President Obama is in a difficult position ahead of his State of the Union address. This year, he can’t claim victory in the priorities laid out in his inaugural address (economic recovery, after all, is still a myth) and he can’t promise more hope when nothing, especially the stagnant economy, has changed. But the timing of the speech is perhaps what makes the President most vulnerable of all: when the President took to the podium he be marked the thousandth day since Senate Democrats have passed a budget.
It is hard to believe that a President serious about economic recovery—and his chances at reelection—can ignore his Senate allies’ incredible disregard of duty. Ask your employer if you had stopped working on April 29, 2009 if you would still be collecting a paycheck from them today. It is highly unlikely. Yet the President has spent the last thousand days scolding Republicans and ignoring his congressional jockeys’ sloth.
One thousand days is almost three years. If you cut 100 calories a day for that amount of time, you would be 20 pounds lighter. If you saved five dollars each day you’d be able to invest in a Roth IRA. You would have to walk roughly 3 miles a day for one thousand days to walk across the U.S. In one thousand days, the average American will blink 2 billion times, sleep 7,600 hours and laugh 15,000 times.
Unfortunately, this negligence is more the rule than the exception for Senate Democrats. Even last year, when they controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House, the closest Democrats came to producing a budget was cobbling together a 2,000 page omnibus spending package. It included 7,000 earmarks and would have increased spending by $100 billion (remember, this is after the State of the Union address where Obama promised to cut and freeze spending and demanded Congress enact earmark reform).
The Democrats’ resistance towards governing resulted in a funding battle that was not completed until half-way through the fiscal year. When Senate Democrats finally wrote a bill to set funding in place for the year, it received fewer votes than the Republican House-passed alternative, which would have cut spending by $60 billion—the first time spending levels would be lower than in the previous year.
Given what the President has sent to the hill, it’s a small wonder that Senate Democrats have been unwilling to fall on their swords for the Obama budgets. After campaigning on a “firm pledge” that no one making less than $250,000 a year would see any form of tax increase, Obama signed his health care bill into law which contains at least seven tax hikes which violate this promise. Additionally, his first budget included nearly $1 trillion in higher taxes, two-thirds of which fall on the majority of small employer profits.
His 2010 budget did no better, proposing a 50 percent marginal tax rate for small business employers. It is unsurprising, then, that when the $1.5 trillion tax hike in last year’s Obama budget was brought to the Senate floor, it did not receive a single vote.
The Obama reelection campaign began in earnest in August, when the President preferred heckling from the sidelines to getting in the game. The assault then was clear – Republicans’ rejection of tax increases was the non sequitur stalling an agreement. In reality, Republicans had been left to negotiate with themselves roughly 33 months ago. How could they have been expected to take seriously their Senate colleagues who hadn’t bothered with budgeting for three years?
One way the President could show he was serious about promises made in joint addresses past— freezing spending, reforming the tax code, creating jobs —would be to demand Senate Democrats fulfill their most basic responsibility as lawmakers: pass a budget.