Is the President in Recovery?
Victor Davis Hanson
President Obama does not care much about deficits -- other than worrying that big debt might matter in his re-election campaign.
In his first three budgets, Obama borrowed nearly
In other words, under Obama, the government during the last three years has borrowed on average about
Apparently in Obama's worldview there are advantages to deficits that explain his fondness for unprecedented borrowing. In Keynesian terms, massive government red ink is supposed to foster economic prosperity by creating goods and services that a purportedly less efficient private sector cannot.
The administration certainly has added an additional 100,000 federal jobs and expanded food stamps to nearly 50 million recipients -- and in the process enlarged the pool of potentially grateful constituents. This belief in the superior wisdom of the state explains why almost all the Cabinet secretaries in the Obama administration came out of state or federal government, not from private enterprise.
Massive deficits not only empower more federal hiring and entitlements, but at some point lead to higher taxes. This gorge-the-beast notion is the flip-side of the Reagan-era idea of "starving the beast" of big government by cutting federal revenue through reduced tax rates
Higher taxes to Obama are not necessarily bad if they serve to redistribute income from the affluent to the less well off -- a sort of "spread the wealth" government way of addressing the supposedly inherent unfairness of private-sector compensation.
So why, then, has Obama suddenly turned to deficit reduction?
In a word, politics: The downside of massive borrowing finally outweighed the upside of bigger government.
That political anxiety explains why suddenly Obama is now referencing his long-neglected Bowles-Simpson commission on fiscal responsibility and reform -- as if the former public relations move is suddenly welcome proof of the president's long-held fiscal sobriety and sincerity.
The mega-borrowing also did not lead to the robust economic recovery of the cyclical sort that usually follows a steep recession. Unemployment is still at 9.2 percent. GDP remains anemic. Energy prices are still sky-high. The housing market continues to be depressed. Consumer and business confidence is flat.
Finally, it is almost impossible to find any major economist who still argues for greater deficits. Those who once advocated printing our way out of the doldrums --
Note that there is no current example that might suggest big deficit spending leads to national prosperity. The unsustainable debts of
So opposition to the president's budget proposals amounts to more than just a know-nothing rant about no taxes, period. The unease reflects genuine puzzlement -- and, yes, anger -- over a president addicted to debt, who suddenly wants to preach to others about their responsibility to pay back what he once so zealously advocated that we should borrow.
In short, those in recovery rarely make good puritans.
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