Morning Bell: The Obama PAYGO Farce

Conn Carroll /

Did you ever know anyone that would repeatedly go out to the bar, drink themselves unconscious, and then wake up the next morning and promise never to drink again? That is President Barack Obama when it comes to spending. This February, after signing the largest single-year increase in domestic federal spending since World War II, President Obama held a “fiscal responsibility” summit designed to “send a signal that we are serious” at putting the nation on sounder financial footing. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank quipped at the time: “Holding a ‘fiscal responsibility summit’ at the White House in the middle of a government spending spree is a bit like having an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at a frat house on homecoming weekend.”

Obama completed the exact same kabuki act yesterday, calling on Congress to pass “pay-as-you-go” legislation (PAYGO) the day after he promised faster deficit spending to stimulate the economy. Commenting on President Obama’s exemption for entitlement spending in his PAYGO legislation, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget President Maya MacGuineas said: “This is like quitting drinking, but making an exception for beer and hard liquor.”

In theory, PAYGO sounds like common sense: Congress can only spend a dollar if it saves a dollar elsewhere. In reality, PAYGO is nothing more than a political gimmick that only enables higher spending and exploding deficits. Heritage fellow Brian Riedl explains:

1) PAYGO has never been enforced

2) PAYGO’s design is flawed

Already this year Obama expanded Medicaid liabilities by $200 billion over 10 years, and he is now pushing a public health insurance option that would cost $452 billion per year, or more than $6 trillion over a 10-year period. How does Obama plan to pay for all this new spending under his new PAYGO legislation? He doesn’t. The AP reports: “It would carve out about $2.5 trillion worth of exemptions for Obama’s priorities over the next decade. His health care reform plan also would get a green light to run big deficits in its early years.” So if President Obama does get his trillion dollar health care plan passed, you can count on another “fiscal responsibility summit” soon thereafter.

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