On his current budget speech tour, President Obama’s opening gambit should be, ‘Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
The initial Rose Garden unveiling of the Budget was outlined in a document called “a fiscally-responsible blueprint for middle class jobs and growth.”
While reading through the proposal, I was struck by the language attaching corporate gimmes to the wish list. On the road to a Grand Bargain, it would seem that Congress would be foolish to pass up all these goodies: pay for investments, protect investment, fund, ensure tax credits, leverage capital, create incentives, competitive funding, reward, new tax cuts and attract investment.
‘Wish Lists’ are grandiose ideas unfunded in their own right. They get paid for by finagling the cash flow and stripping public programs taxpayers want. It seems little of the $580B from closing tax loopholes and reducing tax benefits for the wealthiest will be left when used to offset lower corporate tax rates. The other $Bs the budget offers as savings are vaguely categorized under the title of ‘discretionary’ spending.
This ‘Wish List’ was aggressively promoted during President Obama’s 2008 campaign, not so pushy in 2010 and once more, with renewed vigor for the 2012 go-round. Most of the people know what nothing looks like and this is that.
Jobs for the masses aren’t coming. The American heyday has passed. Colleges cannot STEM educate into living-wage employment. The global corporate structure has spoken; they will hire when, if and how they want to, but, they will grab the taxpayer money hanging from the budget tree.
Chained CPI for seniors and unspecified ‘wasteful entitlement spending’ threatening safety-net programs placed on the table of compromise, dig a hole. The opposition views stated positions as ‘a done deal’ not a ‘red line.’ When the President is willing to sacrifice seniors by offering a $230B savings and target smokers to pay $7.8B for Head Start, those dollars have already been subtracted from revenue and offered as incentives.
There are huge chunks of detail missing from the budget proposal. What is the federal payroll? What is the cost of perks for the Senate and House? Before and after cuts, what does defense spending total? How many countries besides Egypt are being weaponized through foreign aid? Are foreign wars separately funded? Who is paying for warehouses and ports and who owns them? Homeland Security’s budget is how much? What industry subsidies are being eliminated? Are funded ‘studies’ effective or frivolous? What procedure changes have been made to the IRS to catch tax-exempt cheaters? How much is diverted from public education to private for-profit schools? Why are the costs of health care insurance and medical procedures non-negotiable items?
We are a rich nation. The stock market has reached unprecedented levels, the top 1% has had income gains of 40%, corporate profits are in the $Bs of dollars each quarter. It is problematic to expect the American people to accept austerity in order for the giants to prosper. There are no stock certificates for public investment and a minimum wage boost to $9/hour continues a poor standard of living.
It is hard to believe the President imagines promoting ‘pay now, benefit later’ can be sold with his usual affable charm. The public is wary of promises and has become distrustful of politicians. This pep-rally tour fails to focus on the $1.8T deficit reduction promised to House Speak Boehner. Congress will not pass any budget without it nor will they consider added revenue through tax hikes for the wealthy.
Raising the debt ceiling enters the Budget debate in that it is contingent on passage of a balanced budget. The fight is over spending control with a budget containing measures that will produce this result. Congress wants current outflow to match generated revenue which must include debt repayment. They would favor the President’s discretionary spending for the future if necessary borrowing did not involve raising the debt ceiling. It is possible their willingness to default on existing loans can be dissuaded with fiscal reforms to the tax code that encompass a broader base of income along with major changes to entitlement programs to include revamping Social Security and Medicare and the dissolution of Obamacare.
Proponents and detractors of this budget proposal can have a graph party to decide which side of the fence supports their data. Bluntly put, statistics cannot state how ‘the people’ feel after five years of this mythical recovery. We should know that Wall Street and their ilk cannot continue to profit by stealing hundreds of billions more of our tax dollars.