Well, listened to the President’s speech and, sure enough, he threw his budget (proposed just two months ago), under the bus. In listening to the various pundits on both left and right leading up to his speech, I began to see, as a hard truth, something that was heretofore [informed] speculation, vis, this President is so far out of his depth as to be beyond metaphor. Ask yourself this question: What in the world are members of the President’s cabinet supposed to defend when called before congress? The President’s original budget (two months ago) or the amorphous budget floated today?
I like the way Yuval Levin described the speech:
As recently as February, in his budget, Obama essentially denied that we had a fiscal crisis. Today, he admitted it and described it, or at least parts of it. It is certainly unorthodox for a president to renounce his own budget two months after proposing it, but that is just what the president did—implicitly dismissing even the goals set out by his budget in its own terms (let alone its potential to achieve them, as measured by the Congressional Budget Office) as totally inadequate. In that sense, the only immediate practical implication of the speech is that it throws the 2012 budget process into disarray. Are the cabinet agencies supposed to be defending the president’s now-repudiated formal budget request before congressional committees in the coming months, or does the administration now expect Congress to ignore its budget? If so, will the administration be offering some particular alternative requests, with details that (unlike this speech) can be scored by CBO?
So, when can we expect the details? Paul Ryan – whether you agree with him, or not – spent the better part of a decade putting together a strategy and an accompanying budget complete with details preparing his proposal. Does anyone believe that behind the rhetoric of the President’s speech there lay a detailed map of how to achieve the wonderful ends Obama promised?
Again, here’s Levin:
…the president mostly laid out ends without means. He accepted much of Paul Ryan’s definition of the problem we face, but insisted that it could be solved by trimming our welfare state at the edges, rather than reforming and restructuring it.
But, he also uses trickery – of the kind used to justify the claim that Obamacare would “bend the cost curve downward”. How? As Levin puts it,
the president defines his near-term goals using a 12-year budget window, to give the illusion that he would achieve savings on the level of the fiscal commission and the Ryan budget (both of which use the usual 10-year window required by the budget process). He guarantees long-term budget reductions (and therefore on paper guarantees the achievement of his goals without specifying particular means) through a “trigger” that would go into effect at the end of Obama’s second term, forcing arbitrary budget cuts upon his wretched successor when the Obama “framework” has failed to reduce spending.
Read the whole article.