Can anyone explain what exactly a budget does, either for the family at the coffee table or for the American government? It represents a plan to deal with assets, income, and liabilities that reflect the value of the organization, whether for a family of five, a small business, a multinational corporation, or Washington DC. The ubiquity of the exhortation Put your money where your mouth is shows the connection people inevitably draw between monetary policy and values at all levels, and the primacy of spending decisions in terms of determining what those values and priorities really are.
Maybe someone should explain that to Barack Obama between golf outings:
In what he thought was a private chat with campaign donors Thursday evening, President Obama offered the most revealing behind-the-scenes account to date of his budget negotiations with GOP leaders last week.
CBS Radio News White House correspondent Mark Knoller listened in to an audio feed of Mr. Obama’s conversation with donors after other reporters traveling with the president had left the room.
In the candid remarks, Mr. Obama complains of Republican attempts to attach measures to the budget bill which would have effectively killed parts of his hard-won health care reform program.
“I said, ‘You want to repeal health care? Go at it. We’ll have that debate. You’re not going to be able to do that by nickel-and-diming me in the budget. You think we’re stupid?'” recalled the president of his closed-door negotiations on the bill to fund the federal government until September. …
The president told his backers Thursday night that he expects Republicans to continue using that process to enact their political agenda under the guise of cutting spending.
Well, I’ll just assume that question was rhetorical, for the moment anyway. Part of Congress’ role is to prioritize funding, since — contrary to Beltway belief — the US can’t just spend whatever it wants on everything it wants. If the House believes that ObamaCare is bad policy and that its central provision is unconstitutional, then it should act to defund it. If it believes that the EPA is overreaching its charter and Congressional mandate, then it should cut off funding to those activities that violate Congressional sensibilities.
This isn’t rocket science. In fact, it’s basic civics. One might think a “Constitutional scholar” would recall the concept of checks and balances in the federal system of government, where three coequal branches limit the power of the others. The power of the purse is one such check and balance, a way to ensure that the executive branch doesn’t run roughshod over the legislature, and over the rights of the people. After all, Congress is the “people’s branch” of government, and the House is the people’s chamber of the legislature, which is why the Constitution gives it the authority to create tax policy and initiate budgets. Those budgets should reflect the will of the people who sent their Representatives to Capitol Hill, as well as their values and their agenda.
Obama’s own Democratic colleagues certainly understood this in their multiple threats and half-hearted attempts to either defund the Iraq War or force George Bush to bend to their anti-war agenda by demanding timelines for withdrawal. Obama was one of those demanding that Bush bend to the will of Congress, which makes the “I won’t take any agenda in my budgeting” stance at once ridiculous and hypocritical.