The Obama Revolution: Paid for by the people

In the closing weeks of last year’s election campaign, we wrote that Democrats had in mind the most sweeping expansion of government in decades. Liberals clucked, but it turns out even we’ve been outbid. With yesterday’s fiscal 2010 budget proposal, President Obama is attempting not merely to expand the role of the federal government but to put it in such a dominant position that its power can never be rolled back.

The first point to understand is the sheer magnitude of federal spending built into this proposal. As the nearby chart shows, federal outlays will soar in fiscal 2009 to $4 trillion, or 27.7% of GDP, from $3 trillion or 21% of GDP in 2008, and 20% in 2007. This is higher as a share of the economy than any year since 1945, when the country was still mobilized for World War II. It is more spending by far than during the Vietnam War, or during the recessions of 1974-75 or 1981-82.

But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Mr. Obama is right that this spending is needed now to “jump-start” an economic recovery. Though the budget predicts that the economy will recover in 2010, spending will still be 24.1% of GDP that year, and the budget proposes that spending will remain higher than 22% for the entire next decade even as the defense budget steadily declines. All Presidential budgets predict spending will decline in the “out years,” if only to give the illusion of spending restraint. Mr. Obama tries the same trick, but he is proposing so many new and expanded nondefense programs that his budgeteers can’t get anywhere close even to Jimmy Carter spending levels.

In the Obama budget, is there a single line that is positive for investment and future economic growth? Since taking control, has Obama every said a single word that was favorable for the future growth of the world economy? If he stays in power, the USA is going to impair the future wealth of every human on the planet. The damage is actually being done by the Democrats in Congress, but Obama’s silver tongue is the vehicle for marketing the “revolution”.

…The biggest illusion in this budget may be its optimistic economic forecast. The White House assumes that the economy will decline by only 1.2% this year, before growing by 3.2% next year. This assumes the recovery will begin later this year and gather steam quickly to return to normal levels of growth. By 2010 to 2013, the budget adds, the economy will be cooking by an average of 4% a year — which is also how it conjures up magical deficit reduction.

This growth is a lovely thought, but how? The only impetus for growth in this budget comes from the government spending more money that it is taking out of the job-producing private economy. With $1 trillion of new entitlements, $1.4 trillion in new taxes, and $5 trillion in new debt, America’s entrepreneurs aren’t getting any help soon from Washington.

Democrats will want to rush all of this into law this year while Mr. Obama retains his honeymoon aura and they can blame the recession on George W. Bush. But Americans are only beginning to understand the magnitude of Mr. Obama’s ambitions, and how much of their own income will be required to fulfill them. Republicans have an obligation to insist on a long and considerable debate on all of this, lest Americans discover in a year or two that they live in a very different country.