To be fair, Obama is right: Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that Congress has to declare kinetic military action.
The Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the president’s budget. It projects that the last budget of this presidential term will feature a deficit of $1.2 trillion. Obama will be the first president to run trillion-dollar deficits four years in a row. Federal debt as a share of the economy will rise remorselessly. (It hits 80 percent by 2016.) President Obama is not responsible for enacting the entitlements that are driving these trends. But instead of constructively reforming them — and imposing steeper price controls on Medicare does not count as such — Obama has in recent weeks been lecturing state governments on the need to avoid painful budget cuts. No sale: The states have to balance their budgets.
For fiscal year 2011, White House figures show that mandatory federal spending (i.e., entitlements) will exceed total federal revenues. In other words, even if discretionary spending — stuff like defense, law enforcement, transportation, parks, and imposing race and gender quotas — were cut to zero, there would still be a deficit. What is most impressive is how quickly this has happened: Just four years ago, revenues exceeded mandatory spending by $1.1 trillion. The old joke was that entitlements were going to make the federal government a senior-citizens’ program with a couple of tanks. Increasingly it looks as though we cannot afford the tanks.
Two longshots signaled their interest in becoming the next Republican presidential nominee: Donald Trump and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Trump is taking positions well to the right of where he stood the last time he dabbled in presidential politics. So far the themes of his campaign are that President Obama may not have been born in the U.S. and that we can revive our economy by cracking down on Chinese imports. Bachmann is a much more serious figure. Her vigorous critiques of Obama have won her conservative support across the country. Our preference in presidential candidates is for people who have shown that they can win a statewide election, or a world war. We suspect that Republican primary voters, whatever else they think of these candidates’ merits, will share that preference.
The reelection campaign of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) hit turbulence over her private jet. First, Politico reported that the senator had dropped $76,000 of taxpayer money on jaunts on a plane she partially owned. After McCaskill reimbursed the Treasury, muckrakers discovered that she had used the jet for political purposes — a big no-no in congressional ethics books. Then the senator confessed that she owed $287,000 in property taxes on the plane. Three days later we learned — whoops, sorry — she meant $320,000, including interest and penalties. Now McCaskill has resolved to sell “the damn plane.” But Republicans are gleefully reminding her of her remarks during the 2006 campaign, when she styled herself the Mrs. Clean candidate: “If my walk doesn’t match my talk, then shame on me and don’t ever vote for me again.” If you say so, senator.
An ABC/Washington Post poll found that 53 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage. But don’t believe it. For one thing, respondents seem to tell interviewers that they favor same-sex marriage because they think it’s what they are supposed to say. Their answers are more negative when voting or responding to robo-polls. The question was also flawed: “Do you think it should be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married?” Of course nobody is proposing to throw same-sex couples in jail for getting a friendly Unitarian minister to hold a ceremony for them, or for calling themselves married in social settings. We do not think that this behavior should be “illegal” or, to use another misleading word bandied about in this debate, “banned.” What we oppose is official recognition of these unions, since such recognition would undermine the core purpose of marriage law, which is to link procreation to stable households. The poll is not evidence that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage. It is, however, evidence that its supporters have succeeded in setting the terms of debate.