Redefining Prosperity

President Obama has come forward with his new budget—a $4 trillion-dollar whopper. Unreconstructed radical that he is, he has decided to double down on his approach. This budget is a natural outgrowth of the attitude he projected in the State of the Union Address—“in your face.” Does he really believe we can tax and spend our way into prosperity?

Dem Bookstore

Or, at his core, does he not even care about a traditional definition of prosperity? Perhaps for him, prosperity is determined by how many more people look to the government for their sustenance. His ideological worldview posits that government should be the guiding hand for all of life. Debt is no problem, he thinks, because it is a positive indicator that the government is doing its job:

Totally Sustainable

Republicans have already said this budget proposal is DOA. One can only hope they will flex their new muscles to counter what he is attempting:

Working Out

Whenever this administration wants to offer some comedic relief, it sends out VP Joe Biden to give a speech. He fulfilled his task again earlier this week, speaking to an audience of Democrats about just how hard the last six years have been, basically blaming all the bad news—whether economic or in foreign policy—on George Bush. Doesn’t he realize that an admission that the last six years have been so bad might reflect on the people in charge for the last six years?

Really Tough

No, it’s not all that hard to explain why we’re in the state we’re in. It’s pretty obvious.

The Shrinking Military

I don’t pretend to be a defense specialist who knows exactly how many troops, missiles, and weapons systems are necessary to protect the nation. Neither do I know precisely how much fat there is in the military budget. As someone who always seeks to reduce excessive government spending, I remain open to cutting back anywhere, even in the military, if money is being spent unwisely. Yet the new proposed defense budget offered by Defense Secretary Hagel this past week has raised no small amount of concern; therefore, I must be concerned as well.

We are so accustomed to legislating and spending without any regard to constitutional limitations that it may be good to remember that military spending is absolutely constitutional. We have so much money currently being thrown around unconstitutionally by the federal government that we ought to at least pause before slashing indiscriminately the forces that ultimately keep us safe in a hostile world.

Is that world any less hostile today?

Shrink the Military

Yet we are now contemplating massive budget cuts that many say would cripple us militarily should we have to be in more than one place at a time. The new numbers would reduce our active army from 520,000 to 420,000 eventually, a level unseen since the Cold War began at the end of WWII. Is this really wise? The Marine Corps could drop from 192,000 to 175,000. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says those numbers are too low for us to be an effective fighting force. Yet a president who has shown no real interest in balancing a budget is bent on hacking back on this part of it:

New Defense Budget

What else? The pay increase for our troops would be slowed from 40% since 2001 down to 1%, housing budgets will go down, and commissaries will have to raise prices. Is this because our troops are living in too much luxury? Everyone knows that’s not the case. Yet they will bear the brunt of this cutback. I’m sure that will be a great morale booster as we seek to attract more soldiers:

Want to Cut

Does the president think this can be done without anyone raising questions?

Won't Even Notice

America’s status in the world already is suffering. Our influence is waning under this administration. How is this going to help?

Shield Smaller

So, the one clearly constitutional duty of government—protecting its citizens—takes a back seat to everything else the federal government finds more compelling?

Suck in Gut

I hope you will excuse me for questioning our priorities.

Challenging the Status Quo

As I write my post this morning, the Senate is poised to pass a budget deal crafted by Republican Paul Ryan and Democrat Patty Murray. It is being hailed in some quarters as a sign of bipartisanship and progress, but is it really? I listened to Ryan explain why this is a good deal—no tax increases;  return of some sequester cuts to the military; deficit reduction down the road. I’ve listened to the critique of the deal—it includes more spending now and those reductions are far down the road, thereby increasing the deficit in the short run; no guarantee that a future Congress will keep this deal when the spending is set to go down; military veterans taking a hit on their pensions, even those who were wounded in action; no one else in the federal government affected in the same way as these veterans because their pensions remain untouched, so this once again penalizes those who lay their lives on the line for us.

When I first heard it explained, I hadn’t yet known about the downside of the bill. I wonder how many of those in the House of Representatives who voted in favor of it—the majority of Republicans included—really understood the ramifications. Were they hearing all the facts ahead of time?

New Budget Deal

Now, I know one overriding reason why many Republicans jumped on board with this, even some who have steadfastly resisted bills like this in the past—they are nearly petrified by the political fallout of another looming battle over the budget for which they will get blamed if we have another government “shutdown,” better described as a “slimdown.” One has to wonder why this deal would look so good to them if not for that fear. Surely, by now, they should realize they can’t trust the Democrats to uphold their side of the bargain:

Deficit Reduction

There are good people on that side of the debate who say that by putting this budget mess aside, we can concentrate on stopping Obamacare by offering an alternative. I hope so. Yet the Republican leadership doesn’t seem to be able to create unity around one solid proposal. It’s time for genuine leadership to emerge. This deal, in my view, does nothing to allay the major concerns going forward:

Budget Compromise

I, and many others out here in the hinterlands, are seeking bold leadership that will challenge the status quo. Yes, I understand political realities, but those realities will never change until courage comes front and center.

As a historian, I try to draw lessons from our past. I recall that Ronald Reagan was despised by the Republican party establishment back in the 1970s. They said he wasn’t realistic, he was too confrontational, too conservative to be elected. He went on to win two smashing victories, revived the economy, and forced the Soviet Union to the bargaining table, which eventually led to the downfall of the Evil Empire. The establishment was wrong then, and it is wrong now.

 

Passing Thoughts

There are just too many stories this morning, so I’ll offer some passing thoughts on a number of them. We have to begin with the Boston Marathon bombings.

  • Unlike many of the liberal news anchors [forgive the redundancy], we need to withhold our speculations on who is responsible for the attacks that killed at least three. There is no need to rush into accusations. Wait and see where the evidence leads.
  • Apparently, all the pressure on the media to cover the Kermit Gosnell trial is working. For the first time, reporters from the major networks and newspapers have decided to watch the proceedings. That, by itself, is only half the battle; the second half is ensuring what they report is not skewed.

  • In their heart of hearts, they’d rather be elsewhere, reporting on what they consider to be the breaking news stories of the day:

  • Speaking of the media, we now know that there is no such thing as an illegal immigrant:

  • On the healthcare front, it seems Obamacare’s true nature is being revealed—by its own supporters and those responsible for carrying it out:

  • Then there’s the budget President Obama has presented, increasing the debt annually forever and ever. Amen. It even calls for all four-year-olds to be enrolled in school. Hey, it’s never too early to make the government one’s real family. Even though his new budget is a monstrosity, he continues to make ludicrous statements about his bipartisanship:

  • Fortunately for us, his new budget is getting the same reception his previous ones received:

  • I began with the Boston Marathon; I’ll end with it: May those who lost family and/or friends in this terrorist act find their true solace in the love of God displayed through His Son. May those who were injured in the blasts turn to the only One who can provide healing, both physically and spiritually, and comfort. May those in the vicinity of the tragedy who escaped serious injury come to the recognition of their mortality and how they might have to face eternity at any time, and may they turn from their selfishness and turn toward the Cross and the Empty Tomb. May those who were there and already know the reality of repentance and forgiveness, be God’s arms and hands in the midst of this turmoil.

Obama Initiatives?

President Obama is doing his best to stay prominent in the news cycle. He’s trying hard to be innovative and relevant. For instance, he announced a brain mapping initiative, designed to conquer epilepsy, autism, and Alzheimer’s disease. I sincerely hope it’s successful. While the scientists are at it, they might want to map the president’s brain as well. Who knows what they may find?

As they go about their brain mapping, those scientists may discover some limitations have been placed on their research:

Obama followed up that initiative with another. Well, to call it an initiative might be a stretch—we’ve seen this before:

Yes, believe it or not, he wants to jump start that old program that allowed nearly everyone to buy a house regardless of credit rating or ability to make the payments. What kind of amnesia is this? Can he really have forgotten the housing bubble that led to the recession in 2008? Is he really so ideologically blinded that he would rush into that despite all the evidence that it leads to chaos and financial ruin? The short answer: yes, he is.

Well, at least he came up with a budget—late, of course—but one that will be just as well received as his last two, neither of which garnered any votes in Congress. The Medicare cutbacks and Social Security fix have angered the progressive element of his coalition; the complete lack of spending restraint makes it a dead letter with conservatives. Finally, something both sides can agree on:

Perhaps the final insult to the leader of the free world was the death of Margaret Thatcher. How is that an insult? Comparisons can be made, and the president doesn’t fare too well on that score:

Oh, for genuine leadership again!

Our Budget-Conscious President

I’ve had some pretty serious things to say the past few days, and they were things that needed to be said. How about some levity today? What’s nice about looking for levity is that often you don’t have to stray past a new Obama headline in the news. A couple days ago, I heard this joke:

President Barack Obama, who has increased the national debt by $53,377 per household, has proclaimed April “National Financial Capability Month,” during which his administration will do things such as teach young people “how to budget responsibly.”

“I call upon all American to observe this month with programs and activities to improve their understanding of financial principles and practices,” Obama said in an official proclamation released Friday.

“My administration is dedicated to helping people make sound decisions in the marketplace,” he said.

Alright now, get up off the floor. Laughing that hard could cause long-term physical damage. Yes, I know Obama hasn’t yet submitted his budget for this year. Yes, I know he plans to submit it 65 days late, thereby violating the law. Yes, I realize this is the third year in a row he has done this. And yes, I understand he’s the only president in American history to have submitted late budgets in consecutive years. Hey, give the guy a break. He’s never run anything before that required a budget. Everyone needs some on-the-job training. What’s that? You say you don’t want him teaching your children how to budget? Why, think of what they could learn from his experience!

Besides, the job of being president is so wearying that both Obama and his family need an occasional vacation:

George Bush got out of Washington quite often also, but spent most of those days at his own ranch in Texas, where he continued to work. Same with Ronald Reagan, who signed his major tax cut bill at his ranch outside Santa Barbara, California. It’s more the nature of the Obamas’ vacations that stand out. They’re always at some fancy resort or super-expensive locale—all at the taxpayers’ expense, of course.

Having this president lecture anyone on fiscal responsibility is like listening to Bill Clinton speak on the importance of marital fidelity.

Competing Budgets

In the past few days, we’ve seen a contrast in budget proposals. Paul Ryan, on the Republican side, has come up with a plan that will repeal Obamacare—which insurance companies are informing us will lead to a possible doubling of premiums by next year—and put the country on the path to a balanced budget in ten years. The Senate Democrats have an entirely different plan, one that comports with President Obama’s vision. John Hinderaker, at the Power Line blog, explains,

After four years, Congressional Democrats have finally produced a budget. The process has proved revealing: the Democrats’ budget never balances, increases spending by 62% over ten years, and adds $7 trillion to the national debt despite raising taxes by $1.5 trillion. So Senate Democrats must agree with President Obama that the nation does not face a debt crisis. . . .

We know from the budgets he has submitted for the last four years that Obama doesn’t care about the debt, immediately or otherwise, and has no intention of addressing it, ever. His budgets contemplate nothing but huge deficits as far as the eye can see, and would add trillions to the national debt through ever-increasing spending.

House Republicans have tried repeatedly to send bills to the Senate that would help solve our financial crisis. Each time, the Senate has refused even to allow a vote—all at the behest of the White House.

As the nation slides inexorably into a massive debt that might never be stopped, the president and the Democrat leaders in the Senate are ideologically blind to the disaster that looms:

For those who choose to believe Obama’s rosy picture of financial stability, there is a surprise coming:

A pleasant surprise, it is not.