Outside the rarefied world of election campaigns, real life grinds on relentlessly.
Big Promises Bump Into Budget Realities
New President Won’t Have an Easy Time Paying for New Initiatives, Fiscal Experts Say
By Lori Montgomery | Washington Post Staff Writer | Saturday, June 21, 2008; Page A01
On the presidential campaign trail, Democrat Barack Obama promises to “completely eliminate” income taxes for millions of Americans, from low-income working families to senior citizens who earn less than $50,000 a year.
Republican John McCain vows to double the exemption for dependents and slash the corporate income tax.
To which the folks who monitor the nation’s financial situation can only say: Good luck. Because, back in Washington, tax collections are slowing, the budget deficit is rising, and the national debt is approaching $10 trillion. Whoever wins the White House this fall, fiscal experts say, is likely to have a tough time enacting expensive new initiatives, be they tax cuts or health care reform. …
President Bush, who seems to be spending his last year in office trying to create a legacy, has already done so, indelibly. He’s going to leave the nation with greater fiscal obligations, and fewer means with which to meet them, mainly due to his Iraq needless nightmare, than ever before.
Former House Budget Committee chairman Leon Panetta, who served as President Bill Clinton‘s first budget director, said the financial situation is “much worse” than it was in 1993, when Clinton was forced to abandon promises of a middle-class tax cut before he took office. Instead, Clinton wound up devoting his first State of the Union address to a plan that aimed to tame rising deficits with one of the largest tax hikes in history.
“It’s worse because there are a huge number of crises out there that are going to confront the new president,” Panetta said, citing costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alongside the rising cost of Social Security and Medicare. “We’re looking at a $400 billion deficit this year with the economy in recession or near recession. The likelihood is that it’s going to get worse. And the fundamental problem has been that there’s very little willpower by Republicans or Democrats to confront the issue.”
Thus, the promises that the candidates are making about the nation’s future, whether they involve new spending initiatives, or tax relief of any kind, are unlikely to survive a nanosecond beyond January 20, 2009, regardless of the election’s winner.
[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]
Now, one doesn’t need to be a certified curMUDGEon to know that campaign promises, especially those regarding spending and taxation, are like Monopoly money: they don’t look remotely like reality, and they certainly wouldn’t buy a stick of gum at your corner Kwik-E-Mart.
I think that most voters treat campaign promises accordingly; we are looking for evidence of character, of underlying substance, of a complementary world view to our own. Specifics are ways to prettify a speech, but are probably not taken too seriously, except for those single-issue voters (“end the war immediately!” “end legalized abortion now!”) who never hear any other issue other than their own monomania.
This is why stories like that in today’s Post are so useful. Election campaigns are best treated as entertainment, especially if one’s favorite is in the lead. Governing is not entertaining at all; it’s grueling, thankless, and Herculean — anybody named Hercules running for office anywhere?
So, when evaluating the candidates for the presidency, yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s advice is to make the effort look beyond specific promises, beyond your single overreaching issue. Examine the character of the person, as exemplified in his deeds as much as in his perhaps pandering words.
Due to the steaming, malodorous pile of excrement that George III has deposited in the Oval Office (and hey, the Hercules reference is even more germane — the White House as Augean Stables), we have the power to hire a man who, due to the thankless nature of the impossible tasks before him, will likely age 2-3 years for every year in office. In that light, it’s a wonder that anyone would want the job, much less the legion who contended in the primaries.
And, understand, courtesy of the economists quoted in the Post, that any specific spending program, or tax relief you might have fixed on, isn’t going to happen any time soon, regardless of who you elect.
Did I pop your idealistic bubble? That’s my job, and my name, after all.
It’s it for now. Thanks,