Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Method To His Madness

In case you missed the the rollout of the President's budget proposal for next year on Monday, that massive thud you heard wasn't necessarily a stone falling into place. (Although, it's possible it could have been the first stone in the new Egyptian pyramid of democracy.)

The sound you heard was likely your nearest passionate progressive or liberal passing out in shock - or kicking a door in frustration - as they heard the President's budget plans.

To say that its contents - what we've read of the proposed budget so far, that is - were a significant shock to us, would be a bit of an understatement. Like an actor in a play who goes a bit too far, we have to admit, at first glance, The President's proposal includes some stunning actions - like cutting heating assistance for the poor.

Writer and pundit Greg Sargent, who writes for the Plum Line blog as a part of the Washington Post, points out that for those on the left, the reaction to President Obama's budget proposal seems to be split pretty evenly among two camps. There are those that believe the President has already given up the budgetary game to the GOP. And there are those who believe that the President is playing a high-stakes version of "Rope-A-Dope" with the GOP on budgetary issues, on a level it's rarely been played before.

It's fairly obvious where Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman and investigative journalist Ari Berman see the President's budget, by the tenor of their articles and blog posts. Dr. Krugman is a wise man about economic issues, and we rely on his advice regularly regarding those matters. Ari is also an astute writer on economic issues that we've linked to previously.

What they and so many others seem to be missing however, is what Mr. Sargent, Johnathan Chait - and now us - are saying about this budget proposal.

For all the bluster, commotion, and printing focused on Presidential budget proposals, the fact of the matter is that the document is generally less of an economic vehicle and more of a political one. And as a political document, it's a brilliant one.

No matter how sensible and wise the President is, the current Republican Party leadership is going to attempt to paint Barack Obama as a wild-eyed fanatic. Therefore, there's no reason for President Obama NOT to act like a wild-eyed, budget-cutting fanatic.

One of the biggest problems with drawing a Federal deficit for the American people is that far too many Americans don't understand the truth about the budget already - or have been unwilling to accept it for too long. It's not as though both sides haven't been paring back the budget for most of the last 20 years. They have.

The excess that so many Americans believe is there to cut simply does not exist.

If it takes the President suggesting rash budgetary actions to get Americans to actually pay attention and realize the fact that we, as a country, cannot budget-cut (or tax-cut) our way to prosperity, then we're fine with his bit of political theatre.

We just hope President Obama doesn't forget this play on the budget is all an act, and that the real budgetary battles, specifically, the need to increase revenue - are yet to come.

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