Commentary

Obama, A Misguided and Unaccountable Lame Duck Leader

By Hadley Heath Manning | February 4, 2015 | 2:57pm EST

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Department of Homeland Security on his FY2016 budget proposal, on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, in Washington. Obama warned congressional Republicans Monday that he won't accept a spending plan that boosts national security at the expense of domestic programs for the middle class. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Obama’s latest budget — released Monday — was immediately pronounced Dead on Arrival. But an autopsy of the unrealistic plan tells us a lot about the misguided priorities and unaccountability of our lame duck leader.

Instead of heeding the 2014 election results, the President is proposing an increase in spending 7 percent above the bipartisan sequestration caps agreed to three years ago. This is the equivalent of spending an extra $74 billion.

Who will pay for this? Despite nonstop rhetoric about “middle class economics,” the President’s plan would raise taxes on middle-income families — something he has promised not to do. Even the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Brookings Institute and the Urban Institute (left-of-center research groups), says this new budget plan will do little to help middle-income families and instead will increase the tax burden for many.

The White House could take some clues from the private sector here – sometimes a little frugality goes a long way. As I recently discussed on the Fox Business Network, investors are praising Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, for a strong fourth-quarter earnings report. Vital to the company’s success is its frugality: Amazon, like any for-profit company, stays lean by cutting out unnecessary expenses. While government can’t produce value or create wealth like for-profit companies can, the President ought to be more responsible with taxpayer dollars, since taxpayers are essentially forced investors in our federal budget.

Liberal rhetoric suggests that any cut in spending will create hardship for struggling Americans and the economy at large. But the federal government spent $3.5 trillion in 2014, an astronomical amount equal to about 20 percent of our Gross Domestic Product. In those $3.5 trillion, there’s a lot of room to chisel away, and also opportunities for major reforms.

First, the chisel: Recently retired Senator Tom Coburn provided an invaluable service by publishing an annual “Wastebook” that highlighted ridiculous government expenditures. His 2014 waste book — more than 200 pages — calculated $25 billion in totally wasteful spending on projects such as studies of the gambling habits of monkeys and Swedish massages for bunnies. Private industry would never stand for such irrelevant and absurd waste.

Sadly, the President doesn’t believe in frugality. He doesn’t believe in cutting waste. It’s too easy to simply go on promising more new programs and payouts financed by spending more of other people’s money.

Then again, $25 billion is small beans in Washington. To really restore fiscal balance, we need serious entitlement reform.

Two areas of spending comprise 49 percent of federal spending: health care programs and Social Security. These areas, and interest on our national debt, are set to grow and consume more and more of the federal budget, which means other priorities, such as national defense, will have to consume a smaller portion in years to come.

Unfortunately, the President’ budget completely ignores the root of our long-term fiscal problem, showing again the Left’s unwillingness to responsibly address a coming entitlement crisis that will almost inevitably result in broken promises and unfulfilled obligations. On this issue, they prefer demagoguery to solutions-oriented action.

Americans are tired of watching their hard-earned paychecks slashed and stretched and seeing little reward for making prudent financial decisions in their own lives. The economy is slowly recovering in spite of – not because of – President Obama’s policy agenda, and his legacy will be his generous contribution to the national debt, now $18 trillion. His new budget plan would add another $5.7 trillion to that figure over the next ten years.

This unpaid bill will continue to burden Americans in this generation and the next – and the next. But as the President’s latest budget proposal shows, for him and his allies, political expediency sadly trumps fiscal responsibility yet again.

Hadley Heath Manning is a senior policy analyst at the Independent Womens Forum (www.iwf.org) and a contributing author to Lean Together: An Agenda for Smarter Government, Stronger Communities, and More Opportunity for Women.

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