WASHINGTON -- When presidents can't make the tough decisions on the vexing problems that confront government, they pass the buck by appointing a commission to come up with some answers.
That's what President Obama did with his executive order to create a bipartisan task force to cut the budget deficit, which is expected to hit $1.6 trillion this year and can only be expected to rise under his spending policies.
The president is essentially admitting he can't stop his spending addiction and needs counseling from one of those debt-resolution services people use when they have maxed out their credit cards. His task force is doomed to fail for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, Congress is under no obligation to accept any of its proposals and probably won't. Democrats pushed legislation to set up a similar congressionally mandated commission, but the bill failed to draw necessary support when a group of Republican senators turned against it, discovering that the panel would attempt to cut the deficit by raising taxes on what remains an anemic economy still struggling to recover. That was a nonstarter.
Polls show that a majority of American people are deeply troubled by the massive pileup in debts by this administration and this Congress, and want deficit reduction to be a major priority. But the Democratic majority is seemingly incapable of saying no to more spending. The pending health care bill, tipping the scales at $1 trillion, is the latest manifestation of this.
Second, the Constitution gives Congress sole power over the federal government's spending levels. No outside, unelected body is going to be able to step into the breach to do what the president and the majority party in Congress refuse to do: slow down the growth in federal spending while the economy gets back on its feet and tax revenues begin rising again as a result of sustained increases in the nation's economic growth.
When Obama's proposed task force plan foundered on Capitol Hill for lack of support, he set up one of his own. It was a stunning admission of his own inabilities to exert executive leadership over the federal budget. And it didn't exactly win rave reviews.
"President Obama's budget deficit task force is clever politics but poor leadership. Instead of drafting a responsible budget, he seeks to force Republicans to endorse wasteful spending and higher taxes, or be cast as obstructionists," writes University of Maryland economist Peter Morici in a recent critique of Obama's budgetary shell game.