February 15, 2011 at 11:08 AM

Rather than propose a budget that addresses entitlements, Republicans let a golden opportunity go by the boards. Third party here I come.

Angry Dumbo on February 15, 2011 at 11:08 AM

If you took a drink of alcohol every time Obama used the word investments, (more government spending), you’d be drunk by noon.

Obama: “Democrats and Republicans need to come together to reform entitlements”

Translation: This is not my job, I do the spending.

Rovin on February 15, 2011 at 11:09 AM

Two years in we haven’t seen an ounce of leadership from little Bammie, why would we expect it now? All he wants to do is collect issues to run against Republicans in 2012 should he win the nomination.

slickwillie2001 on February 15, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Press conference: Press still covering for Obama. After 1 question on budget, next 2 are on the Egypt/ME situation.

I hate the press.

Greyledge Gal on February 15, 2011 at 11:14 AM

Can we start by eliminating special tax loopholes created for Government Motors? Rasmusen Presents The Lawlessness of the GM NOL Ruling

slickwillie2001 on February 15, 2011 at 11:19 AM

Proof that we are actually totally broke, right NOW. Barry can’t even find a quarter in the till to use to buy a clue.

Yoop on February 15, 2011 at 11:25 AM

There’s only one reason Obama is holding a press conference this morning—his proposed 3.7 trillion budget, (the snake oil), was not received well yesterday by millions who see this his ruse as nothing other than passing on his own deficit commission’s advice while waiting for the mean Republicans to take on serious budget cuts.

Rovin on February 15, 2011 at 10:35 AM

He got panned by his prior fans, NYT, WaPo, and even the Atlantic’s Resident Obstetrician, Andrew Sullivan.

Obama is worried what will happen if the MSM turns on him, and start subjecting his politics to the same scrutiny that Bush got. Not that likely, considering how much of their “credibility” was invested in the One.

Wethal on February 15, 2011 at 11:36 AM

A good quick read…

elfman on February 15, 2011 at 10:53 AM

Kurtz, Instapundit and Powerline all get it.

This is calculated to make the GOP propose unpopular, hard cuts. Then Obama appeals to those affected by the cuts, and claims that he can restore their programs/pork and still reduce the deficit with his Magical Math.

Dems take House, keep Senate, and Obama gets re-elected. That’s the plan.

Wethal on February 15, 2011 at 11:39 AM

Our pitiful child president is on tv droning on and on, trying to repair the damage from his punt on the budget, and asking for ‘an adult conversation’. Isn’t that a joke, a child asking for ‘an adult conversation’.

slickwillie2001 on February 15, 2011 at 11:54 AM

I don’t remember what the strategy of the GOP was with Clinton, but it seems like our GOP is just dithering. Maybe cuz we have instant communication?

For instance, I work in Education and think the whole department should be phased out. Why is there no talk of this? It’s nothing but income redistribution–the grants are used to fund current administrators and cronies, not to educate.

PattyJ on February 15, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Kurtz, Instapundit and Powerline all get it.

This is calculated to make the GOP propose unpopular, hard cuts. Then Obama appeals to those affected by the cuts, and claims that he can restore their programs/pork and still reduce the deficit with his Magical Math.

Dems take House, keep Senate, and Obama gets re-elected. That’s the plan.

Wethal on February 15, 2011 at 11:39 AM

Everyone’s saying that, like it’s some diabolical masterstroke, a brilliant strategic move in a game of 3D chess.

But come on,he’s such a diabolical genius that the whole world sees right through his cunningly crafted budget for the transparent joke that it is? Even blind as a bat Andrew Sullivan?

Seriously, is there anybody over the age of nine blessed with even a room temperature IQ who didn’t immediately grasp the self-serving ‘strategic’ machination driving this bogus budget and instantly realize it was a campaign document instead?

If his plan was to irrefutably prove to the whole world that he’s a cynical irresponsible coward who doesn’t have even a SINGLE testicle descended far enough to lead himself out of a paper bag let alone the rest of the country out of economic ruin, then, yeah, it was deliberate alright.

But chess? As played by pre-schoolers with those giant game pieces on the lawn maybe.

Reminds me of my dog who performs an absurdly ostentatious & intricate ritual to “hide” his cookie in the corner of the room in full view.

leilani on February 15, 2011 at 12:52 PM

The “boldness deficit” is a good metaphor but Ed has it all wrong.

The GOP isn’t displaying boldness when they timidly propose budgets that still propel us at high velocity toward a gargantuan national debt. How did the debate become about “reducing the deficit”. In that framing, a balanced budget is an extreme solution, and an actual budget surplus isn’t one of the options. If the GOP were bold, they’d propose budgets that spend less than we take in. Zero deficit would be the starting point of discussion.

As for Obama, I think his surreal, catastrophic budget proposal is the height of boldness. Here is a man who fears nothing, and does not care if he destroys himself, his party, and the entire country, but by golly, he’s going to go full steam ahead on his awful agenda, damn the torpedoes, and dare us to try and stop him.

There’s your boldness deficit.

joe_doufu on February 15, 2011 at 12:53 PM