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Posted at 1:24 AM ET, 02/14/2011

A 'dodge' or a retreat?

By Jennifer Rubin

Americans for Tax Reform has begun dissecting the president's budget proposal:

Under the Obama budget, tax revenues will grow from 14.4% of GDP in 2011 to 20% of GDP in 2021. By comparison, the historical average is only 18% of GDP. . . . Add it all together, and this budget is a ten-year, $1.5 trillion tax hike over present law. That's $1.5 trillion taken out of the economy and spent on government instead of being used to create jobs.

Ezra Klein generously says that the budget "dodges" the recommendations of the Debt Commission, remarking that it is as "the Fiscal Commission never happened." Actually, it is as if the 2010 midterm elections never happened and any Clinton-esque repositioning never happened. It will be interesting to see if the left blogosphere praises him for not giving into the cries for fiscal frugality or attacks him for failing to exercise leadership.

It is a classic liberal budget -- cut defense, grow domestic spending and hike taxes. But not even Obama dare raise taxes enough to pay for all his spending, so at the end of this process, we will add more than $7 trillion to the debt.

It is not surprising then that Republicans are having a field day. From Sen. Marco Rubio's press release:


Sadly, the President has missed a golden opportunity to have an adult conversation with the American people about the seriousness and urgency of our debt crisis. The President's budget falls far short of tackling our national debt in a serious way. Although we face a $1.6 trillion deficit and a staggering national debt that exceeds $14 trillion, the President's proposal would add $7.2 trillion of new debt over the next ten years. The fact that the President's ten year proposed 'savings' is less than this year's budget deficit alone is proof that this is a budget that cannot be taken seriously."

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the top Republicans on the House and Senate budget committees, are also blasting away.

And meanwhile, Obama is in Baltimore extolling the virtue of fiscal discipline. But first, a plea to spend -- er, invest -- more:

Over the past few weeks I've traveled the country, talking about what we need to do to win the future; talked about the need to invest in innovation, so that the next big idea is discovered here in the United States of America. I've talked about the need to invest in high-speed rail and high-speed Internet, so that companies can move goods and information faster than ever. And this week, I'll be talking about the need to invest in education -- in places like Parkville -- so that every American is equipped to compete with any worker, anywhere in the world.

These investments are an essential part of the budget my administration is sending to Congress. Because I'm convinced that if we out-build and out-innovate and out-educate, as well as out-hustle the rest of the world, the jobs and industries of our time will take root here in the United States. Our people will prosper and our country will succeed.

You'd think with all the spending investing over the past two years we'd be prosperous beyond our fondest hopes. But then he declares: "I'm also convinced that the only way we can make these investments in our future is if our government starts living within its means, if we start taking responsibility for our deficits." Oh, but then again: "While it's absolutely essential to live within our means, while we are absolutely committed to working with Democrats and Republicans to find further savings and to look at the whole range of budget issues, we can't sacrifice our future in the process. Even as we cut out things that we can afford to do without, we have a responsibility to invest in those areas that will have the biggest impact in our future -- and that's especially true when it comes to education." Even on the day his budget is released, he cannot manage to disguise his yen for more government spending.

You see it's hard to live within one's means unless you break the spending addiction. Obama must have thought the public wouldn't realize how irresponsible his budget is; but it's not 1995, unemployment is high, and a populist revolt is underway with the sole purpose to reduce the size of government. The president's critics are unlikely to regard Obama's budget effort as a "dodge." Rather, the 2012 presidential contenders and the Republican members of Congress see this as a fiscal abomination and, more important, an opportunity to rally independents and Republicans in opposition to the budget and to this president.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 14, 2011; 1:24 AM ET
Categories:  Budget  
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