Friday, February 27, 2009

No Fault Presidency

Why is Obama still campaigning? He won, we were reminded, yet he still seems intent on stepping on Bush's picture and grinding his foot on it while shooting poison darts at corporate execs. From his recently released 842 trillion dollar budget:
While middle-class families have been playing by the rules, living up to their responsibilities as neighbors and citizens, those at the commanding heights of our economy have not. They have taken risks and piled on debts that while seemingly
profitable in the short-term, have now proven to be dangerous not only for their individual firms but for the economy as a whole.
Interesting budget talk, coming directly from a section called "Inheriting a Legacy of Misplaced Priorities" (aka, Bush did it). To be fair, he didn't name any names but we can safely assume he wasn't blaming these people.

The merriment continues:
With loosened oversight and weak enforcement from Washington, too many cut corners as they racked up record profits and paid themselves millions of dollars in compensation and bonuses. There’s nothing wrong with making money, but there is something wrong when we allow the playing field to be tilted so far in the favor of so few. This is the legacy that we inherit—a legacy of mismanagement and misplaced priorities, of missed opportunities and of deep, structural problems ignored for too long. It’s a legacy of irresponsibility, and it is our duty to change it.
Yes Mr. President, it's called free market capitalism, where CEOs can command 20 million dollars a year, just shy of the annual salary of a steroid-pumped shortstop in playing for Texas or a Hollywood actor making anti-conservative movies.

In the interest of fairness, justification seems standard protocol for budget proposals. Here's Bush's 2002 proposal:
For too long, politics in Washington has been divided between those who wanted big Government without regard to cost and those who wanted small Government without regard to need. Too often the result has been too few needs met at too high a cost. This budget offers a new approach—a different approach for an era that expects a Federal Government that is both active to promote opportunity and limited to preserve freedom.
Seems we've now swung back to the "big government without regard to cost" era. But justification is one thing, blame is another. There was only mild Clinton-bashing in that document (Bush was evidently more interested in lofty fantasy):
Over the next 10 years, the Federal Government is projected to collect $28 trillion in revenues from American taxpayers. The President’s Budget devotes roughly $22.4 trillion to extend the Government we have today, including the President’s new initiatives. This leaves a $5.6 trillion surplus.
That was the surplus that justified tax cuts. So what happened? 9/11, and a 3000 point drop in the Dow, followed by massive military spending. Those unexpected consequences always torpedo my home budget, too.

Maybe Obama can issue an Executive Order banning unintended consequences, overriding Joe Biden's confident prediction. But if not, it's reasonable to assume that if Bush figured we'd have 5 trillion in surplus by now and Obama now figures we're going to be that much in the red instead, it's hard to be positive about our coming reality. Further elaboration becomes rather dark and socialist.

Maybe that's why Obama feels the unprecedented need to make sure everybody understands he's not to blame for this "inherited" failure (despite his background as a U.S. Senator since 2004) as we slog forwards.

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