Thursday, February 26, 2009

Budget! Budget! Budget!

I've been fascinated by the politics surrounding our current economic crisis. That's probably why I keep nerding out in these posts. That's also why I'm glad C-SPAN exists. :)

The President just unveiled his budget proposal this morning. It's intense. The $3.5 trillion budget will almost double the deficit. That's a lot of money. There are lots of useful articles that outline the proposal. After listening to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, it seems to be a budget that's incredibly ambitious but also reasonable and defensibly necessary. As an ordinary citizen, I feel confident about trusting the President and his advisers to make the right choices.

Of course I was also interested in the Republican response to this proposal. It comes as no surprise that Senator Gregg of New Hampshire and Congressman Ryan of Wisconsin were hostile to say the least. Through an allusion to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Gregg and Ryan criticized virtually every point of the President's proposal.

While I understand a typical conservative's deep discomfort and horror at such a flurry of spending, I have a problem with the nature of their criticism. Besides the standard suggestion that we take care of Social Security first, I didn't hear anything that wasn't mostly ideologically oriented. In other words, their argument could be summed up like this: "We don't like it because we don't like it." The most frequent jab was at the increase in the size of government that will inevitably result.

It's shocking, in a way, that the GOP continually warns against big government without effectively articulating why that would be such a bad thing...especially since the former two-term Republican president presided over a form of a reduction in the size of government that seems to have accomplished very little. This fact is at the heart of why President Obama won the White House and why many Republicans lost their seats in the House and Senate. The GOP seems to think that a lot of Americans are eager to jump on board the Big Government worry wagon, even when there really haven't been any successful iterations of conservative policy in recent years.

To be fair, the neo-conservative Bush administration didn't really light the fire of fiscal conservatives who were looking for restraint and responsibility. That's precisely why, though, the current rhetoric is so hard to swallow. How can you criticize when you've got no track record? At this point, I hope the President pretty much railroads over those voices and does it his way for a while. Bipartisanship can wait. :)

One last thing. I couldn't help but notice this bizarre comment about Social Security reform from Congressman Ryan today. I'm kind of paraphrasing since I wrote it down from memory, but this is very close to what he actually said. Is it just me, or is there something wrong here?
"We've got to check ideology at the door...but if it involves massive increases in the amount of government, then obviously we're not going to be interested."

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