Tapper calls this an “interesting point,” which I assume is his polite euphemism for “moronic.”
“I just want to make a little commentary about the media here, if you don’t mind,” Mr. Obama said this afternoon in Rio Rancho, NM, at a town hall meeting on credit card reform.
“When Congress included in last year’s budget a whole bunch of earmarks, you remember there was a week worth of stories about how terrible these earmarks were,” the president recounted. “You remember this…a week’s worth of stories: ‘Oh, these earmarks, this is what’s blowing up the deficit, this is terrible,’ blah, blah, blah.”
Continued the president: “And yet, as I said before, that was less than 1 percent of that entire budget that had been signed. When we find $17 billion worth of cuts in programs, what do the same folks say? They say, ‘Oh, that’s nothing.’…That’s not significant. That’s not important.’
“Well, you can’t have it both ways,” the president said. “If those earmarks were important, then this money is important, too.”
Imagine you’re $10,000 in debt and your grand plan for reducing the load is to make one $50 payment. Now imagine that a bank owes you $10,000 and the teller only pays out $9,950 because he decided to pocket $50 of it for himself. That’s the difference, essentially, between budget cuts and earmarks. Earmarks are basically congressional bribes to fundraisers in their home districts: A pol dumps a few million in public money in someone’s lap, that someone dumps a few hundred thousand in private money into the pol’s campaign treasury, and incumbency is assured — sans scrutiny. It’s a specie of (tolerated) corruption, in other words, and as such any amount of it is too much. How is it some moral victory that only one percent or so of last year’s budget went to de facto bribes? Budget cuts, meanwhile, are perfectly legitimate, in which case their significance only really matters relative to the whole. If next year’s budget starts at $5 trillion and The One trims a trillion off in fat, that’s super but we’d still be looking at monster spending that exceeds even this year’s bloat.
Of course, as Tapper does note, he didn’t really “cut” any money at all; he just reallotted it to other programs. Combine that with the fact that the total budget was revised upwards this week by another $89 billion — more than five times the amount of the cuts we’re all supposed to be so impressed with — and the more apt comparison here is between 1% in earmarks and, er, -2% in “cuts.” Good work, Barry.
Update: If you want to know why he’s suddenly resorting to points as desperate as this, it’s because he’s running out of excuses.