President Obama unveiled his new budget this week and it landed with all the gentle grace of a hog falling off of a building. The squeals in D.C. were predictable: He’s cutting too much. He’s spending too much. Taxes will skyrocket. Services will nosedive.
Frankly, listening to it all is exhausting. And it is made even more so by the very real possibility that all the critics are right. The federal budget is a wreck. And in case you haven’t noticed, so is the economy … still. Getting them both back on track is going to require some pretty tricky maneuvers, which at times will seem contradictory.
For example, if we cut back on government spending too far, we risk stalling the recovery which, as millions of jobless Americans will tell you, is not exactly rocketing along. However, if we spend too much, the deficit will grow even bigger and the interest will start eating revenues like Godzilla chowing down on a lot full of Nissans.
It doesn’t help that the states are also in terrible money trouble right now. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says despite having made deep budget cuts for several years already, 45 states are expecting to come up short of funds this year. The bottom line is a budget reality that no president or governor wants to admit and no voter wants to hear: We’re going to be paying more taxes, and getting less for it, at both the federal and state levels. Sorry to say it, but it really does look that way.
The president’s critics say it is his fault — that he has been too much in love with big spending as a solution to problems. His defenders say it’s just the mess he inherited from the previous administration. I suppose we’ll all have to sort out how we feel about that before next year’s election. But for the moment, the D.C. crowd on the left and right ought to be cutting him a little slack.
Because it’s hard to produce a good budget when all of your options are bad.
–CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360°”/www.ac360.com and “ The Situation Room”
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