President Barack Obama decried the “mindless austerity” of sequestered budget cuts this week. And it is a national disgrace when Congress — and the president — resort to across-the-board spending reductions as the only politically viable means of restraining federal spending.
But before accepting Mr. Obama’s proposal for a whopping 7 percent boost in the U.S. budget, consider the “mindless” pattern that has added nearly $7.5 trillion to the national debt since he became president.
Many Democrats like President Obama and many Republicans like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham do rightly agree that the sequestration process abdicates elected officials’ duty to set wise budgetary priorities the old-fashioned way — on specific merits.
However, when the president of the nation with world history’s biggest national debt ($18.1 trillion and rising as of Friday) disparages “austerity,” he sounds ideologically mired in a potentially disastrous big government mindset.
Simply put, unless the United States has somehow become the first nation ever to indulge, in effect, in the long-term printing of massive amounts of money without lasting consequence, we must stop spending wildly beyond our means.
In fairness to President Obama, our profligate ways didn’t start on his watch — and the deficit has dropped in each of the last two years.
Even so, the 2014 red-ink count of $485 billion was the sixth highest in U.S. history.
And though the Congressional Budget Office projected last week that the deficit will continue to decline for two more years, it’s then expected to steeply rise again.
That’s largely due to the swelling ranks of Baby Boomer retirees, an inescapable numbers crunch that will impose rising demands on Medicare and Social Security.
So yes, “austerity” shouldn’t be “mindless” — and elected officials in Washington shouldn’t hide behind across-the-board budget cuts instead of choosing where and how to match incoming revenue to outgoing expenditures.
Yet the biggest menace to America’s economic future remains mindless allegiance to unsustainable federal financial obligations.
And that threat intensifies with every attempt by both partisan sides to shift the blame across the aisle.
Many Democrats, including the president, typically pitch the stale myth that we can right our fiscal ship by simply taxing “the rich.”
Many Republicans play a similarly self-serving game by resisting any and all attempts to increase federal revenue with — brace yourselves — tax hikes.
However, unless enough members of both parties summon the courage to find responsible middle ground for comprehensive tax and entitlement reforms, the political challenge of that task will keep intensifying — as will the self-inflicted peril to America’s economic future.
So by all means, Congress and the president should be less “mindless” and more mindful in budgeting our money.
They also should remember that “austerity” is not a bad word.