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Monday, February 23, 2009

Chutzpah, Hypocrisy and Nonsense at the Fiscal Responsibility Summit

Today, the President held a fiscal responsibility summit in which he met with a bi partisan group of lawmakers, economists and power brokers to talk about ways to reduce our budget short fall in the long term. There are those, like me, that think that it takes an awful lot of chutzpah to push through a bill that's nearly $800 billion and then hold a summit on fiscal responsibility. There are others that say what's important is that the government recognize that fiscal responsibility is very important in the long term. I actually agree with both sides (of course I agree with myself), and I agree that if the President is serious about long term fiscal responsibility that cynical or not that's a good thing. Of course, as a late friend of mine often said

if if was a fifth we'd all be drunk

From all reports today, this conference had little to do with finding solutions for long term fiscal responsibility and much more to do with politics and posturing. The President started the conference by taking pot shots at the previous administration.

President Barack Obama took aim at the “casual dishonesty” of Bush administration budgets Monday, saying he’ll abandon accounting “tricks” used to hide the ballooning deficit and pledging to cut a $1.3 trillion federal shortfall in half during his first term. “I want to be very clear,” Obama said to open a “fiscal responsibility summit” at the White House.

“We cannot and will not sustain deficits like these without end. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom in Washington these past few years, we cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences to the next budget, the next administration and the next generation.”

While President Obama has found time to spend nearly $800 billion, he's found little time to find anything concrete to one day bring our budget in order. All we have heard was that he would end the war in Iraq and raise taxes. He can end this war with little negative consequence because the surge he opposed worked, and raising taxes is certainly not my favorite for of fiscal responsibility.

I would have felt better about this conference if it wasn't merely a platform to take frivilous potshots at the previous administration. What's more, the potshots reek of hypocrisy. The stimulus that he backed included increases of about $66 billion to the Department of Education, $25 billion to the Department of Energy, $77 billion to Medicaid, and $50 billion transportation. Either President Obama doesn't understand D.C., or he thinks the rest of us don't. Once a department receives more money it is next to impossible to dial back its funds. This is what is referred to as a new baseline. While President Obama calls these funds only temporary stimuli, the rest of us firmly believe the added infusions will create a new baseline. While he was attacking the previous administration for misleading the public, he never once proclaimed, unequivocally, that these temporary infusions of cash would in fact be temporary.

It takes an awful lot of chutzpah to spend almost a trillion Dollars and then proclaim

Failure to act quickly and decisively, Obama said, “we risk sinking into another crisis down the road, as . . .our bills come due, confidence in our economy erodes and our children and grandchildren [suffer].”

Yet, it takes even more chutzpah to bemoan the "dishonesty" of your predecessor all the while not acknowledging that your temporary spending increases will lead to permanent spending increases which perverts the idea of fiscal responsibility.

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