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Barack Obama Thinks You Can’t Count

The Audacity of Budget Math Only Dr. Evil Could Love

[W]hat I’ve proposed, you’ll hear Sen. McCain say, well, he’s proposing a whole bunch of new spending, but actually I’m cutting more than I’m spending so that it will be a net spending cut.

-Barack Obama, Second Presidential Debate, October 7, 2008.

OBAMA: …[W]hat I’ve done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut. I haven’t made a promise about…

SCHIEFFER: But you’re going to have to cut some of these programs, certainly.

OBAMA: Absolutely. So let me get to that. What I want to emphasize, though, is that I have been a strong proponent of pay-as- you-go. Every dollar that I’ve proposed, I’ve proposed an additional cut so that it matches.

-Barack Obama, Third Presidential Debate, October 15, 2008.

If ever a public policy proposal deserved universal ridicule, it has to be President Obama’s effort to convince the public that [cue Dr. Evil voice] 100 million dollars in spending cuts are a significant dent in federal spending. Since Obama looked the nation in the eye and made that read-my-lips promise of a net spending cut in those two debates, we have sat and watched as he signed into law a colossal $787 billion ‘stimulus’ bill, proposed a $634 billion fund to begin offsetting the projected trillion-dollar cost of his health care plans, and unveiled a $3.6 trillion budget that’s projected to consume 26% of GDP, the biggest share for federal spending since World War II (it hasn’t been above 21% since the last budget before the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994).

Over at the New Ledger, our RS colleague Francis Cianfrocca notes the puny relative size of this proposal:

That’s 0.0027% of his first budget, and 0.0057% of his first deficit.

To put this start toward a net cut into terms that every American can visualize, this is roughly like having a baseball team made up of 3,600 Alex Rodriguezes downsize by cutting one-tenth of an A-Rod from the team.

You could also do the baseball analogy and note that the proposed cuts are smaller than the $117 million contract the Rockies signed with Mike Hampton. Republicans have pointed out that the federal government spends $100 million every 13 minutes; this morning’s NY Daily News had a longer list of amusing analogies, from the budget for Titanic to the cost of Mike Bloomberg’s re-election campaign. The Heritage Foundation has perhaps the most telling graph:

Obama's Tiny Budget Cuts

Even the White House press corps, led by arch-liberal AP reporter Jennifer Loven and the indefatigable Jake Tapper, scoffed at this nonsense, leaving the hapless Robert Gibbs vainly trying to defend Obama’s proposal with a straight face:

JENNIFER LOVEN, AP: The $100 million target figure that the president talked about today with the Cabinet, can you explain why so small? I know he talked about — you know, you add up 100 million and 100 million, and eventually, you get somewhere, but it would take an awfully long time to add up hundred million (inaudible) in the deficit. Why not target a bigger number?

GIBBS: (Smiling) Well, I think only in Washington, D.C. is a hundred million dollars…

LOVEN: The deficit’s very large. It’s not a joke.

GIBBS: No, I’m…

LOVEN: The deficit’s giant. $100 million really is only a step.

GIBBS: But no joke.

LOVEN: You sound like you’re joking about it, but it’s not funny.

GIBBS: I’m not making jokes about it. I’m being completely sincere that only in Washington, D.C. is $100 million not a lot of money. It is where I’m from. It is where I grew up. And I think it is for hundreds of millions of Americans.

LOVEN: The point is it’s not a very big portion of the deficit.

TAPPER: You were talking about an appropriations bill a few weeks ago about $8 billion being minuscule — $8 billion in earmarks. We were talking about that and you said that that

GIBBS: Well, in terms of — in…(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: …$100 million is a lot but $8 billion is small?

Those of us who had paid any attention to the man’s record knew that Obama was lying to us last October when he claimed to be proposing a net reduction in federal spending. Hold your breath if you like waiting for the remaining trillion or so dollars in spending cuts he’d need to do that. The only possible reason I can think for the fanfare surrounding the $100 million in cuts is literally Obama’s belief that he can fool voters who do not know the difference between a million, a billion and a trillion. So there you have it: Barack Obama thinks you can’t count.

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