Passing the fiscal buck — again
Friday’s spectacle of blatant fiscal irresponsibility was all too familiar. Despite having a year and half to meet deficit-reduction goals required to avoid sequestered budget cuts, our elected officials in Washington didn’t get that long-overdue job done.
Thus, in accordance with the 2011 debt-ceiling deal, the missed deadline prompted the start of spending reductions that would total 2.2 percent of the federal budget if they continue.
Another familiar scenario:
The president again passed the buck Friday for this latest basic failure by both the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government.
He even took a shot at lawmakers from his own party. After reprising his stale complaints against Republicans’ refusal to go along with tax “reforms” that would, in effect, impose tax hikes, he said: “Democrats aren’t doing anything either to compromise.”
Yet the president exempted one particular Democrat from that complaint — himself.
As he put it: “There are members of my party who violently disagree that anything should be done on Medicare. I disagree with them.”
He even asserted that he has “put forward a plan that has serious spending cuts, serious entitlement reform.”
In fact, the president has repeatedly opposed the hard decisions needed — including benefit cuts and eligibility age increases — to overhaul entitlements.
In his second inaugural speech last month, he even proclaimed: “The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us.”
As for those “serious spending cuts” in the 10-year deal that averted the fiscal cliff on Jan. 1, hardly any of them are scheduled to take effect until eight years from now.
Yes, it was up to Congress to pass legislation making the cuts necessary to avert sequestration reductions.
However, President Obama could have — and should have — taken a leadership role to find middle ground, rather than extending what appears to be his endless campaign mode.
The president again decried Republican resistance to tax hikes Friday. But keep in mind that the GOP went along with $600 billion in tax increases in that fiscal-cliff agreement just two months ago.
Keep in mind, too, what Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles wrote Friday on the MarketWatch website. They were co-chairs of the president’s bipartisan debt commission, which two years ago issued solid recommendations that he has failed to champion.
Looking beyond the current uproar over the sequester, Mr. Simpson and Mr. Bowles grimly predicted “more small-ball solutions that mostly kick the can down the road a little while longer.”
They also pointed out that despite the “pain” the $85 billion in spending cuts the sequester will inflict, they will do “almost nothing to deal with the long-term drivers of our growing debt.”
And they again urged the president and Congress “to put politics aside and work quickly to replace sequestration and put our fiscal house in order with targeted cuts and real reforms in both the entitlement programs and the tax code.”
Unfortunately, though, Washington’s fiscal vision remains dangerously out of focus.
And that’s a long-term hazard with potential consequences far more alarming than $85 billion in cuts from a $3.8 trillion budget.