Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Obama the Conservative?

I can't find a link to it but years ago, when far-left writer Eric Alterman was writing for MSNBC.COM, he ran across an observation that President Bush was far more moderate than he was given credit for. Part of the proof was his spending. Bush out-spent Clinton on nearly all social issues. Alterman, who sees Bush as being to the right of Reagan would have none of it. His explanation for Bush's spending was that he was playing the long game (my term, not his). Alterman speculated that Bush was spending so as to run up the national debt to the point where interest payments took up all available government money. At that point, future presidents would have to start cutting services.

So, what are we to make of President Obama's spending? In his first three weeks he nearly doubled federal discretionary spending and he is just getting started. He still hasn't explained how much federal money will go to the next round of bank bailouts. We've been given a figure of $3 trillion public/private money with no breakdown of how it will be split. He just proposed $75 billion for mortgage foreclosure relief (remember when $75 billion was a big number).

GM is seeking more than $16 billion in new bailout money. Chrysler is a bargain at $5 billion.

After complaining on the stump about how much money was being spent on Iraq, Obama is ramping up Afghanistan.

And we haven't started talking about universal medical coverage.

When Clinton came to office he was astounded to find that payments on the national debt were the largest item in the budget. By refinancing government bonds at a lower rate, Bush was able to keep debt payments from rising as fast as new spending but that was a one-time savings.

It took Bush eight years to raise the national debt from $5 trillion to $10 trillion. Obama is on track to do that in a much shorter period.

This money has to come from somewhere. Obama and the Democrats have been so busy authorizing new spending that they have not addressed how it will be repaid but the bill will come due sometime.

By spending so freely now, Obama may be fulfilling Alterman's prediction of assuring small government in the long-term by spending too freely in the short term. Does that make Obama a Conservative?

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