"[My budget] puts us on a path to pay for what we spend by the middle of the decade."
To the average American, that sounds like we'll balance the nation's ledger within five years. If you parse the sentence carefully, though, you'll notice that the president only makes the questionable claim that his blueprint will "put us on a path" toward that goal -- which it never comes close to achieving. I'm once again compelled to quote ABC News' Jake Tapper:
"At no point in the president’s 10-year projection would the U.S. government spend less than it's taking in."
As misleading as Obama's opening statement was, the truth really turned tail when he opened things up to questions from reporters. I'll begrudgingly award the president a few style points for his almost prideful shamelessness, particularly when he labeled his plan "responsible" and "sustainable." Some of his fellow liberals have employed rather different descriptors: To wit, "Remarkably weak and feeble" (Dana Milbank), and "A massive pile of fiscal bulls--t" (Andrew Sullivan).
The president doubled down on his revenue/outlay fantasy during the Q&A: "By The Middle Of This Decade Our Annual Spending Will Match Our Annual Revenues,” he said. This is simply false. The numbers, via Senate Republicans:
2010: Receipts: 2,163 [Billion Dollars] / Outlays: 3,456 [Billion Dollars]
2011: Receipts: 2,174 [Billion Dollars] / Outlays: 3,819 [Billion Dollars]
2012: Receipts: 2,627 [Billion Dollars] / Outlays: 3,729 [Billion Dollars]
2013: Receipts: 3,003 [Billion Dollars] / Outlays: 3,771 [Billion Dollars]
2014: Receipts: 3,333 [Billion Dollars] / Outlays: 3,977 [Billion Dollars]
2015: Receipts: 3,583 [Billion Dollars] / Outlays: 4,190 [Billion Dollars]
2016: Receipts: 3,819 [Billion Dollars] / Outlays: 4,468 [Billion Dollars]
2017: Receipts: 4,042 [Billion Dollars] / Outlays: 4,669 [Billion Dollars]
2018: Receipts: 4,257 [Billion Dollars] / Outlays: 4,876 [Billion Dollars]
2019: Receipts: 4,473 [Billion Dollars] / Outlays: 5,154 [Billion Dollars]
2020: Receipts: 4,686 [Billion Dollars] / Outlays: 5,422 [Billion Dollars]
2021: Receipts: 4,923 [Billion Dollars] / Outlays: 5,697 [Billion Dollars]
Did I say "via Senate Republicans"? I meant directly from the White House website. Even an average second-grader could eyeball those numbers and determine that projected tax receipts never match outlays. In this case, the president is asking the public to ignore not only its own intuitions and Republican admonitions, but his administration's own (likely overly rosy) statistics. Only in a pure fact vacuum can he spin this fictional tale of fiscal responsibility, "winning the future," or whatever the slogan du jour may be.
The president also said that by implementing his budget proposal, the federal government "will not be adding more to the federal debt." Wrong again. Transcendently, epically wrong:
President Barack Obama on Monday will propose a federal budget for fiscal 2012 that would pare back record budget deficits, but still add nearly $7 trillion to the nation's debt over the next decade, White House officials said Sunday. [The final projected number is actually $7.2 Trillion]
When pressed by NBC's Chuck Todd to justify his refusal to implement any significant elements of his own debt commission's results, Obama chastised the media for its "impatience." Impatience? In what conceivable sense is it "impatient" for Americans to expect a president who convened a commission for the explicit purpose of dealing with the looming debt crisis to actually adopt at least some of its recommendations in his next ten-year fiscal road map? Not to worry, though -- the president assured Todd that his commission had "changed the conversation" and helped establish a "framework" for some hypothetical, future "serious conversations" on the issue. Like Todd, I was under the distinct (and apparently misguided) impression that the bipartisan presidential debt commission was that serious conversation. Silly me.
At its core, today's presidential performance was unsettling more than anything. Either Obama (a) knowingly and brazenly misled the American people on more than one occasion, (b) is mired in a dangerous state of denial, or (c) is even more oblivious to the gravity of our nation's financial disrepair than even his harshest critics have alleged.
And why is the president's -- specifically this president's -- posture on the debt and entitlements so consequential at this late stage in the developing crisis? Allahpundit's keen take:
Even though there’s an election next year, congressional Republicans would, I think, be willing to tackle entitlements if Obama went all-in with them, simply because they’ve invested so much of their brand in fiscal responsibility to woo tea partiers that they couldn’t risk walking away. They need some bipartisan cover on it, though; they can’t make enemies of seniors all alone right before a presidential contest. The linchpin, then, is Obama. He could provide that bipartisan cover by making an impassioned push to deal with this issue now, together, and would probably impress a lot of independents in the process. But seniors’ reaction would be unpredictable and his base would despise him for trimming the “social safety net” instead of propping it up with more Monopoly money, so he’s walking away to get elected. Devastating.
Absent some elusive leadership from this president, or a new Republican president with a friendly Congress and a boatload of political will, we're screwed. How screwed are we? Have a look at this quote from today's presser:
We made a down payment on that with health care reform last year. That's part of what health care reform was about. The projected deficits are going to be about $250 billion lower over the next 10 years than they otherwise would have been because of health care reform, and they'll be $1 trillion lower than they otherwise would have been if we hadn't done health care reform for the following decade.
I repeat: We're screwed