Commentary Magazine


Hocus Pocus Time

Not even the Washington Post editors are keeping a straight face when describing this week’s “fiscal responsibility summit”:

The fiscal responsibility summit that Mr. Obama announced with fanfare has turned into something of a fiscal responsibility improv, a slapdash affair in which invitations were being issued as late as Friday. It seems destined to end up being yet another gabfest about the dire fiscal situation — albeit a presidential-level gabfest.

The main problem, of course, is that no one is being the least bit fiscally responsible, at least not any time soon. The Post editors explain, “To be clear, we’re not talking about making cuts now; the economy needs boosting, and deficit spending is in order. But the large gap between revenue and spending must eventually be closed.” Eventually.

But the Obama administration has not yet gotten ramped up. A trillion or more on the stimulus plan, an equal or greater amounts on the bank and mortgage bailouts, and then health care legislation which is still deemed to be a high priority. So what’s he going to do to demonstrate his devotion to fiscal discipline? Why, raise taxes and cut defense, of course. But that doesn’t pass the straight face test either. Plainly we aren’t radically reducing troops or costs in Iraq any time soon and we are increasing both in Afghanistan. Even the New York Times admits:

As for war costs, Mr. Obama’s campaign projected that withdrawing combat troops from Iraq would save about $90 billion a year. But it is not clear how much any savings would be offset by increased spending in Afghanistan, where Mr. Obama has ordered an additional 17,000 troops, bringing the total there to 56,000.

All this smoke and mirrors would be laughable if the consequences for our future economic health weren’t so dire. But for now this bait and switch routine is badly in need of a catchy phrase. Perhaps “hocus pocus budgeting.” Or maybe we should just call it what it is: dishonest and irresponsible.

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