The Obama Budget 2011

Jim Wallis says that budgets are moral documents, and that how we spend our money shows what our values are. Introduced today, President Obama’s $3.83 trillion budget treads a delicate balance between trying to get the economy going again and trying to bring down the massive inherited budget deficit.*

Anyway, the budget for FY 2011 is fairly pessimistic one in that it presumes a gloomier economic outlook for the near future and budgets more for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, it actually expands the deficit in the short-term in order to bring it down in the long-term. As David Rogers at POLITICO writes,

In fact, it’s not until 2014 and 2015— when Obama hopes to be in his second term— that he has any hope of deficits approaching a sustainable level. Even then he is banking heavily on a new bipartisan fiscal commission to really finish the job.

It shouldn’t need to be said (but it clearly does) that comprehensive reform of the health care system–not just piecemeal and insubstantial legislative change–would help curb exploding costs. Tom Friedman reports from Davos that we’re making the rest of world a little nervous, due to the state of our economy, the political logjam in which we find ourselves, and notably the fact that we still can’t push through something as remedial as curative as health care reform.

And while we’re at it, reforming the financial system would help create a more stable and sound economy, less blown by the winds of bubbles and busts. Paul Volcker, chairman of the President’s Economic Advisory Board, says:

I’ve been there — as regulator, as central banker, as commercial bank official and director — for almost 60 years. I have observed how memories dim. Individuals change. Institutional and political pressures to “lay off” tough regulation will remain — most notably in the fair weather that inevitably precedes the storm.

The implication is clear. We need to face up to needed structural changes, and place them into law. To do less will simply mean ultimate failure — failure to accept responsibility for learning from the lessons of the past and anticipating the needs of the future.

* The NY Times evaluates the history of our country’s red ink, concluding that “President Obama’s agenda, ambitious as it may be, is responsible for only a sliver of the deficits, despite what many of his Republican critics are saying.”

Cornel West to Barack Obama: "How deep is your love?"


Despite your brilliance, despite your charisma, I’m disappointed when it comes to the fundamental question of priorities, of urgency. How deep is your love for poor and working people?

You’ve changed the image of America, but don’t simply be the friendly face of the American empire. Many lives hang on your courage, and you cannot do it alone.

I believe like Martin Luther King that democracy can be reinvigorated, can be revitalized. But it takes courage–you can’t just cut deals; you have to take a stand. You have to have backbone.

In the end, it’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s not about any isolated set of individuals. It’s about forces that will ensure that poor and working people can live lives of decency and dignity.

The stimulus, health care and progress

According to the latest CNN poll, nearly three out of four Americans think that at least half the money spent in the $787 billion federal stimulus package was wasted. Now according to and ProPublica, it’s actually more like $792 billion plus change. The stimulus spending in progress is reported in full on those two sites, but here’s the main breakdown:

Spending totaling $580 billion, of which:

  • $172 billion has already been paid out.
  • $157 billion is in the process of being paid out.
  • $251 billion has yet to be paid out.

Tax cuts totaling $212 billion, of which:

  • $93 billion has already been issued.
  • $119 billion has yet to be issued.

So actually, less than half of the stimulus package has even been paid out, let alone wasted, unless you want to call sitting around waiting to be paid out “waste,” which is a little presumptuous. I think those who actually want to know where all the money is going can find out pretty easily with a spot of research.

A large part of the problem seems to be that, as Joe Klein writes (albeit a little more inflammatorily), people don’t really know where the money’s going; and for this the Administration deserves some blame for not being clearer and actually being rather rubbish at publicizing this (beyond those signs you see here and there letting you know where your stimulus money is at work). And the second part is that the stimulus package is being spent veeeeeeeeeery sloooooooooowly. Of course, this may be due to a lack of projects in which to invest, but still …

Which leads me to (a) this very helpful (albeit slightly sarcastic) 16-step guide to help people–specifically, those who oppose health-care reform and the stimulus and tax cuts and … well, most everything on the President’s agenda–understand why they should actually support health-care reform and the stimulus and tax cuts and … well, most everything on the President’s agenda; (b) this very helpful (and less sarcastic) graphic from National Geographic, which I posted yesterday illustrating how freaking much Americans spend on health care–you knew that we weren’t the best at everything in the whole wide world already, right?

I’ve been somewhat frustrated by the lack of progress in the last year. There’ve been little victories–SCHIP, equal pay for women, a moratorium on torture, an openness and humility in our foreign policy, to name but a few–but on bigger things such as health care, immigration, climate change, we’ve yet to see significant progress in reforming broken systems, revising unjust legislation and making wise decisions for long term stability and economic security.

Links of the Day, January 11

It’s Human Trafficking Awareness Day! Tell someone who doesn’t know about the 27 million people trapped in modern slavery. And then do something about it!

Check out these awesome pics to start out your week/day:

And then enjoy this cover from Cathy Nguyen and Andrew Garcia:


Human trafficking