But the schizophrenia runs even deeper. The White House and congressional Democrats simultaneously caterwaul about the deficit they inherited from Republicans while they also tsk-tsk the GOP's woeful failure to spend on "underfunded" domestic priorities. During the Bush years, spending -- whoops, sorry, "investment" -- in most of these burning domestic priorities soared: education (58 percent), Social Security (17 percent), Medicare (51 percent), health research and regulation (55 percent), highways and mass transit (22 percent) and veterans' benefits (59 percent). But, according to Democrats, if they had been in charge we would have spent a lot more on these pressing needs and we wouldn't have this terrible Republican-fueled deficit. How does that work?
The White House says withholding $13 less each week from most workers' paychecks is a major tax cut. But it doesn't see raising the cost of gas, electricity and heating oil as a tax hike. Some even say that raising taxes on energy, and therefore manufacturing, not to mention investing and small business, isn't a great idea in a recession.
Fortunately, Obama says this will all work out, and his words trump any form of earthly logic. For example, the president claims that he's actually cutting the budget by not spending money on the Iraq war. The problem is he's counting enormous spending on Iraq -- $170 billion a year -- that not even President Bush ever envisioned, all the way through 2019 (Bush planned on a 2012 withdrawal). In other words, he's "cutting" hundreds of billions from money no one ever planned to spend, in years when he won't even be president, and touting that as savings. Why not simply count the trillions in savings we would reap from forgoing a long and brutal war with the Klingon empire?
No, seriously, try this with your boss sometime. First, go buy a Mercedes on the company credit card. Then tell him that you saved money because you were planning on buying a Learjet -- two years after your mandatory retirement age. Then ask him for an attaboy, or even a raise. See what he says. I dare you.
Meanwhile, not a penny of the actual money raised under the Obama budget ever goes to reducing the deficit. It all goes to new or increased spending. Obama says that he and his team went "line by line" through the budget and found "$2 trillion in savings." But along with the fictional Iraq war savings, the bulk of the rest -- a trillion dollars -- comes from increased taxes.
And that's the translation key to both Obama's rhetoric and his numbers. Raising taxes is, in Obama's eyes, a form of "savings" because whatever money you earn belongs first and foremost to the government. As he told Congress, Bush's tax cuts amounted to a "transfer (of) wealth to the wealthy." In pre-Obama America, keeping more of the money you earned wasn't considered a government transfer payment. But, as he promised in his inaugural address, his goal is the "remaking of America." With little more than a month in office, he's off to a good start.