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Posted at 5:52 PM ET, 02/15/2011

Can the White House tackle the deficit?

By Ezra Klein

PH2011021406468 (1).jpg

When it comes to the budget, no two people in town know more than Bob Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. And yet, Monday, they disagreed. "Does not go nearly far enough," MacGuineas said of President Obama's budget. "An important step toward addressing the nation’s long-term fiscal challenge," Greenstein concluded.

But perhaps they're more in sync than they know. I spoke with both today, and they agreed on quite a bit: That this budget, on its own, does not come near to solving our fiscal problems; that more needs to be done, and we're better off doing it sooner than later; that the real question is what happens in the coming negotiations, not what was written into the budget. "What we don't know," MacGuineas says, "is what's happening behind the scenes."

The Obama administration's theory of policymaking amid divided government is a frustrating one. What most people want from the president is to lead. And leading, in this case, means giving a speech, getting behind some unpopular ideas, trying to change public opinion. It means acting like Jed Bartlet in the final five minutes of an episode of "The West Wing." "What are the next 10 words in your budget?" Obama is supposed to ask the Republicans after delivering his bout of tough fiscal medicine. "Your taxes are too high? So are mine. Give me the next 10 words. How are we going to do it? Give me 10 after that, I'll drop out of the race right now."

But the White House has come to the conclusion that that type of leadership doesn't work. It believes that the quickest way to kill a controversial proposal in a polarized political system is to have the president endorse it. Once a high-profile proposal is associated with the White House, Republicans (correctly) view its passage as a threat to their political fortunes. That's why the Obama administration didn't endorse a payroll tax holiday until after the election, when it emerged as part of the tax deal. Endorsing it before the election would've "poisoned the well," one administration official told me after. Republicans would have had to attack it, and that would have made it impossible for them to endorse it later.

Greenstein sees a similar theory at work in the budget. "I don't think Obama could’ve been clearer that he wants a bipartisan commission on Social Security like they had in the early '80s," he says. "But if you look at what came out of that commission, if those items had been in Reagan's budget the previous February, they would've been dead in 30 days."

Obama echoed this argument at his news conference Tuesday. "If you look at the history of how these deals get done," he said, "typically it’s not because there’s an Obama plan out there; it’s because Democrats and Republicans are both committed to tackling this issue in a serious way."

And are Democrats and Republicans committed to tackling this issues in a serious way? I guess we'll find out. "We're going to be in discussions over the next several months," Obama continued. "This is going to be a negotiation process."

The most serious work being done is in the Senate, where Mark Warner (D-Va.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) are meeting regularly to create legislation based off the Fiscal Commission's final report. In theory, that's the sort of project Obama is looking for: a negotiation between sitting senators of both parties. I asked Warner about this today. Should the White House have put its shoulder behind his process? "We're not at the point where the president should get involved yet," he replied.

Wonks -- myself included -- have a preference for the bold plan, the single solution, the sweeping stroke. Slow and incremental just isn't how people who care about policy tend to think. They want to solve problems, not make a bit of progress on them. And from that perspective, the budget was a huge disappointment. That's particularly true when compared to the Fiscal Commission's report, which took on the military, entitlements and tax expenditures. Love it or hate it, it was, at the least, ambitious. And policy types like ambitious.

But policy types don't tend to get much done. And although this administration has been enormously frustrating, what with its preference to let Congress take the lead, to draw few lines in the sand and to let the process play itself out, it's gotten a lot done. Much more than its critics would've expected at the beginning of any particular policy campaign the White House has kicked off. "Let’s face it," Obama said at his news conference Tuesday, "you guys are pretty impatient. If something doesn’t happen today, then the assumption is it’s just not going to happen. Right? I’ve had this conversation for that last two years about every single issue that we worked on, whether it was health care or 'don't ask, don't tell.' "

Obama's confident recitation of his record doesn't mean he will get this done, too. But I wouldn't be too quick to bet against his administration just because the Simpson-Bowles plan wasn't dropped into his budget. I'd look, rather, at two other things: Is a "grand bargain" on the deficit something he wants, and is it something he can get?

On the first question, I think the answer is yes. In Bruce Reed, Gene Sperling, Jack Lew and Bill Daley, the White House has just brought in or promoted a number of Clinton-era officials notable for their concern with, and success pursuing, deficits. And on a more coldly pragmatic level, if the administration gets something everyone agrees to call "deficit reduction" done, and the economy is recovering, then barring some sort of mishandled foreign policy crisis, whoever the Republican's nominate for president will be starved for issues. Obama becomes, if not a lock for reelection, then closer to it.

As for the second question, well, that's harder. The new class of House Republicans doesn't seem particularly friendly to compromise. And the same political calculus that makes a deficit-reduction bill a political no-brainer for Obama makes it a disaster for the Republicans in 2012. Remember Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's warning that "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." But with the notable exception of cap-and-trade, this White House has been pretty good at confounding critics of its legislative strategy.

Photo credit: Brendan Hoffman Photo.

By Ezra Klein  | February 15, 2011; 5:52 PM ET
Categories:  Budget, Obama administration  
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Comments

It seems to me that the president isn't really sincere about tackling the budget and neither are the hitters on the Republican side. The cynical Republicans are playing electoral politics with the deficit (they don't do anything else) and the president is deflecting them. The only people who seriously believe that budget cutting -- rather than economic growth -- will pare the deficit ... are intellectual lightweights.

The president's "competition" gambit is basically a surgical stimulus aimed at achieving growth where he thinks it is most likely to occur. AND it is good electoral politics because to the folks it is something being done compared to nothing being done.

Posted by: pmcgann | February 15, 2011 6:08 PM | Report abuse

I think Obama is certainly concerned with the deficit; look at the sacred cows Obama has started to address cutting:
Cuts in the Pentagon budget.
HCR bill that cuts long term growth
Ending two wars.
Putting a cap on the mortgage interest tax deduction.
Raising taxes.
etc.

Posted by: mschol17 | February 15, 2011 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Help me understand this, as I'm not sure I do. Don't current deficit projections take into account the state of the economy? If so, isn't the deficit likely to shrink more significantly as the result of an uptick in the economy spurred by spending than by paltry cuts?

Posted by: jimryanmd | February 15, 2011 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Help me understand this, as I'm not sure I do. Don't current deficit projections take into account the state of the economy? If so, isn't the deficit likely to shrink more significantly as the result of an uptick in the economy spurred by spending than by paltry cuts?

Posted by: jimryanmd


Yes they do take into account the state of the economy. If the economy were to perform better than projected, the deficit would most likely shrink, primarily because tax revenues would be higher.

Posted by: DeanofProgress | February 15, 2011 6:51 PM | Report abuse

There goes Ezra making excuses for the President's failure to lead on solving the fiscal crisis.

It's quite simple. All he would have to do is back the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission. You know, the one he appointed to solve the problem that his budget completely dodged.

If Bush 41 could break his "Read My Lips" pledge, then Obama can do the same. Let's see if he cares about his country more than he cares about winning another term.

Posted by: ElGipper | February 15, 2011 6:57 PM | Report abuse

The White House knows if they put out a budget that called for big entitlement reforms, the Republicans would be busy criticizing those much more than they are criticizing his lack of significant spending cuts now.

The premise of this article is exactly right, if he did propose big changes, they would never happen. Want proof? Look at the cuts in Medicare in the health reform law and how in a dramatic shift in policy the Republicans were defending Medicare from cuts and campaigned on it in 2010. If Obama proposed cuts to Social Security or additional cuts to Medicare, the Republicans would do exactly the same thing. Oppose the cuts and try to get votes in 2012 by preventing the cuts.

Also, there has been some terrible nonsense reported about this budget. Many mainstream and conservative media outlets have tried to imply the deficit commission came up with a clear set of recommendations that Obama was supposed to put in his 2012 budget. They did not come up with a clear set of proposals because 14 of 18 people could not agree on what to do about the deficit. If they did, congress was supposed to vote on it in a bill, the President was not supposed to solve all of our fiscal problems with his 2012 budget proposal.

Posted by: DeanofProgress | February 15, 2011 7:02 PM | Report abuse

A budget will likely not be agreed upon.

This means we will be operating under the continuing resolution.

Analysis on the impact of this reality should be focused on so we can begin to understand what is about to happen in this country.

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 15, 2011 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I'm not trusting someone named Ezra that doesn't look like he even shaves yet to forecast my financial well being.

Posted by: thebink | February 15, 2011 7:17 PM | Report abuse

*****There goes Ezra making excuses for the President's failure to lead on solving the fiscal crisis******

Nonsense. There is no crisis. The word crisis is a term trotted out by people who want to scare the rest of us into supporting their goal of a radically smaller government.

There certainly is a fiscal CHALLENGE. If absolutely no special deficit reduction plans were undertaken, we'd have very serious problems in the 2020s -- and probably several years before that -- as the bond market prices in the country's refusal to do anything about excessive debt.

But in 2011? Nope. No debt crisis. Indeed, the combination of a steadily strengthening economy and lots of spare capacity is kind of a perfect storm for dealing with deficits: gently rising tax revenues (that tends to calm the bond market) plus reduced recession-related spending (that tends to calm the bond market) plus little prospect of inflation because of all that spare capacity (that, too, tends to calm the bond market). What's not to love?

Indeed, as numerous people have pointed out, if we simply let existing laws take effect (Bush tax cuts, AMT, etc.), the debt/GDP ratio will basically stabilize by mid decade.

Not that I think Obama should do NOTHING mind, you. He should. For one thing, it's highly likely the country WON'T let existing laws take effect, especially with respect to the AMT and cuts to physician fees. For another, it's far better to make the deep structural changes -- whether on the tax or spending side of the ledger -- when you have the leisure of not being FORCED to do.

But for my money, the optimal window of opportunity for doing something would be early as possible in 2013. Not 2011. For now, I'd much rather see us err on the side of more stimulus -- and that means that more red ink in 2011 and 2012 is desirable. Which is a big part of the reason conservatives are so upset: they'd MUCH rather we did a repeat of 1937 between now and the election.

But again, 2013 is optimal. And that means that the country can spend next year assessing candidates for federal office on their plans to deal with the deficit. And then, depending on who wins, Congress can craft a bill -- hopefully with presidential leadership. I think critics of the president will be on much firmer ground in their critique of his reticence to lead on deficit cutting if he punts in two years' time.

Posted by: Jasper999 | February 15, 2011 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps I am simple-minded, because I let things like this confuse me. Would someone explain how proposing a budget with the largest deficit in history in any way reduce the deficit? Even simpler, how does adding another $1.6 trillion to our debt reduce our debt?

Forget the "surgical" approach. With the next election being foremost on every politician's mind (don't pretend for a minute that it's not), how can anyone agree on what, where, or how much to cut?

In my (simple) mind, this is the most compelling argument for term limits. Let congress know that this is not a thirty year escape from reality. Let them know it's time to get something constructive done, because they will be forced to go out and "practice what they preach", to live in an economy they fashioned with their legislation.

I think that the only way to avoid any whining about favoritism in budget cuts, or tax laws, would be to cut across the board - five percent, to start - each and every year until things have stabilized.

Can anyone actually suggest a single program that cannot survive with 95 cents of the dollar they now receive? If we do nothing, there won't be anything left to hand out. One would imagine that 95 percent of something is a whole lot better than 100% of nothing.

Posted by: duffmeister | February 15, 2011 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Cut everything back, EXCEPT my entitlements. On a serious note, look what Jerry Brown is trying to do in California. He wants to provide less government by ending Redevelopment Agencies and letting counties and cities use their property tax dollars as they see fit. Dems and Republicans both hate his idea and are winding up for a big battle. Smaller government is cheaper government. That said, we must move forward in a compassionate manner that protects those that are least able to protect themselves. Until we start "doing unto others as we would do unto ourselves"the human race is screwed.

Posted by: BigDogPS | February 15, 2011 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Obama's resignation would do wonders for the deficit. US Businesses don't need a bully in the white house.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 15, 2011 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Nobody REALLY cares about the (near-term) deficit, least of all Republicans. Nor should they. Why is Klein retailing deceitful, economically illiterate right-wing framing?

Long-term nothing will help anyway if the outrageous cost of our health care system isn't brought under control.

Posted by: labonnes | February 15, 2011 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Good economy, more tax revenue. Right. The hard part is when and how long we are going to have good economy and how much tax revenue we can count on. It is well known that the politicians alway figure in the future income, and to go ahead and borrow and spend now. And when the time is good, they spend and spend and put the cuts on hold and keep no money for the rainy days. So when the bad time comes, they run deficits and demand the federal government (or you and I) pay. Many people said the cuts are too big and too fast. Well, when they spend, it is big and fast. Why don't they save big and fast when they have money? This is about whether we, this generation faces up to what we have done (spent) and solve it. Or ask our children to bail us out.

Posted by: indi2 | February 15, 2011 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Our nation's leaders are nothing but gutless losers.

We dig our hole deeper every single day ad they don't have the nerve to do anything about it.

Just amazing.

Historians are going to have a field day with every clown leader since Reagan.

Posted by: SwellLevel5 | February 15, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Including Reagan, the man who began this party.

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 15, 2011 7:52 PM | Report abuse

If Jerry Brown succeeded in CA, we should elect him president. Chris Chistie in NJ is also up and coming. We want someone who can cut deficits. It is the national priority. We are sending billions of dollars to country like China,which is fundamentally hostile to the US. So much for national security. We will be bankrupt?? We are already bankrupt. We cannot sustain unless we print money and that is exactly what the Fed is doing.

Posted by: indi2 | February 15, 2011 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Poverty is also continuing to skyrocket under Obama. It went up by over 15% in his first year, and continued to hit the highest levels since WWII in his 2nd year.

I guess we can declare the war on poverty as a failure.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 15, 2011 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Ezra didn't read the proposed budget. Ezra didn't read the proposed budget.
Come on Ezra you can do better than this, quit kissing butt and get down to the nitty gritty of it.
If we need to borrow to spend it, we don't need to spend it. Join the rest of us poor, unemployed and lost people wondering what will happen next. Where does Obama take us? Further down the road to the poor house and dinner of fishheads and rice with a bamboo mat to sleep on?

Posted by: jhnjdy | February 15, 2011 8:14 PM | Report abuse

http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-number-in-poverty-and-poverty-rate-2010-9

Actually, poverty started skyrocketing a few years before Obama was elected. Look at the chart.

krazen, did you wake from a coma in 2009 and miss the disastrous lead up between 2000-2008?

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 15, 2011 8:15 PM | Report abuse

How much debt is cut when we revert to the continuing resolution after all budget talks collapse?

That's the question, because these budgets from Obama or the GOP will not get passed.

What does the CBO say economic output will be under continuing resolution for the next two years? I need to know, to make appropriate plans.

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 15, 2011 8:20 PM | Report abuse

$1.3 Trillion Deficit in fy2010.

$1.7 Trillion Deficit projection for fy2011.

Currently spending at 185% of GDP.

And the government is telling us that $100 Billion cut is an austerity measure.

How stupid are we?

Posted by: mdsinc | February 15, 2011 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Geez, how'd you like to be a purple-state Democratic Senator with a 2012 campaign firing up, and your President throwing out budgetary cyanide caps like this? Yikes!

Posted by: Plainsspeak | February 15, 2011 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Good luck with that deficit cutting while real unemployment levels remain above 15%. I hope it makes everyone in Washington feel happy that they got their tax cuts on the shoulders of lower income Americans.

The American way, promoted by Washington Post opinion writers of all stripes.

Shorter WaPo Opinion Page.

UE? Who Cares? I have a job.

Posted by: justmy2 | February 15, 2011 10:19 PM | Report abuse

A brief financial history of our country because people seem to forget. In 1999 the Clinton administration announced it was making the first payment to our nation debt in 25 years. In September of 2000 the Clinton administration announced that they had a record budget surplus (still doing good). What did the Clinton administration do with their budget surplus? Made payments to the national dept of 3.6 trillion. Under their payment plan and budget by 2009 the national dept would have been reduced to 1.3 trillion. At the time, Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said that "reducing the supply of Treasury debt held by the public brings enormous benefits for our economy" (BBC, CNN) What did the Republicans want to do with the budget surplus at the time? $792 Billion in tax cuts. (thankfully, this didn’t happen). So let me reiterate that, when Clinton left office we had a record surplus, while making payments to our national debt. If we continued on that course by 2009 our national dept would have been 1.3 trillion. February of 2001, the Bush administration unveils its fist Federal budget (UH OH!). After two tax-cuts (EGTRRA, enacted in mid-2001, and JGTRRA, enacted in 2003) two wars and a Wall Street bail out later (TARP) in 2008, our country is in the middle of a recession. Magically, we have a record budget deficit of $438 billion dollars and have long stopped making payments to our national dept which is now Sky rocketing. In short, from 2001 to 2008 our countries fiscal policy was completely mutilated with care less disregard for future generations. I hope this reminds people of how we got to this point. Think of our countries fiscal policy as a bathroom. George Bush goes into a clean bathroom for Eight minutes; he takes a crap in his hand and the wipes it all over the walls because he wasn’t properly taught how to use the bathroom. But he’s not done yet! He proceeds to clog the toilet with paper towels until it’s over flowing. Then he vomits in the sink for good measure and leaves. Republicans endorsed this behavior at the time. The majority of American voters did at first but towards the end they got sick of it and elected for change. Now Obama has to go into this bathroom and clean up the mess so its usable again. It isn’t pleasant, fun, easy, desirable and everyone has different ways of doing it. So far he’s cleaned up a lot of vomit (the market) he’s gotten a lot of crap off the walls (1 war) but the toilet is still over flowing (the debt) and he has to stop it. Even though they are the ones who clogged the toilet, after it had just been un-clogged. That brings us to Feb. 16th 2011.

Posted by: hson8118 | February 16, 2011 2:32 AM | Report abuse

Seems the single most important thing to Obama ... and to this columnist .... is getting Obama re-elected.

So it's way beyond silly to be chastising Mitch McConnell.
.

Posted by: gitarre | February 16, 2011 4:24 AM | Report abuse

"And are Democrats and Republicans committed to tackling this issues in a serious way?"
----------------------------------------

Yes they are and it is not because these guys operate in a vacuum or as elitist mini-dictators as Klein prefers.

The issue will get solved because of the coalition of Blue Dog Democrats and fiscally conservative Republicans known as the Tea Party. The Tea Party will be ringing those phones off the hook if these guys falter at any time.
.

Posted by: hz9604 | February 16, 2011 7:05 AM | Report abuse

Mitch and his party are the reason for this recession and our debt and our deficits.

So yes, there's plenty to criticize about him.

And by the way, the GOP doesnt want to reduce debt, they want to go beyond that and utterly destroy the US gvmt, and instead let transnational corporations run our society. That's why they adopted and celebrated Citizens United and why they ramped up spending while cutting taxes (to bankrupt us).

Obama is too timid to make audacious changes to save us from these GOP saboteurs. I'm at the point I'd rather the GOP win in 2012 so they'll take full blame for the coming collapse. Both the GOP and Obamas will lead us to doom. The only difference is that Obama is doing it by mistake, and the GOP is doing it intentionally. That means there's greater hope Obama will wake up and self correct than the GOP will suddenly get a conscience or a renewed loyalty to America rather than their Saudi kings.

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 16, 2011 7:15 AM | Report abuse

"fiscally conservative Republicans"

They, and unicorns, are mythical beings.

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 16, 2011 7:22 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: skoa | February 16, 2011 9:03 AM | Report abuse

The deficits are caused, largely, by unfunded wars, tax cuts and lack of revenues caused by lack of demand (i.e. jobs)triggered by the loss of $8 trillion in wealth when the housing bubble burst. Everyone saw it coming except the experts who were given access to the media. Now, that the economy is gone, newsmen want to report on the budget deficit. This is like blaming the sinking of the Titanic on the wake it left before it went down or the ripples it caused when it went under. Nearly every "news" article, talk show, or article frames the issue as the need to cut the paltry budget items that support the poor, needy, and aged in order to create "smaller government" so that "jobs will be created." This is magical thinking (or not thinking at all). And we get it daily in the Washington Post. It is stupid.

Sure, we have a budget deficit problem. It might even get solved if not for a far more serious one in credible information and critical thinking that stems from the virtual collapse of journalism in this country. This is the deficit that a powerful kleptocracy in America created, nurtured and depends upon and even "liberal" commentators like Ezra Klein service. Lewis Powell could not have imagined its current success when he recommended this course of action to the Chamber of Commerce in 1972. But no newsman would ever connect those dots because "context" is boring, requires insight and risks being called "conspiratorial." So, it is ignored.

Wall Street has become parasitical to the American economy. It has bought congress, the White House, and all but a few remaining democratic institutions. It has replaced whatever form of democracy we may have once had. Profits, now soaring again due to what Paul Craig Roberts, the very "Father of Reaganomics," criticizes as mere 'labor arbitrage,' is viewed as "recovery." The loss of jobs at home keeps wages low and profits high. While the Dow soars Americans suffer. Even their remaining common wealth, like parking meters in Chicago and toll bridges elsewhere, is privatized and bartered off for nothing. Even the NY stock exchange is sold abroad.

Without a better grasp on reality than what we have grown accustomed to in our "national debates" Americans without jobs, health care, or hope are better off as soylent green which, at least, would have some value to our corporate masters.

Posted by: ChickDante | February 16, 2011 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I would like to point out to the folks in here who keep saying that if the economy comes back the deficit issue will just go away that Obama's budget assumes some very rosy scenario's for the U.S. economy and yet his projected budget never comes into balance. As a matter of fact it projects an accumulation of almost 8 trillion in debt on top of the more that 14 trillion in debt we already have on the books. Can you say hello Greece. I love how the liberals keep bashing Republicans for proposing a 100 billion in cuts to a 3.7 trillion dollar budget. A 100 billion in Obama's gigantic budget world is chump change. He spent 8 times that on Obamastimulus that was supposed to keep unemployment below 8%.

Posted by: RobT1 | February 16, 2011 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Here is my suggestion of reducing the defict:

1. Put a surtax on incomes of $75,000 - $250,00 of 10%. On incomes of $250,000 - $1,000,000 15% - over $1,000,000, 20%.

2. Remove the cap on FICA taxes to all income.

3. Reduce the surcharge on taxes by 2% for each 1% reduction in the unemployment rate.

Posted by: bud.freedman | February 16, 2011 10:01 AM | Report abuse

"Actually, poverty started skyrocketing a few years before Obama was elected. Look at the chart.

krazen, did you wake from a coma in 2009 and miss the disastrous lead up between 2000-2008?

"


That link proves that poverty is much loser under Republican administrations.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 16, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

"Actually, poverty started skyrocketing a few years before Obama was elected. Look at the chart.

krazen, did you wake from a coma in 2009 and miss the disastrous lead up between 2000-2008?

"


That link proves that poverty is much lower under Republican administrations.


Posted by: krazen1211 | February 16, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

WHAT pray-tell gives anyone confidence that the WH has a clue in actually doing anything about leadership in tackling this defict problem?????
- Should we ask the the Gulf Oil Workers?
- What did we actually get for the money spent on "Shovel Ready Projects"?
- Can the WH do math and know if they take all the money of the so-called rich it still won't close the budget gap they have created!
- WHY are we hiring more federal workers when we cannot pay for the ones we have???
Sadly we have Village Idiots running amoke in the Socialist Democratic Party at the moment.

Posted by: NeoConVeteran | February 16, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

You will never get republicans to agree that anything proposed by Obama is deficit reduction. And as noted by others here republican policy choices, to the extent that they have any, would exacerbate the recession. Looks a lot like 1937.

Posted by: riva1 | February 16, 2011 11:11 AM | Report abuse

This is an amazing time for America ... we Americans went from a Great can do Nation to a nation of everything is to hard, to complicated, start over, clean sheet of paper ... oh heck ... out source it.
It being anything that is to hard or to complicated for feeble minds to grasp.

Posted by: knjincvc | February 16, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

ElGipper posts February 15, 2011 6:57 PM
"It's quite simple. All he would have to do is back the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission. You know, the one he appointed to solve the problem that his budget completely dodged."

You mean the plan that cuts/privatizes Social Security, cuts taxes on the top 2% but raises them on the middle class.
Of course republicans want to cut Social Security, SS produces a surplus and republicans would like to continue spending surplus SS contributions.
Eliminate the cap on SS earnings, treat all earnings as income then there will be more SS surplus for republicans to spend on wars of choice.

Like you, many Americans are simpletons who get their talking points from millionaires on talk radio and cable TV.

Posted by: knjincvc | February 16, 2011 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Please. Don't look to the Tea Party for any realistic answers to any problems that this country faces.

They aren't interested in realistic solutions to problems.

You know, I wanted to keep adding to this, but that says it all.

Tea Party folks aren't interested in realistic solutions to problems. Period.

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | February 16, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Help me understand this, as I'm not sure I do. Don't current deficit projections take into account the state of the economy? If so, isn't the deficit likely to shrink more significantly as the result of an uptick in the economy spurred by spending than by paltry cuts?

Posted by: jimryanmd | February 15, 2011 6:34 PM | Report abuse
* * * * *
Spot on. Should the economy grow by 6% instead of the 3.9% estimated, the deficit will be a non-issue. Note how we only care about the deficits in the downturns as opposed to when things are humming along. It's because most economists measure the deficit as a percentage of GDP. So, in an economic downturn, the deficit (as a percentage) creeps up. People get panicked, make it an election issue, and...surprise...do nothing about it. Eventually, the economy recovers, and, voila, the deficit as a percentage of GDP is lower, and becomes a non-issue - instead, something like gay marriage or abortion takes center stage. And, yes, spending and tax cuts are a way of giving the economy a shot in the arm. The real battle between D's and R's are spending/tax cut priorities. D's think the government knows best, while R's think unregulated corporations know best - obviously, the truth is somewhere in the middle - but having a two party system brings us dispute instead of solutions.

Posted by: DoubledownDC | February 16, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

THE COMMANDER,viewpoints,The enemy with in, Truth be damned, Obama and THE WEAK-KNEED REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRAT,Wake up america!!!! OBAMA goes about his business by speaking the lie.“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed”Mmslim Barack Hussein Obama people have no idea of the extent to which they have to be gulled in order to be led." OBAMA will use every tool available: school teachers, politicians, news broadcasters, artists, musicians, scientists and doctors, lawyers and businessmen and men who claim to be preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. All will be pressed into the service of OBAMA to deceive men. "All propaganda must be so popular and on such an intellectual level, that even the most stupid of those towards whom it is directed will understand it. Therefore, the intellectual level of the propaganda must be lower the larger the number of people who are to be influenced by it." truth be damned. Obama It would be easier for the Devil to go to church and cross himself with holy water than for these people to comprehend the ideas which are accepted facts to us today.How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think. What good fortune for governments that the people do not think.Is Barack Obama pushing forward dangerous policies that are bringing the United States closer to a socialist dictatorship. Are you even aware?

. The commander, The end of america , GOD HELP US ALL

Posted by: mjski56 | February 16, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I'm not trusting someone named Ezra that doesn't look like he even shaves yet to forecast my financial well being.

Posted by: thebink | February 15, 2011 7:17 PM

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What stupidity! I guess you don't think much of Einstein and consider a GQ or VS model to be the most intelligent person in the world.

Posted by: cmpgm | February 16, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Ezra - the budget commission doesn't have to worry about popularity and attacks with budget recommendations, while the president does. Nobody cares what the commission recommends. It doesn't count for anything. I am certain if Obama had made SS or Medicare cuts central in his budget the Republicans would have back peddled and campaigned that the President is against the people. The Republicans would advocate the exact opposite no matter what. That's exactly what they did in the healthcare debate.

All this waring between the parties prevents meaningful legislation from moving forward at the request of the President. The Republican's goal is to first stop Obama on everything above all, then legislate policy when convenient.

Posted by: gfoster56 | February 16, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Help me understand this, as I'm not sure I do. Don't current deficit projections take into account the state of the economy? If so, isn't the deficit likely to shrink more significantly as the result of an uptick in the economy spurred by spending than by paltry cuts?

Posted by: jimryanmd


Yes they do take into account the state of the economy. If the economy were to perform better than projected, the deficit would most likely shrink, primarily because tax revenues would be higher.
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The hope is that we'll spend our way out of this problem. If the government were to actually reduce spending to match current revenue levels as the economy improves [regardless of gov't spending] the deficit and debt will come down faster.

Unfortunately no one [neither party] is serious about reforming their addiction to spending so this problem will grow and almost never be resolved. The $100 billion being talked about is peanuts - I was told that this year we may have a full year CR [everything you see on TV or hear on radio is stimulus for the media outlets] -- the president held out a Veto threat, the democrats hope to not even consider the modified house bill till first week of March -- current CR runs out March 4th. so it is widely expected that house will pass some bill that is loaded with cuts -- the senate will not pass it in it's form and president will stand to veto the bill and instead what will be passed is an interim CR extension that runs up to May/June. In June they'll conclude there is not much time to implement any cuts for this fiscal year so we'll have a full year CR and it will be back to square-1 for the 2012 budget.

... could be wrong ... let's see how much these people can surprise us all.

Posted by: free_np | February 16, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm a hard punching liberal, and everyone here is missing one critical ingredient, one Republicans simply love to pretend doesn't exist, and will completely stifle any growth, even if were 10% annually.

So what am I talking about? I'm talking about military/financial/inustrial elite who are still fleecing/raping Middle America of enough taxation to really make a dent in our $14 trillion debt. Yes I know we have considerable assets, unfortunately these assets will never even be seen, let alone comfort the majority of Americans, and echoes the Reagan disaster, which really (like always) only benefits a tiny fraction of mega wealthy thieves. These mostly Republican royals, continue to outsource, trim, and invest labor in third world nations, and Obama's caving to their ILLEGAL tax breaks (It's The Greatest Theft of Middle America EVER), can and will destroy any growth we have, even if it's better than modest.

Like I tell everyone, when the powerful have over 80% of a country's overall wealth cornered, have half of our country's constituents brainwashed and voting against their own self interests, and neither political party will assert a true list of ranked priorities that will significantly cut into our astronomical debt, there will be nothing more than a decline and sooner destruction of the greatest nation ever on this planet.

And my fellow Americans here, you're emphatically ignorant, lazy, racist, with zero ability to comprehend even the simplist of political ideas; let's just be honest, you're just plain stupd haters that are incapable of critical thought. And it stinks to high hell how weak willed you are, when considering how many brainwashed Muslims are coming together to end imperial tryanny. I am sad saying it, but by the time things are bad enough to see our demise, it will be far too late to fix this country without destroying the lives of pretty much anyone in the Middle Class. And you ignorant hicks here, democracy without socialism is the worst mix capitalis brews: A Fascist Plutocracy not seen since the Dark Ages.

Posted by: ElPavoReal | February 16, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

NeoCon, did you fall asleep from 2000-2008 ? Can you recall two wars, two tax cuts, and TARP. The Dems didn't create this mess. The Bush administration, Republican stupidity and their non-existent fiscal planing did. Look at the numbers, its fact. Do some research. Its really sad that people take after FOX NEWS, all opinion, no facts. Whats even sadder is people believe that garbage and run around repeating like its on replay.

Posted by: hson8118 | February 16, 2011 8:45 PM | Report abuse

The democrats DO NOT want to cut anything. Money is power and these power crazed leftists want to impose "cradle to the grave" policies on people that can think and don't want it and those too stupid to think for themselves and actually believe the government actually cares about their welfare. What is true is the costs involved here are a direct correlation to freedoms we are losing. Thomas Jefferson stated that once votes become available for sale, which the current crop of leftists want, a Republic is finished

Posted by: nomobarry | February 19, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

The President wants to be remembered with FDR not as the Herbert Hoover of the 21st century. Until we are sure that the recovery has traction, there is no incentive to cut the deficit--there will be plenty of time for that, along with enhanced revenue, as the economy grows.

Posted by: samkaplan@hotmail.com | February 22, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

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