Now that President Barack Obama has treated us to a madcap budgetary joke, it's time to get serious for the sake of national survival.
To be sure, it's a laugh for him to act like he wants to further defund Social Security by extending payroll-tax cuts, especially when you know Social Security is already in the red, and entitlements -- including Medicare and Medicaid -- will take up every cent of revenue by midcentury, minus restructuring.
Real reform would justify the move, but Obama's only nod to lowering the entitlement bill is to give less money back to hospitals and doctors for their services. At some point, some of them go out of business, or more doctors quit treating Medicare patients or find ways to multiply procedures, getting just as much money as they did before for essentially the same work. You cannot help snickering even as you grow eager for the joke to end.
And yet there are other parts of the joke, such as insisting we the people engage in assault and battery on that dastardly, evil minority that's getting away with robbery, rape and murder, or if none of those, at least grotesque, spit-on-the-poor unfairness.
We are talking about the rich and the Obama scheme to tax them more in ways that will lead to less investment and fewer jobs in small businesses. The unfairness claim is a hoot because the rich already pay the mother lode of taxes in this country at much higher rates than the rest of us. The instances of the superrich getting by with paying nothing much are rare, and if you want to dwell on capital gains, yes, by all means, let's get universally tough and tell the baby boomers that any profit on life savings is going to cost them plenty.
I know, I know, you think all this humor is too much for easy digestion, but I am not to the punch line yet, for there is the business of paying for infrastructure work through ending the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In other words, if your debt is Rocky Mountain high and you finally finish the installments on your new car, you improve your situation by buying something else hugely expensive? I don't think so, and at any rate, our infrastructure problem is mainly a problem of bureaucratic incompetence and pork. Obama and team are far from being either competent or an enemy of pork. His stimulus bill was pork city.
Here's another giggle: the Obama plan to get rid of tax deductions for oil and gas production. Maybe you think that will mean more revenue, but there could well be less exploration and less oil and gas and, therefore, less revenue. We are at the beginning of a gas-and-oil boom that could help make the 21st century as much the American century as the 20th was. And we're going to quell that with wishful thinking about replacement-energy technologies still in swaddling clothes?
The punch line is that this president, who is on his way to having given us four trillion-dollar deficits in a row, himself confesses to another $10 trillion worth of debt in 10 years on top of the current $15 trillion.
That alone would likely end the American experiment with a continental whimper, but the policies he plans would almost surely cost us trillions more. He promised in 2009 to cut the deficit in half, now saying he didn't because the recession was worse than imagined. The scenarios he now projects are also less rosy than pretended, though it is central to understanding this joke to know the budget won't be enacted. Even the Democratic Senate let his 2012 proposal for economic mayhem die unattended, with no attempt at resuscitation, and is not about to pass this one. The Republican House would sooner kiss Wall Street Occupiers.
Sadly, the beginning of a serious answer may not arrive until November.
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado and a Centennial Institute Fellow.