President Obama’s budget reminds me of when my grandmother got a little older and gradually stopped making the delicious delicacies she’d been churning out all her life.
One day, late in her life, she served us some gefilte fish – a Jewish delicacy of thick chopped fish patties in a gelatinous sauce. It didn’t quite seem up to her usual standards. Kind of bland, this stuff. It looked the same as her normal offering – covered with lots of sauce and with some carrots added and so forth, but something was not right.
Then we looked a little closer.
All of Grandma Minnie’s dishes were done with creative imprecision – a little of this, a little of that – somehow always yielding a relatively consistent great taste. It’s why none of her recipes were ever passed down – she couldn’t exactly explain how she did them.
But this time, we noticed, all the pieces of gefilte fish were about the same size and shape. This was not how Minnie Pawgan operated.
We knew: Store bought, but dressed up to look authentic.
President Obama has laced his FY 2014 budget proposal with some ostensibly appealing features: he used chained CPI to reduce Social Security benefits and made real cuts in Medicare, for example. But when you look a little more closely, this is just warmed over Democratic stuff.
The great claim that it raises taxes by about $580 billion – to be added to the $600 billion in increases passed as part of the January sequester deal – turns out to be a $1 trillion in tax increase when you include fees and things like a new cigarette tax. That now adds up to about $1.6 trillion. Obama ain’t getting anything close to that from Republicans, and he knows it.
The Social Security benefit cuts are just a drop in the bucket of what’s needed. The Medicare cuts are similarly tiny relative the the massive unfunded mandate that this, the greatest boondoggle in all of history, has become. What’s more, they fall mostly on providers, who, like the doctors have done every year since they got whacked in 1997, will surely lobby hard and get much of their money back.
And despite the tax cuts and spending increases, the deficit remains above $400 billion IN TEN YEARS.
Obama’s operatives were on TV today saying things like, as a percentage of GDP that’s pretty good. Well, it’s actually not that good, and of course it assumes we won’t have any new crises, whether resulting from the economy, al Qaeda, or a foreign war. And, I assume, no new Democratic presidents with vast spending ideas.
There are spending cuts which may or may not occur, and new programs – like guaranteed early childhood education – that will be impossible to revoke once established. They’ll live on whether the money’s there or not.
The budget enables Obama to present himself in 2014 as a moderate who tried as hard as he could, but the cruel Republicans walked away. And so, he will say, we need a Democratic House to get anything done.
He’s continuing to meet with Republicans, which is fine – he had a dinner with GOP senators Wednesday night. But this may well be part of the effort to obscure what’s really going one here. It’s at least as interesting that he is NOT meeting privately with Democrats to try to sell the budget to them, since they are furious about the cuts he decided to include. If he’s serious about this, he needs to do a lot of hand holding on the left. I don’t see it.
What’s more, this budget is two months late. Trains have already left the station in both the House and Senate. Another sign that Obama is more serious about politics than policy.
Grandma Minnie couldn’t fool us, though at her age, we forgave her for trying, because she hadn’t fooled us before.
Obama, who promised Obamacare wouldn’t raise our insurance premiums or force us to change doctors, who said that he would halve the budget deficit, and who said, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die, he wouldn’t raise middle class taxes – which he does in this budget - doesn’t have quite the same residue of trust.