Obama to Hold ‘Fiscal Responsibility Summit’… So Who’s Gonna Teach HIM?


By: Warner Todd Huston

In January, then president-elect Obama announced that sometime in February he intended to hold what he was calling a “fiscal responsibility summit” as he would be planning his proposal for the 2010 budget. Apparently it will be held on February 23, most likely at the White House.

But first we have the stimulus bill that Obama most likely plans to sign on February 17. That in mind, I ask the question: what does Barack Obama know of “fiscal responsibility”?

Just days before he took the oath of office, Obama told reporters that he wanted to clean up the budget process and make sure government didn’t spend wildly while he helmed the ship of state. “We need to send a signal that we are serious,” said Obama of his “fiscal responsibility summit.” In that same interview he claimed he intended to “stop the bleeding” of money wasted by Congress.

Now that he is fairly in as president, though, Obama has pushed for and is about to sign the biggest spending bill in American history. Worse, he has taken no part in the creation of this bill while Congress has larded this “crisis” legislation with every manner of pork that can be imagined. Never has there been a bill more stuffed with needless spending and Obama didn’t raise his voice once while Congress wallowed in pork barrel proposals.

Yet, Obama thinks he is the one to lead a “fiscal responsibility summit”? It gives rise to the question, who’s going to teach him ahead of this summit what “fiscal responsibility” even means?

This weekend, the administration made like budget hawks.

Along those lines, White House budget director Peter R. Orszag has committed to instituting tougher budget-discipline rules –once the economy turns around. Those include a mandate that any “nonemergency” spending increases be offset by equal spending cuts or tax increases.

This is all well and good and nearly every president makes the claim that they will insist on spending cuts. Of course, what the administration, any administration, does not tell the people is that Congress controls spending, not the White House. The only way a president can affect the budget is by leadership and leadership is exactly what Obama did not exemplify during the creation of this porkulus bill.

And, since Obama took no part in assuring fiscal responsibility with the biggest spending bill in history, why should anyone believe him that later he will hold Congress’ feet to the fire on spending ?

Just take a look at only a few items of pork in this stimulus bill… and remember, this bill is supposed to one for boosting the economy, not for regular government programs:

  • $198 million in pensions for Filipinos who fought alongside the U.S. during WWII. (U.S. citizens would get $15,000 a year, but even non-citizens would still get $9,000 a year)
  • $650 million to NASA
  • $28 billion is being provided to put kids in special education, Head Start and child care and development programs for disadvantaged children
  • $100 million for the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Grant Program
  • $200 million to the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund Program
  • $300 million for “Violence Against Women Prevention and Prosecution Programs”
  • $900 million for the IRS for the “Limitation on Administrative Expenses”
  • $1 million for the Railroad Retirement Board for administrative costs
  • $2 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Act
  • $50 million for Health and Human Services to carry out injury prevention programs
  • $1.1 billion for studies on the effectiveness of different medical treatments
  • $200 million to upgrade labs and facilities for the Department of Agriculture “to improve workplace safety and mission-area efficiencies”
  • $10 million for urban canal inspection
  • $16 billion to pay for student financial aid
  • $1 billion to pay for the U.S. Census
  • $600 million to pay for a fuel-efficient federal auto fleet
  • $650 million for the Digital Converter Box Program to help the constantly delayed transition from analog television
  • $485 million to the Forest Service for “hazardous fuels reduction and hazard mitigation activities in areas at high risk of catastrophic wildfire”
  • Up to $1 billion for “summer activities” for youths as old as 24
  • $40 million for the occupational research agenda
  • $3 billion for the Centers for Disease Control wellness programs and vaccinations
  • $410 million for Indian health facilities
  • $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstrations

As I said, this is only a tiny list of the billions being thrown away on things that have absolutely nothing at all to do with stimulating the economy. Remember Obama claimed that stimulating the economy was an emergency and we needed it ASAP. Yet this bill has practically nothing to do with the economy at all. Most of the spending in this porkulus bill goes to big government agencies and projects that won’t do a thing to stimulate anything but government workers and the organizations and lobbyists that supported Obama’s bid for the White House.

This bill is nothing but the biggest payoff to special interests in American history.

So, I ask again: WHAT does Barack Obama know about fiscal responsibility?

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