The Campaign Spot

Okay, Mr. President, How About a Slightly Less Imbalanced Budget?

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Obama: We Don’t Want a Balanced Budget Just for the Sake of Balance

When it comes to chasing a balanced budget, President Obama is not exactly Inspector Javert (or Samuel Gerard, depending on your pop-culture frame of reference). But he admitted Tuesday he was never really trying that hard:

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, President Obama rejected calls to balance the federal budget in the next ten years and instead argued that his primary economic concern was not balancing the budget, but rather growing the economy.

“My goal is not to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance. My goal is how do we grow the economy, put people back to work, and if we do that we are going to be bringing in more revenue,” he said.

“We noticed,” the guys at Weasel Zippers quip.

In the broadest sense, Obama is right: A country with the economic resources and general stability that the United States has enjoyed through much of its history can afford to run a deficit. Wiser minds than me argue that the real measuring stick is the debt-to-GDP ratio.

Our debt is . . . $16,703,943,129,416.14, as of Monday. That’s $16.7 trillion.

Our nominal GDP is $15.6 trillion. Oof.

Looking at the inflation-adjusted numbers for our annual deficit, year by year . . . you know what used to be considered “a lot”? $500 billion, in 2004. (That year, unadjusted for inflation, it came in at $413 billion.) Back in 1991, it came in at $453 billion. So a half a trillion was the pre-Obama all-time high.

Now look at the Obama era: $1.5 Trillion in 2009, $1.36 trillion in 2010, $1.32 trillion in 2011, $1.1 trillion in 2012. We’re supposed to be really happy that this year it might come in under a trillion, in the $900 billion range.

In other words, the best Obama has done is twice as bad as it’s ever been.

No, we don’t need a perfectly balanced budget — which is one of the reasons I’m pretty “meh” on the notion of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. But we’ve got to get the annual deficit something closer to “only” a couple hundred billion each year.

Anyway, if you were hoping for a grand bargain, rest assured that congressional Democrats will be every bit as helpful on entitlement reform as we’ve come to expect:

Some liberals challenged Obama on his frequently repeated call to include entitlement savings in any grand bargain. Sen. Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, reiterated his opposition to adopting a less generous cost-of-living formula to calculate Social Security benefits.

“We were cautioning him about that: Be careful about this grand bargain,” said Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa. But, he told reporters, Obama informed them “that’s something that’s still open for negotiation.”

Obama did not promise the caucus that he would oppose raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare, an issue Harkin brought up during the meeting. “He didn’t make a commitment,” said Harkin, “but he seemed to indicate that yes, there are other ways of solving the entitlement problem without doing things like that.”

Notice this cute line in the Washington Post’s short write-up: “Obama plans to release his own budget plan in April, two months after the president is required to announce his budget priorities to Congress.”

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Replacing Ginsburg

While we did not agree with many of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s views about the Constitution or the judicial function, we never doubted her industry, dedication, gumption, civility, or patriotism. We send our condolences to all who mourn her passing. Justice Ginsburg almost certainly had more fans than any ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Replacing Ginsburg

While we did not agree with many of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s views about the Constitution or the judicial function, we never doubted her industry, dedication, gumption, civility, or patriotism. We send our condolences to all who mourn her passing. Justice Ginsburg almost certainly had more fans than any ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Barr Is Right About the Prosecution Power

Attorney General Bill Barr gave a speech at Hillsdale College on Wednesday that attracted a lot of attention. Much of that attention was for his ill-considered remark (in a question-and-answer session following the speech) that "Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, [the pandemic lockdowns ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Barr Is Right About the Prosecution Power

Attorney General Bill Barr gave a speech at Hillsdale College on Wednesday that attracted a lot of attention. Much of that attention was for his ill-considered remark (in a question-and-answer session following the speech) that "Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, [the pandemic lockdowns ... Read More

Snobs or Mobs?

A   lot of us were feeling pretty good about the future of the media in late September of 2004. Dan Rather and the CBS news division had just tried to derail George W. Bush’s reelection campaign with some genuine fake news — based on fake documents — and, in spite of the manful attempts of ... Read More

Snobs or Mobs?

A   lot of us were feeling pretty good about the future of the media in late September of 2004. Dan Rather and the CBS news division had just tried to derail George W. Bush’s reelection campaign with some genuine fake news — based on fake documents — and, in spite of the manful attempts of ... Read More

The Mystery of Robert E. Lee

No one who ever met Robert Edward Lee -- whatever the circumstances of the meeting -- failed to be impressed by the man. From his earliest days as a cadet at West Point, through 25 years as an officer in the U.S. Army’s Corps of Engineers and six more as a senior cavalry officer, and then as the supreme ... Read More

The Mystery of Robert E. Lee

No one who ever met Robert Edward Lee -- whatever the circumstances of the meeting -- failed to be impressed by the man. From his earliest days as a cadet at West Point, through 25 years as an officer in the U.S. Army’s Corps of Engineers and six more as a senior cavalry officer, and then as the supreme ... Read More
World

Jared Kushner Was Right

Over the past several years, a new certainty was added to death and taxes: Jared Kushner would fail in his role as the administration’s Middle East point man. It caused considerable merriment among President Donald Trump’s critics (and even some of his well-wishers) when he put his son-in-law in charge of ... Read More
World

Jared Kushner Was Right

Over the past several years, a new certainty was added to death and taxes: Jared Kushner would fail in his role as the administration’s Middle East point man. It caused considerable merriment among President Donald Trump’s critics (and even some of his well-wishers) when he put his son-in-law in charge of ... Read More
Film & TV

The Convictions of Jim Caviezel

‘I didn't get invited by Hollywood to come to this industry,” actor Jim Caviezel says. It was God — not the executives, the talent agents, nor the filmmakers — that gave him his acting talent. “God believed in me, that He wanted me to be an actor. I felt it in my heart very deeply.” A man of deep ... Read More
Film & TV

The Convictions of Jim Caviezel

‘I didn't get invited by Hollywood to come to this industry,” actor Jim Caviezel says. It was God — not the executives, the talent agents, nor the filmmakers — that gave him his acting talent. “God believed in me, that He wanted me to be an actor. I felt it in my heart very deeply.” A man of deep ... Read More