What Obama once promised, and what he's delivering.
Barack Obama won the presidency in large measure because he presented himself as a demarcation point. The old politics, he said, was based on "spin," misleading arguments, and an absence of candor. He'd "turn the page" on that style of politics.
Last week's presentation of his budget shows that hope was a mirage.
For example, Mr. Obama didn't run promising larger deficits -- but now is offering record-setting ones. He'll add $4.9 trillion before his term ends and $7.4 trillion if given a second, doubling the national debt in five years and tripling it in 10. Mr. Obama's deficits will be much larger than he admits because he relies on rosy economic assumptions and gimmicks that mask spending and debt (like assuming popular new programs he supports won't be renewed).
Nor did Mr. Obama run promising more earmarks. Instead, he said he'd reform the earmark culture and "scour the federal budget, line by line, and make meaningful cuts." Now he wants to wave through a $410 billion omnibus spending bill with about 8,500 earmarks. This is on top of the $787 billion stimulus bill signed into law two weeks ago.
His justification comes to us from the White House's budget director, Peter Orszag, who recently called the omnibus spending bill "last year's business." But it will fund the federal government for the next six months. Mr. Obama could veto the legislation or push congressional Democrats to ditch the earmarks. But he has given little indication that he will do either.
Nor is it credible to claim that the spending spree on Mr. Obama's watch is someone else's responsibility, as Mr. Orszag did by saying the president had "inherited" these deficits.
Mr. Obama ceded authority to congressional appropriators, who wrote the stimulus bill that is history's largest spending increase. Then Mr. Obama got behind the pork-laden omnibus-spending bill. And Mr. Obama has also proposed $4 trillion in outlays this fiscal year and $3.6 trillion next fiscal year.
Mr. Obama cannot dismiss critics by pointing to President George W. Bush's decision to run $2.9 trillion in deficits while fighting two wars and dealing with 9/11 and Katrina. Mr. Obama will surpass Mr. Bush's eight-year total in his first 20 months and 11 days in office, adding $3.2 trillion to the national debt. If America "cannot and will not sustain" deficits like Mr. Bush's, as Mr. Obama said during the campaign, how can Mr. Obama sustain the geometrically larger ones he's flogging?
There is more. Mr. Obama pledged "no tax hikes on any families earning less than a quarter million dollars." What he didn't draw attention to was $600 billion in higher energy taxes he wants to impose through a cap-and-trade system on carbon emissions. These taxes will hit everyone who drives, flips a light switch, or buys anything manufactured, grown or shipped.
Mr. Obama devoted four times as much space in his campaign stump speech to cutting taxes as he did to talking about raising taxes on the wealthy. In the election's most widely watched speech, his Denver Convention address, he didn't even mention raising taxes, instead stressing he'd "cut taxes -- cut taxes -- for 95% of all working families." Yet higher taxes are what every American is going to get.
Today's White House health-care summit should also remind us of one of Mr. Obama's most popular ads, which declared, "On health care reform -- two extremes. On one end, government-run health care, higher taxes. On the other, insurance companies without rules, denying coverage. Barack Obama says both extremes are wrong."
Mr. Obama's plan will lead us to the extreme of government-run health care. And in an effort to reach that goal, Mr. Obama's budget proposes, as a starting point, a $630 billion fund to expand government-run health care. And that $630 billion comes not from reduced spending, but higher taxes.
Mr. Obama's personal popularity remains higher than support for his proposals. A raft of opinion surveys show Americans take the conservative side on issues ranging from the efficacy of government spending, to nationalization of banks, to bailouts for auto companies, to whether tax cuts or government spending will create more jobs. Packaging Mr. Obama's proposals is easier than rigorously defending them. Team Obama will find this out as the details of their budget and other plans are scrutinized.
Barack Obama has been president for a little more than five weeks. During his speech to a joint session of Congress last week, he showed what a skilled speaker he is and how persuasive he can be. But words delivered from a teleprompter, while important, have to line up with actions. Promises have to be met. And a president who promised to be one thing cannot be another. At some point, the gap between good feelings and results, between perception and reality, closes.
Eloquent words and "spin" work better in a campaign than they do while governing. And as Mr. Obama is discovering, the laws of economics won't change, even for him.
Karl Rove Says President Barack Obama's Policies Break Campaign Promises - WSJ.com