By Brendan Loy
Andrew Sullivan is finally back to blogging after a long health hiatus that stretched back to before the State of the Union address. I’ve been wondering, ever since the SOTU, whether Sullivan would share my disgust at Obama’s abject failure to pivot toward fiscal responsibility in a serious way. I expected that he would. And boy, was I ever right:
[T]he core challenge of this time is not the cost of discretionary spending. Obama knows this; everyone knows this. The crisis is the cost of future entitlements and defense, about which Obama proposes nothing. Yes, there’s some blather. But Obama will not risk in any way any vulnerability on taxes to his right or entitlement spending to his left. He convened a deficit commission in order to throw it in the trash. If I were Alan Simpson or Erskine Bowles, I’d feel duped. And they were duped. All of us who took Obama’s pitch as fiscally responsible were duped.
Conservative readers will doubtless laugh at that boldfaced line, but credit where credit is due: Sullivan is forthrightly acknowledging the very point that you were all dying to make, namely that he was “duped” and is just now coming to see the reality that y’all believe was apparent from the start. This is one of Sullivan’s strengths as a pundit: his willingness to admit when he was wrong. Going forward, I don’t expect we’ll be seeing much more in the way of praise from Sullivan for Obama’s double-super-secret genius. The honeymoon’s over. Anyway, back to Sullivan:
[T]his president is too weak, too cautious, too beholden to politics over policy to lead. In this budget, in his refusal to do anything concrete to tackle the looming entitlement debt, in his failure to address the generational injustice, in his blithe indifference to the increasing danger of default, he has betrayed those of us who took him to be a serious president prepared to put the good of the country before his short term political interests. Like his State of the Union, this budget is good short term politics but such a massive pile of fiscal bulls**t it makes it perfectly clear that Obama is kicking this vital issue down the road.
To all those under 30 who worked so hard to get this man elected, know this: he just screwed you over. He thinks you’re fools. Either the US will go into default because of Obama’s cowardice, or you will be paying far far more for far far less because this president has no courage when it counts. He let you down. On the critical issue of America’s fiscal crisis, he represents no hope and no change. Just the same old Washington politics he once promised to end.
Ouch. See also Ezra Klein, who writes of Obama’s seemingly thrown-under-the-bus Simpson-Bowles deficit commission:
What was notable about the Fiscal Commission’s final report was the way it opened up the playing field on the budget. It went after tax revenues, tax expenditures, the military, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, domestic spending, government reform and more. Most everyone disagreed with some of the specifics in the report, but plenty of folks on both sides of the aisle were happy to see so many cows demoted from sacred status. The report itself stood little chance of passing — it couldn’t even get the required 14 of 18 votes on the commission — but it heralded, many thought, a more open and honest budget debate, where things like entitlements and the mortgage-interest tax deduction could finally be discussed plainly.
Guess not. The president’s 2012 budget dodges on almost all of that. Entitlements are left alone. So, broadly speaking, are tax deductions… The military cuts are exactly what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said they should be, and they’re really not cuts at all: Just slight reductions in the rate of spending growth. The big attack is on the 12 percent of the budget known as non-defense discretionary spending, which is what politicians in Washington always like to focus on, and what the commission’s report was trying to move the discussion past. It’s like the Fiscal Commission never happened.
Slate’s John Dickerson, meanwhile, wonders whether there are secret, behind-the-scenes budget negotiations either happening or being organized. “If the president isn’t working something behind the scenes, he is falling short of the kind of leadership he promised,” Dickerson writes. He later adds: “If secret negotiations aren’t in the plan or already under way, we’re all sunk.” I’m dubious.