Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Brooks On Budgets

David Brooks doesn’t like President Obama’s budget. I know; I’m shocked, too.

I’ve been critical of President Obama’s budgets. I’ve argued that while I like the way Obama preserves spending on things like scientific research and programs for the vulnerable, he doesn’t do enough to avoid a debt crisis.

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I’m not going to pass my own comprehensive judgment on this here. I’ll just say that my conversations reaffirm my conviction that Obama is a pragmatic liberal who cares about fiscal sustainability, who has been willing to compromise for its sake, but who has not offered anything close to a sufficient program to avoid a debt crisis.

But we have a campaign in front of us. If the president is truly committed to a strategy for progressive fiscal stability, as Bill Clinton was, he’ll make that the center of his campaign. He’ll earn a mandate. He’ll win over independents who want fiscal discipline but worry about the way Republicans get there.

If he doesn’t have a passion for fiscal stability, he’ll campaign on side issues and try to win by scaring everybody about the other side.

First, a little lesson in civics. The president can propose all the budgets that he wants; he can suggest raising the top tax rate back up to 90% — like it was under that Socialist Eisenhower — and pay off the deficit and give everyone a pony; but the Constitution gives the power of writing the budget to Congress, not the Executive branch. So any budget needs to get passed by Congress, and so far this gang of idiots couldn’t pass a kidney stone.

Second, as Mr. Brooks noted, it’s an election year. Nothing will get done. Game over. Thanks for playing.