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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Obama's budget: "Smart people" decided "what we need to do," with no limits and no concern about revenues or deficits

It's a couple of weeks old now, but I just caught up enough in my magazine reading to reach Ryan Lizza's article in the May 4th New Yorker entitled Money Talks, a report on how the Obama Administration has gone about preparing the federal budget. And as is so often the case in New Yorker articles, what stuns me about this one is its reporting of facts that strike me as extraordinary and alarming, but which apparently fail to register on the Left's consciousness as being anything abnormal. (If they're noticed at all by the Left, they're considered admirable.) Consider these two paragraphs tucked into the middle of the article (boldface mine, italics in original):

The initial discussions were highly abstract. The first Obama budget, [OMB Deputy Director Robert] Nabors told me, “was being designed with an eye toward what do we need to do to put the economy back on a more sustainable path? What do we need for economic growth? And what do we need to do in order to transform the country? Those were our overarching principles.” The budgeteers took a hyper-rational approach, attempting to determine policy and leave the politics and spin for later. He went on, “One of the things that would probably surprise people is that this wasn’t an effort where anybody created a top-line budget number and said, ‘This is the number that we have to hit, and that’s just that, and we’ll fit everything else in.’ Or, ‘We can’t go higher than x on revenue,’ or, ‘We can’t go higher than y on spending.’ It was more of a functional budget than anything else: ‘This is what we need to do. These are our principles. These are our core beliefs. And as a result this is what our budget looks like.’”

Nabors compared the process favorably to his experience on Capitol Hill, saying, “One of the things that was really surprising to me is the amount of value that was put into analytics and academics, and thinking constructively about a project. I’m not saying that people completely ignored the Hill reaction or the public reaction, but we began with: ‘This is what smart people are saying about this, and this is why.’"

Got that? You understand now how the Obama budget came about? Based on their "core beliefs," the "smart people" simply decided "what we need to do," and that's how much the federal government will now spend — with no effort being made to base the budget on what revenues the government may take in, and with no "top-line budget number" to limit the appetites of those "smart people" as they set about to vindicate their "principles" by hurling huge chunks of federal cash in their general direction. (Or did Nabors really mean "principals"?)

In other words, from the mouth of a senior Obama Administration official, as reported in a respected Leftist publication: There was no budgeting process, there was just a spending spree driven by political beliefs.

So thanks, Mr. Lizza, for those direct quotations. They explain a lot, and they completely validate conservatives' worst fears. You almost certainly intended this reporting to paint the bold new Obama team as principled and sublimely competent architects of a fair new society. It's darkly amusing to me that you can't see that you've instead confirmed them to be worse than the worst caricature of spendthrift Democrats that any fiscal conservative of either party has ever dreamed up.

(The balance of the article is equally terrifying, for essentially the same reasons. E.g.: "[A] balanced budget is not something that is fiscally conceivable without fundamentally just deconstructing the federal government" and "Obama’s budget assumes that, even after the recession passes, the government can live with deficits indefinitely." It's a tedious tale of unrelenting irresponsibility, the proud internal newsletter of an asylum written after the inmates have taken over.)

Posted by Beldar at 03:30 AM in Current Affairs, Obama, Politics (2009) | Permalink


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(1) stan made the following comment | May 14, 2009 7:11:11 AM | Permalink

[I think you truncated Ryan Lizza into Mr. Rizza.]

Lizza's failure to grasp the import of his own fact gathering is pretty standard for the "journalists" in the MSM. We tend to focus on the bias and partisanship in the MSM, but incompetence is widespread as well. The thought process is so vacuous because the MSM cheerleading is so ingrained. Liberals and Democrats -- good; Conservatives and Republicans -- evil; therefore, never question any assertion made by "our" team.

Besides, thinking is hard.

(2) Beldar made the following comment | May 14, 2009 10:25:39 AM | Permalink

Stan (#1), thanks for the typo catch — I'm always grateful for those, and I've duly corrected this one.

(3) Insufficiently Sensitive made the following comment | May 14, 2009 12:40:37 PM | Permalink

Hey, wait: wasn't Obama vowing to go through the whole Federal budget, line by line, and cut out the fat? How could the learned New Yorker forget those ringing promises? Does cheerleading on behalf of the 'smart' guys cause the New Yorker's memory to develop gaping historical holes?

(4) Gregory Koster made the following comment | May 14, 2009 11:16:49 PM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: You are right. Nabors's quotes are 200 proof elitist thinking. Undoubtedly there are some sharp folks in The One's team, but their weakness is thinking that they are smarter than everyone else combined. Eighteen months max before the forces they don't admit, let alone see, knock them down and roll them out flatter than a pancake. The likely response: attacking all their "enemies" who are thwarting The One. Sam Rayburn's comment to Lyndon Johnson when LBJ was praising the technocrats of the New Frontier for their brilliance comes to mind: "Lyndon, I'd feel better about them if even one had ever had to run for sheriff." Yup.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(5) Aubrey made the following comment | May 14, 2009 11:29:57 PM | Permalink

Arrogance on stilts.

(6) Daryl Herbert made the following comment | May 15, 2009 12:04:13 AM | Permalink

These people are out of control.

If Obama's popularity dropped to 45%, he would stop trying to take over banks and other businesses.

If Obama's popularity dropped to 40%, he would take his slimy tentacles off of Chrysler.

If Obama's popularity dropped to 35%, he would actually make more of an effort to cut spending.

And if Obama's popularity dropped to 30%, he might even roll back the stimulus spending before the money goes out. I'm not making any promises--but this is an experiment I'd like to try!

(7) Legal Aid made the following comment | May 15, 2009 2:57:11 AM | Permalink

We should live within our means. No lofty budget if this would just benefit few people or advance the interest of few.

(8) ELC made the following comment | May 18, 2009 8:27:48 PM | Permalink

"fundamentally just deconstructing the federal government". Now there's an idea!

(9) Captain Ned made the following comment | May 20, 2009 10:35:23 PM | Permalink

Indiana Jones: That's a powerful force. Research should be done.

Maj. Eaton: Oh, it will be, Dr. Jones, I assure you. We have top men working on it right now.

Indiana Jones: Who?

Maj. Eaton: Top men.

Indiana Jones: We may be able to help.

Maj. Eaton: We appreciate that. And we won't hesitate to call on you.

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