The Three-card Monte game is a Beltway mainstay of budget politics.
- The President proposes a budget with both increases and cuts to Congress.
- The Congress reviews the budget, rejecting cuts and proposing additional spending.
- The appearance of debate and budget-wrangling ensues as elected representatives and White House officials offer comments replete with heavy sighs, rolled eyes and furrowed brows.
- After much hand-wringing, both sides of the budget "debate" emerge to announce that a budget deal has been reached and the public receive their cue to rejoice and applaud the hard work of Congress.
Obama is thinking ahead and deliberately perpetrating an illusion to the voters about his game plan for the budget. He is guaranteed that his promise of unspecific spending cuts is not only impossible, but he can promise them without worrying that they will ever affect his ability to spend when tax revenues begin to fall.
Although the Chicago senator's egomania has no apparent bounds, and at times he speak as if President Obama's word alone would have the force of law (reference his comments about revising Canadian trade agreements), and he has never actually participated in the budget process except to vote for passage, even with all of those road signs for our review, he is still aware that any budget he proposes will require approval from a Congress that will possibly have a bullet-proof Democrat supra-majority.
If elected, Obama will not fight Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to follow through on some vague promise he made on the campaign trail, a promise he most likely has no intention of keeping. By making no specific promises about cuts, he ensures that in 2010 no voter can ask, "Why didn't you cut [insert your own budget gripe here] when you said during the campaign that you would?"
The only exception to a cut has been Obama's repeated reference to how the spending on the war in Iraq has dragged on the economy, implying a withdrawal or significant reduction in military presence. Even if we give him that one, it can't cover all of the spending he wants to do and we're going to have to have a long debate over how a withdrawal would affect our national security and global interest.
The absence of bullet points in the spending cuts portion of the Obama plan is premeditated. The strategy is simultaneously brilliant and sinister.
The whole budget song and dance from the Obama campaign is just more empty talk from an empty suit.
Cross-posted on Sound Politics Public Blog.