Saturday, January 19, 2013

Obama's budget dilemma

Obama has a constitutional requirement to submit a budget. It makes sense, but I didn't realize this was a constitutional requirement. [Correction, it's not a constitutional requirement--see comments below.]

So many times the budgets have been DOA (dead on arrival), so they didn't matter. The budgets were ridiculed, often well-deserved, and the real deals were worked out as continuing resolutions (CR). We've been funding our federal spending with continuing resolutions are several years in a row, and we've probably done that before under other presidents too. Big deal, what's the difference, meh...

This time the GOP is trying to make this budget matter. Their new stance is that the budget has to be something that can pass, so it will have to include enough cuts to satisfy the GOP-controlled House, and Obama will have to name the cuts.

Last year Obama offered a ridiculous, partisan budget which didn't receive a single vote (if that right-wing talking point is true). By the way, it didn't matter because the debt ceiling deal of August 2011 had settled the spending questions: there was going to be a CR describing the federal expenditures for 2012. It was settled, minor squabbles aside.

Obama's Challenge
So, this year Obama has to decide:
  • Is he going to present another partisan budget that goes nowhere, or
  • Is he going to present a real budget that can be the basis of negotiations?
I don't know which Obama is going to choose. I can tell you one thing, though, I'm not holding my breath waiting for the second/better option. Obama has disappointed when it comes to forward thinking.

Equal Opportunity Challenge
It's really too bad. I believe that the first party that develops a reasonable budget wins big for being realistic and credible leaders. They have a great chance to guide our governmental focus for the next generation. Yet no one is leaping up to do it out of fear of  'owning the cuts' and taking the backlash.

I don't think that's what will happen. The backlash won't land on the reasonable, it will land on the most unreasonable. The Dems won the 2012 election because they negotiated in 2011, and they showed that they were ready and willing to settle on a reasonable compromise. In the 2012 campaign, they sounded like they weren't going to reverse that compromise in 2013 if reelected.

The Republicans have yet to show that they will negotiate. They end up in negotiation, but too late, only after the Dems show they won't simply capitulate. It's no wonder the GOP didn't win the presidency. Who wants to give too much power to people like that?

So, Mr. Obama, please recognize that you can take that big step and grab the mantle of a reasonable, clear-thinking leader. You'll never have a better chance to do this, because, ha!, you've already been reelected. Do it. Lead on this one.

(Still not holding my breath. It's less than a 50% chance. Lots of room to be pleasantly surprised,  though.)

Hasn't happened yet. Will it?


Truth > Spin said...

MP - first you tell me the Constitution can't be opened for change because it is too risky and then via your blog you rewrite it to a new executive mandate.

I should know better than to disagree with those who buy ink (server space) by the barrel. :)

ModeratePoli said...


I think you're stretching my advice to Obama to make a joke, one so oblique I'm not following it.

But that sparks a question. Are there any types of insider jokes they only tell in DC? Of sort "Knock-knock" or "how many senators does it take to..." If so, please do share.

Truth > Spin said...

I'll have to think about jokes, but my point was that you've ascribed an obligation for the Executive that the Constitution does not contain.

It's federal law, as part of the code, but isn't a Constitutional requirement.

ModeratePoli said...

@truth, that was oblique that first time, and crystal clear the second. Thanks for the correction.

Yes, I don't want to monkey with the Constitution and add in things that were never there. That would be horrible, and we know who does that...

Truth > Spin said...

So are you a Strict Constructionist then in interpretation? Or do you want the document to live only via the readings of Senate confirmed wise men (and Latinas)?

To be more clear, if you think the document says something or that it ought to say something, why not put that into black and white?

Don't you think we could all benefit from deciding for once and for all (until next time) whether the Constitution protects the right for private, individual citizens to own firearms and to what degree, if any, that can be curtailed?

Or how about whether indefinite detention of suspected terrorists or evil doers is allowable?

Or whether a fetus can be terminated, and under what conditions?

Don't you think we could all use some black and white on those and other matters?

Or a zillion other things. Not all of them need to end up in the Constitution, but the action of deciding not to include them is also a clear signal that the issue is going to be left up to the prudence of legislators and justices.

I understand the risks, but my view is that the risk of continuing as we are is greater. I'd accept some bad outcomes from my perspective in order to gain some certainty and the chance to gain positive outcomes.

I think too that the process of a convention itself could be a boon to civic engagement and thought.

Anastasios said...


I, for one, do not agree in any shape, form, or fashion that such questions should be clearly answered in the constitution, whether or not their are frequent rewrites. The very root and branch of our difficulty lies in a far too rigid written constitution, and the far too rigid and unworkable systems it enshrines. Only the limited flexibility of the political system and court decisions has held the poorly-conceived mess together, and even that failed in 1860 in the face of a constitutional system that was too rigid to deal with slavery and the issues rising around it. So please God, no attempts to explicitly deal with these issues in the text of the constitution. The reprehensible stupidity of the second amendment is quite enough, thank you very much!