An unserious budget

It’s a plan that says fulfilling the president’s vision of a future of trains and windmills is more important than a balanced checkbook.

It’s a plan that asks our children to pay for an imaginary vision of the future that may or may not come about by adding trillions to a debt that will be very real to them indeed.

The president’s budget comes in at close to a thousand pages. The people who voted for a new direction in November have a five-word response: We don’t have the money.

We don’t have the money.

Americans have been asking a crucial question as we approached this debate: how do we get back to balance, how we get to a place where Washington spends less than it takes in? And the simple fact about this budget is that the President and all his advisors couldn’t come up with a single year in the next 10 where we do that.

That’s the key question in this debate, but it’s the one question that the president and all of his advisors don’t seem to have been the least bit interested in.

The White House wants us to engage in a debate this week about percentage cuts at this or that agency, about multi-year projections and CBO scores. It all misses the point. The real point is this: We're broke. We don't have the money.

Look: there's a time to experiment with high-flown plans and to test theories. But you have to balance the checkbook first. You have to be able to afford it. The American people get that. This administration doesn’t seem to.

After two years of failed stimulus programs and Democrats in Washington competing to outspend each other, we just can't afford to do all the things the administration wants.

The president has said he wants us to "win the future."  But this budget abdicates the future. It spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much. It says that the president does not have the will or the ability to do what we need to do with the money that we have. But that’s precisely what the American people are demanding that we do.

Americans reject the idea that they have to live with another 13 trillion dollars in debt to fund the president or anyone else's vision of the future.

This budget was an opportunity for the president to lead. He punted. It only pretends to do the things people want. And the reaction we’ve seen from across the political spectrum so far today suggests that nobody’s buying it.

The president may be determined to keep spending levels at the current high levels — high levels he put in place — in the hope that people will get used to them. But he’s clearly misread a public that has had enough.

We must live within our means. We must begin to do the difficult but necessary work of reining in a government that has grown beyond our ability to pay for it. We must acknowledge the mistakes of the past two years and work to correct them.

The stimulus failed. This budget says, "Do it again."

The president has already added more than three trillion dollars to the debt as we lost another three million jobs. This budget says, "Let’s add more debt and see if we get a different result."

The president had an opportunity to cut domestic spending from the 25 percent he’s increased it since he came into office. Instead, he locked it in place.

He had an opportunity to start to pay down the tremendous burden of debt that he’s added over the past two years. He wants to increase it instead.

He had an opportunity to work with Republicans on reforming long-term entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. He took a pass.

This is a status quo budget at a time when serious action is needed. This is business as usual at a time when bold, creative solutions are needed. This is not an I-got-the-message budget. It’s unserious, and it’s irresponsible. We need to look for ways to preserve what’s good that does not put us on path to bankruptcy. That was the challenge of this budget. The administration failed the test.

After years of overspending by both parties, it’s time to make tough choices, just as any family does when times are tough, even among very good things. We have to cut even from programs that are good, as difficult as it is, recognizing that the values we are fighting for in this debate are more fundamental than the survival of any one program. We need to face that fact that we don’t have the money. It is not an American value to borrow from others to pay for programs we don’t need and can’t afford. And it is not an American value to put off tough decisions because you refuse to say no to things you want.

If there’s any good news in this debate, it’s that we’re finally beginning to talk about how much to cut in this town instead of how much to spend. But we’re going to need more people to join the fight. We’ll need Democrats to join us.

And above all, we need a president who gets it. And this president clearly does not get it yet.