Just One Fact
Of all the president's rhetorical sleights of hand last night, I guess the one that most bothered me was his boast that he had reduced the growth of domestic discretionary spending every year. It gives the impression of fiscal discipline, and although technically true, it's an absurd irrelevancy. It starts from a freak number and suggests that cutting discretionary spending's growth from a starting point of an annual increase of 15 percent is a big deal. Here's a reality check:
The president said he has reduced "the growth" of non-security discretionary spending. This only means it did not increase as much from year to year. Moreover, overall discretionary spending has exploded during his tenure, especially when military spending is included. White House budget documents show that overall discretionary spending has climbed from $644 billion in 2001 to $840 billion this year, an increase of more than 30 percent.
Looked at another way, discretionary spending as a share of the overall economy is at its highest level in 13 years, according to the CBO.
At a very basic level, this president is being dishonest. The good news, I suppose, is that he recognizes that the truth of his own record is indefensible. And I couldn't help noticing that many of the Democrats' replies, including those from Tim Kaine and Rahm Emanuel, focused on how the president wasn't spending enough on their pet programs. No responsibility anywhere in sight. I'm not a fan of amending the Constitution, but a balanced budget amendment looks increasingly like our only option.