Commentary Magazine


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Chocolate Cake and Other Childish Things

On the subject of the proposed pay-as-you-go rules, the Washington Post editors compare the president to a wishful dieter who insists that his “regular consumption includes four gooey slices of chocolate cake daily — which you have no intention of giving up.” They note that the exceptions to PAYGO swallow the rule. It doesn’t include discretionary spending and it has ”four whopping exceptions to the pay-as-you-go rule: extending most of the Bush tax cuts, keeping the estate tax at its current level, preventing the alternative minimum tax from hitting more taxpayers, and increasing Medicare payments to doctors. This adds up to a $2.8 trillion loophole over 10 years.” The Post editors are tired of the excuses:

[T]he president’s self-congratulatory back-patting about fiscal rectitude is more than a bit hard to take in light of the huge exceptions he would grant. Yes, the president inherited a budget in arrears, an economy in tatters and a tax system that is unsustainable as written. It was necessary to add to the deficit in the short term to jolt the economy back to life. The House has these four exemptions in its pay-as-you-go rule; even without the Obama exceptions, there was no reasonable hope that these costs would be paid for.

Yet Mr. Obama’s professions of being willing to make hard choices are belied by his failure to adjust his spending plans to budgetary reality. Something will need to give — either raising significantly more revenue or dramatically scaling back government. He doesn’t deserve much credit for a pay-as-you-go proposal that elides this reality instead of confronting it.

What’s more — the president is making it worse on a daily basis. Buying car companies and expanding healthcare coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans is going to make our fiscal picture even bleaker. Again and again we come back to reality. The president projects an aura of “responsibility” and grown-up sobriety, but his actions suggest otherwise. How long before the media stop cooing over his speeches and rhetoric and start asking tough questions? Here’s one: why is he embarking on a $1.2 trillion new healthcare plan when we are already broke?