Paul Greenberg

"The more the plans fail, the more the planners plan." -- Ronald Reagan

It's hard to imagine how anyone can take President Obama's latest budget seriously, including President Obama. After all, he's an intelligent man. He can recognize 2,000-plus pages of gobbledegook in the guise of a budget, especially if he's the one who's rolling it out like the latest model hula-hoop from Wham-O Inc. What fun. But nothing more.

How is this president's budget less than serious?

Let us count the ways, or at least begin counting them. For there may be no end to the ways this budget piles on debt in the name of economizing, hinders the country's economic recovery in the name of helping it, and generally lays traps for the unwary.

Happily, the tricks are so transparent there's little doubt anybody will be fooled. We're all wary of government numbers by now. And there's no hiding the fact that, for the fourth straight year, this president has failed to keep his promise to cut the federal deficit at least in half by the end of his first term.

Instead, he's run up another trillion-dollar deficit this year and his budget projects one almost that large ($956 billion) for next year. And next year's deficit, like this year's, could easily top the administration's rosy-hued projections.

It's enough to make the innocent taxpayer wonder why the president bothers to submit a budget at all. Since he's just going to keep on doing what he's been doing for the last four years: Spend, spend, and, when all that spending doesn't produce the desired results, spend more.

Why draw up a budget that has so little relation to reality? Because the president is obliged to submit one, even if it's nine parts fiction to one part wishful thinking. The formalities must be observed. And this budget is only a formality.

All those deficits add up -- in this administration's case to an additional $5 trillion of national debt accumulated in just one presidential term. That's got to be a record, but records are, yes, made to be broken. Just wait till his second term. Barack Obama may only have begun to spend. Spending is his substitute for an economic policy.

When times are bad, as they have been, this president's response has been to spend. When times are a little better, as they have been of late, his response is the same and more of it: keep spending. The day of reckoning will never come; government can just keep taxing and borrowing and spending, then repeat.

The economy may change, but not this president's approach to it. He's like a doctor with only one prescription -- Spend! -- and when the patient still fails to thrive, Dr. Obama just rachets up the dosage.

. .

The possibility that the patient might recover on his own, if just given the chance, never seems to occur to the doc. He is forever fiddling with the struggling American economy, poking it here and jiggling it there, prescribing everything except what it may need most: a good leaving-alone. Especially now that the economy is showing the first signs of recovery.

But our economist-in-chief just won't be still. He's always got more taxes to impose, more stimuless (sic) programs to propose. And the more he taxes and spends, the more unstable the economy seems, and the less certain its prospects.

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The administration's theories about the economy would work out beautifully if not for people. Contrary bunch, they keep going their own way, making their own decisions, and generally making a hash of the president's projections.

Somehow unemployment never fell to less than 8 percent, but actually rose on this president's watch. Despite his grand designs and sophisticated economic policies. ("The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." --Friedrich Hayek.)

But with the determination of a true believer, this president presses on. Every time he loses a bet on this roulette wheel of an economy, he just doubles down on debt. How can he lose? Every time one stimulus fails to stimulate, he comes up with another. He's nothing if not game, so long as the money is somebody else's.

It was Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady herself, who pointed out the big problem with such a happy theory: Eventually the spenders run out of other people's money. Which is another reason it's hard to imagine how anyone can take President Obama's latest budget seriously, including President Obama. After all, he's an intelligent man. Surely he can see through himself.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.