Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said on Face the Nation over the weekend that President Obama wasn’t serious about the budget. Lest anyone mistake this for partisan sniping, here’s an interesting factoid that drives the charge home: The $4 billion in spending cuts that Congress just approved to avoid a government shutdown amounts to about ten hours of government spending and less than a day of Treasury borrowing. This calculation comes from Bill Buckler, editor of the Australia-based Privateer. Mind you, the cuts were ginned up by a Congress that supposedly is in the grip of austerity-crazed Tea Partiers and Republicans. What it suggests is that the paltry sum hacked from federal outlays may be as good as it gets for anyone hoping The Government will somehow get its act together. Meanwhile, if either a Democrat or a Republican claims to be in favor of reducing the deficit, keep in mind that the sums he or she will be talking about will be in the billions, whereas the deficit itself is mounting into the trillions. As Buckler has noted, “This year, the official budget for the U.S.
government is $3,700,000,000,000. That means the government will spend $10.13 billion every day – weekends and holiday included. The latest official figure for the fiscal 2011 deficit is $1.65 trillion. The U.S. Treasury will borrow nearly 45 cents of every dollar it spends – a total of $4.52 billion every day – weekends and holidays included.”
That’s the reality of it. But when our best and brightest on Capitol Hill attempt to reconcile these numbers with tax revenues, you can bet it will play out as slapstick. The looming Punch-and-Judy show between the big spenders on one side of the aisle and the even bigger spenders on the other side was framed by news stories over the weekend concerning McConnell and such Democratic heavies as Sen. Dick Durbin, an ardent Obama ally, and Sen. John Kerry. Said McConnell, “What I don’t see now is any willingness to do anything that’s difficult.” For his part, Kerry, perhaps emulating the leftist economist Paul Krugman, went all-out to flaunt his economic ignorance in as concise a formulation as possible, ranting that the GOP budget proposal is an “ideological, extremist, reckless statement. If [it] were to be put in place, it would contribute to the reversal of our recovery…[and] deny us the competitiveness that we need to move with China, Indian and other countries into the future.” We gather that Kerry, like Krugman, regards the U.S. Government as an engine of sustainable, healthy growth and thinks the best way to get the economy expanding would be to push Treasury debt from its current $14.2 trillion to…what? $20 trillion? Durbin took another track, suggesting that too much budget-cutting would “push more kids out of school.” Someone ought to tell the kids they’ll need good jobs to pay for teacher health care and pension benefits in the unlikely event the unions carry the day in Wisconsin..
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