Mad magazine, long a trove of adolescent humor, features a goofy kid named Alfred E. Neuman whose famous saying - "What, Me Worry?" - became the ironic tag-line of the Baby Boom generation. The irony has ripened since the ongoing retirement of the boomers has played a key part in putting the nation on a perilous path toward bankruptcy.
But so has our national leadership, which hasn't taken up the necessary reforms of Social Security, Medicare and other safety net spending programs that are growing faster than the nation's income.
For years one of the few adults in the Animal House of national politics, the Congressional Budget Office, has been telling us, in the words of its most recent "Long Range Budget Outlook," that along with inevitably higher taxes, "the high and rising amount of debt that CBO projects would have significant negative consequences for both the economy and the federal budget." And entitlement cuts are essential to debt reduction.
The crunch will become particularly severe 20 years from now. Recent austerity moves by Congress to reduce spending in non-entitlement programs like defense and other government services only postpone the inevitable reckoning a few years, at the cost of weakening the nation in numerous ways.
And as Greece and many other recent cases tell us, when the crunch comes, people will be taking to the streets.
It is a job of the president - some might say his most important job - to alert the nation to its perils and prepare it for any sacrifices needed to keep the ship of state on course.
But President Barack Obama's new budget, which by law requires him to project its effects into the future, takes no notice of the impending collision that will occur if there is no course correction.
Like all of this president's budgets since 2009, the one released Tuesday simply ignores the long-term consequences of further increasing entitlements and further cutting defense to make room for other domestic programs. It is the "What, Me Worry?" budget.
Well, at least, why worry about the long run, when he will be out of office anyhow?
For now, Job One for this president apparently is not the long-run fiscal health of the nation but the short-term goal of getting Democrats elected in November.
Don't take our word for it. Review this assessment from The New York Times: The new White House budget "stands as a platform for Democrats to run on in this election year.... [It] seeks to energize Democratic voters with populist proposals like a more generous tax credit for the working poor, paid for with higher taxes on the rich."
It proposes other populist spending increases to be paid for by slashing defense spending to the lowest level, relative to national income, since 1940. That's a reckless policy in a world full of menaces - not only terrorists, but Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and others.
And this budget offers no presidential hand across the aisle, no offer to make common cause with Republicans to solve the nation's pressing fiscal problems.
Instead, to lawmakers who have for years pleaded with President Obama to take the very real entitlements crisis and its consequences seriously and make proposals for reform, the response might as well be, "What, Me Worry?"
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