By Robert Wallace
According to Politico, President Obama has already sketched out his objective for 2010s State of the Union Address. And – get this – the main objective? Cut the federal deficit.
(I’ll wait for the laughter to die down.)
According to the article:
The president’s plan, which the officials said was under discussion before this month’s Democratic election setbacks, represents both a practical and a political calculation by this White House.
I’m sure it was “under discussion” before the 2009 election results rolled in. Between the narrow survival of a toothless cap-and-trade bill, the health care reform effort on life support, and the growing public skepticism about the make-believe “created or saved” jobs there was plenty to discuss. And I’m pretty sure the discussion came to an end when the election results came in.
On the practical side, Obama has spent more money on new programs in nine months than Bill Clinton did in eight years, pushing the annual deficit to $1.4 trillion. This leaves little room for big spending initiatives.
On the political side, Obama can help moderate Democrats avoid some tough votes in an election year and, perhaps more importantly, calm the nerves of independent voters who are voicing big concerns with the big spending and deficits
That’s all pretty obvious stuff. The questions I have are whether Obama has any intention to actually cut spending and how this will play out in the GOP. You might wonder why I even have any question about Obama’s sincerity. The reason is that there’s recent precedent. Bill Clinton moved hard to the right to survive after the Republican swept into power in 1994. You know that that date has got to be on the minds of every Democrat politician in the nation. And one simple way to forestall a repeat of 1994 would be to preemptively move a little bit to the right now rather than having to move more to the left later. So it’s possible.
But not likely.
For all the talk about cutting spending the White House has not talked about cutting the cap-and-trade legislation nor are they expressing a willingness to make cuts to entitlements or to defense spending. Most likely the Obama administration is scrambling to find symbolic cuts and accounting tricks to inflate them so that a token sacrifice can be laid on the altar of fiscal responsibility to avert disaster in 2010.
In a way that’s a relief. Token gestures are almost certain to do nothing but anger the independents that Obama once wooed so successfully. He still has the right rhetoric:
A lot of independents, Democrats and Republicans — all are concerned about is what are we going to do about this long-term debt. We’ve got to show people that we are responsible stewards for their taxpayer dollars and that we’re taking some serious steps to at least lay the foundation — the pathway — for bringing those deficits down over the next several years.
The problem is that you can’t promise people that you’re going to increase spending and cut spending at the same time. That would be a stretch, even for the man who pulled off the Great Con of 2008.
Robert Wallace is classical liberal studying economics in graduate school. He and his wife work as business analysis consultants, and they live as undercover conservatives with their two small children in a socialist bastion of a college town. He has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.