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Archive for February 13th, 2012

President Obama’s budget proposal was unveiled today, generating all sorts of conflicting statements from both parties.

Some of the assertions wrongly focus on red ink rather than the size of government. Others rely on dishonest Washington budget math, which means spending increases magically become budget cuts simply because outlays are growing at a slower rate than previously planned.

When you strip away all the misleading and inaccurate rhetoric, here’s the one set of numbers that really matters. If we believe the President’s forecasts (which may be a best-case scenario), the burden of federal spending will grow by $2 trillion between this year and 2022.

In all likelihood, the actual numbers will be worse than this forecast.

The President’s budget, for instance, projects that the burden of federal spending will expand by less than 1 percent next year. That sounds like good news since it would satisfy Mitchell’s Golden Rule.

But don’t believe it. If we look at the budget Obama proposed last year, federal spending was supposed to fall this year. Yet the Obama Administration now projects that outlays in 2012 will be more than 5 percent higher than they were in 2011.

The most honest assessment of the budget came from the President’s Chief of Staff, who openly stated that, “the time for austerity is not today.”

With $2 trillion of additional spending (and probably more), that’s the understatement of the century.

What makes this such a debacle is that other nations have managed to impose real restraints on government budgets. The Baltic nations have made actual cuts to spending. And governments in Canada, New Zealand, Slovakia, and Ireland generated big improvements by either freezing budgets or letting them grow very slowly.

I’ve already pointed out that the budget could be balanced in about 10 years if the Congress and the President displayed a modest bit of fiscal discipline and allowed spending to grow by no more than 2 percent annually.

But the goal shouldn’t be to balance the budget. We want faster growth, more freedom, and constitutional government. All of these goals (as well as balancing the budget) are made possible by reducing the burden of federal spending.

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I’m getting very frustrated. I  spend too much time reminding my supposed allies that America’s fiscal problem is too much government. Deficits and debt, I constantly explain, are best understood as symptoms, whereas a bloated public sector is the underlying disease.

Even people who are very solid on fiscal policy make the mistake of sometimes focusing too much on red ink rather than the size of government, including Senator Jim DeMint, Mark Steyn of National Review, Representative Paul Ryan, and my old friends at the Heritage Foundation.

So I’ve decided to create a new award. But unlike my other awards, which are exercises in narcissism (Mitchell’s Law, Mitchell’s Golden Rule), I’m naming this award after former Senator Bob Dole.

The message is very simple. Whenever people complain about red ink, even if they are genuine advocates of small government, they give leftists an opportunity to say that higher taxes are a solution.

That’s bad politics and bad policy. And since Bob Dole excelled in both those ways, you can understand why his name is linked to the award.

Naming the award after Bob Dole also is appropriate since he was never a sincere advocate of limited government. The Kansas lawmaker was a career politician who said in his farewell speech that his three greatest achievements were a) creating the food stamp program, b) increasing payroll taxes, and c) imposing the Americans with Disabilities Act (no wonder I wanted Clinton to win in 1996).

For all of these reasons, and more, no real conservative should want to win an award linked to Bob Dole.

So I’m putting the policy world on notice. If you say the wrong thing – even if your heart is in the right place, you may win this booby prize.

This video has further information on why the real fiscal problem is excessive government spending. Deficits also are bad, the video explains, but they are best understood as a bad consequence of big government (with high taxes being the other bad consequence).

One last point, for those who are still fixated on red ink, is that nations that do the right thing on spending also tend to be the ones who reduce deficits and debt.

Not that this should come as a surprise. The best way to get rid of symptoms is to cure the disease that causes them.

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