As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama's Budget Hawkery - Ending Corporate Welfare

There are excerpts of the President's address floating around, and most of it is pretty standard stuff: the rah-rah lines about how America "will emerge (from the economic crisis) stronger than before"; campaign talk about how the economic turmoil is a reckoning for the short-sighted and the laissez-faire crowd; the urgency of making investments in the key challenges of the future, in "areas like energy, health care, and education"; how a budget is "a blueprint for our future." But there are a few paragraphs about fiscal responsibility that I would like to highlight.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.

Given these realities, everyone in this chamber – Democrats and Republicans – will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me.

But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.

Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we’re starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.

In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them. We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use. We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

I don't know what he means by "education programs that don't work," but I know exactly what he's talking about with the rest, and those are things that should have been cleaned up years ago. I haven't heard the phrase "reform our defense budget" come out of a President's lips in a long time, probably since Eisenhower. Obama is taking on bloated military spending, contractor fraud in Iraq, corporate welfare and Medicare Advantage. That's quite a chunk of change.

And I'm assuming this will segue into how reducing health care spending is the only path to fiscal stability and yes, Liz Sidoti, you magnificent idiot, "the single most pressing fiscal challenge we face by far." (She lied and said Obama was talking about Social Security.) The fiscal scolds may not like it - maybe that's why they got uninvited to the White House - but Obama's team is pressing the case that health care reform is crucial to the long-term budgeting process, and that only through a cost-controlling universal health care plan can we bring the budget in line.

I understand that calling to slice the budget in half during this precarious time may not be very smart in the long-term. And calling for austerity and shared sacrifice just doesn't seem like the right message. However, the spending Obama wants to eliminate really is truly wasteful, and a lot of it just goes into the pockets of corporate executives and heightens inequality. The broad view may not look so good, but based on these specifics I am completely comfortable with it.

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