Last Thursday President Obama laid all his economic cards on the table when he revealed his first budget. He decided to do what has never been done in Washington before and treated taxpayers like grown-ups. He was open, honest and straightforward about what Washington has spent in the past and what he proposes to spend to get our economy out from it’s deep abyss.
The President’s budget includes $3.6 trillion to be spent in 2010 – with almost $1.2 trillion of it to be borrowed. His spending plan signals a sharp, maybe even historic, change of direction on taxes and the role of government. By boldly laying his cards on the table President Obama is betting that the public can handle the truth. Can you handle the truth?
Our economy is in a nose dive. Our American economy shrunk at a 6.2 percent pace in the last three months of 2008 the Commerce Department reported on Friday. That same day the White House announced that it will take a 36-percent share in Citigroup. These two facts by themselves are gloomy reminders that critical decisions have to be made in order to turn our economy around. President Obama’s truth about the budget will help him to make well-informed and educated decisions.
President Bush never included the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in his budgets; Bush treated both wars as ‘emergencies’ and therefore kept them off the books and gave us fake budgets all the years he was in office. Bush never included anything in his budgets for federal disaster response even though we have several disasters each year. For example Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Virginia massacre, fires in California as well as tornados in Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Alabama and Illinois.
President Obama included the wars and natural disasters in his 10-year budget so that we will have realistic numbers – no deceptions, no facades and no shams.
Obama made it clear that laying the groundwork for a strong economy down the road won’t be free. Do you want to get rid of our oil addiction and simultaneously save our environment and create a green future? Do you want to reform health care and insure most Americans? Do you want to keep Medicare around? Do you want to repair our infrastructure and maintain our roads, bridges, airports and mass transit? Do you want to build a modern energy grid? All these items are necessary to ensure that America keeps our super power status — it will all cost money and Obama didn’t sugarcoat it.
Obama budgeted funds as a down payment for those priorities and he proposed taxes and identified savings to help cover the expenses.
President Obama’s message to us and to those on Capitol Hill was loud and clear — stop the hallucinating and confused thinking. Stop living on Fantasy Island. Stop being Alice in Wonderland. None of these things we desire will pay for themselves and we can’t continue to borrow and spend and pass the bill to our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Yes we can argue about the larger role for government that Obama envisions for the nation. And we can argue about whether high earners should pay higher taxes. But by putting his ideas into budgetary black-and-white President Obama has challenged taxpayers to make realistic choices about what they want from their government and then to pay for it. That’s what responsible, mature grown-ups do.