When pay-go doesn’t mean pay-go

For the second time in a week, Republicans in the upper body exposed the lie that is the president’s version of pay-go.

You remember pay-go, don’t you? This is where the president pontificates about how he is going to show leadership by demanding that the Congress pay for all of its new spending.

Remember when Mr. Obama said:

“Now, Congress will have to pay for what it spends, just like everybody else.”

Or when he said: “Now, in a perfect world, Congress would not have needed a law to act responsibly, to remember that every dollar spent would come from taxpayers today — or our children tomorrow.”

Or when he said: “Like families across the country, we have to take responsibility for every dollar we spend. And with the return of ‘pay as you go,’ as well as other steps we’ve begun to take, that is exactly what we are doing.”

Or when he said: “You have to make hard choices about where to spend and where to save.”

Apparently, that was all a joke.

And when some Republicans brazenly try to take the president at his word, the whole place collapses.

We all know about Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) quixotic attempt to get the Senate to pay for the $10 billion that it wanted to spend to extend unemployment benefits. He was pretty much publicly embarrassed, called all kinds of names, humiliated by the national media and portrayed as the Grinch who stole Christmas.

How dare he suggest that the Senate Democrats live up to their three-week-old promise? Doesn’t he understand that the president was really just kidding about paying for all of this spending?

Last night, George LeMieux, the freshman senator from the Sunshine State, was more gentle in his probing of the president’s hypocrisy, but his discovery was just as stark.

LeMieux waged a point of order against a tax extender bill after he discovered that the Senate Finance chairman was going to expand the list of programs that the Democrats don’t have to pay for.

Under the Democrats’ plan, they decided that they wouldn’t have to pay for social welfare programs, things like extending unemployment benefits, COBRA or FMAP, a program that deals with how states are reimbursed for Medicaid expenses.

LeMieux wasn’t a jerk about it, and he made it perfectly clear that he supported extending those programs.

But until you get those types of programs under control fiscally, you will never get the budget under control.

It is very nice and easy to pay for spending on, say, the National Endowment for the Arts or the Coast Guard. But the real money comes with programs that have a wide budgetary impact, things like unemployment benefits, COBRA and FMAP.

Throw in Social Security and Medicare, and that is where the rubber hits the road on the budget.

When the Floridian offered the amendment, it was like a bolt of lighting suddenly illuminating the dark secret of the president’s pay-go plan. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) scrambled to find a response. He falsely accused his colleague of trying to kill the bill. He sputtered and stammered, and eventually revealed that the Democrats have no intention of paying for the things that will eventually put us into bankruptcy.

That pay-go thing?

It was all an illusion. It was all a joke. It was all just for show.

While Mr. LeMieux’s point of order failed, the bigger point of the whole exercise hit the mark head on. Democrats have no interest in actually being fiscally responsible lawmakers. They just want to play one on TV.


Visit www.thefeeherytheory.com.

More in Economy & Budget

Billions are hidden in tax shelters, and we're all paying for it

Read more »