The White House yesterday did something that should truly warm the hearts of deficit hawks everywhere: it threated to veto the 2010 military authorization bill over two big spending issues -- the F22 and the alternate engine for the F35.
A little background. Although both of these programs were questioned for years by the Bush White House, Congress kept insisting that the Pentagon spend the money anyway and the president always went along. This year, the F22 was a target of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates when he held a press conference in April on his budget priorities. Several weeks later, President Obama specifically used both programs as examples of government waste and then requested no funds for them in his budget. In between those two events, Citizens Against Government Waste declared both to be prime examples of pork and listed them prominently in its Pig Book.
Matt Miller is a very smart guy, a friend, and someone whose wisdom on the budget I almost always find worthwhile. But not this time.
In his most recent post from The Daily Beast, Matt suggests that the White House consider what he admits are largely symbolic proposals so that it can improve its polls on the deficit and put itself in a better position to deal with it when the appropriate time comes.
My suggestion is that Matt and everyone else, especially the White House, just chill. The president has already done a number of symbolic things on the deficit, including holding a fiscal responsibility summit several days before its budget was released last February and proposing a new pay-as-you-go proposal. It has that angle covered and then some.
Here's my column from today's Roll Call.
It’s Time to Start Talking About the Budget Deficit
Note that the headline says “talking” rather than “doing” something about the federal budget deficit.
This is a critical difference. It’s still not time to take any actions that will reduce this year’s deficit. In the current economic environment, doing that when private-sector economic activity has not fully recovered would be a Herbert Hoover-like move that would be as incorrect a fiscal policy now as it was back then.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been some positive economic signs in recent weeks. Some things, like consumer sentiment and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, have been moving upward. Other statistics, like unemployment and mortgage defaults, continue to lag behind. And, while it looks good, it’s not at all clear whether the recent uptick in the Dow is real or a bear market rally.
Here's my "Fiscal Fitness" column from today's Roll Call.
Did anyone notice that the FY08 and 09 deficits will be a little higher than were projected JUST A WEEK AGO because of the fiscal stimulus bill that was finally enacted?
Probably not. Last week, between the Super Bowl, Super Tuesday, and the Bush administration's very successful attempt to bury the budget as an issue once and for all, the fact that the final bill was $25 billion or so more than the one passed by the House was barely mentioned anywhere.