June 23, 2009

June 23, 2009 | Commentary on Economy

Is There a Number Too Big to Fail?

What's bigger than a trillion, a number so large it would take several lifetimes to count to it? Well, a quadrillion is a thousand trillion. It may be time to worry that President Obama's spending spree will introduce us to the word "quadrillion."

This year alone we've been asked to pay for stimulus, the bailouts, Health Care Reform, Climate Change and proposals to exact massive new taxes. The next round of Tea Parties (scheduled for Independence Day) should focus attention on the threat the federal government may end up taking control of what's left of the private sector of the U.S. economy.

Expensive Health Care Reform

President Obama will be using ABC News to host a so-called Townhall meeting to promote his expensive health care ideas, and Congress has already started the process of drafting legislation to implement those ideas. Because Obama has promised that his plan should be "deficit neutral," his objectives are already in conflict with what is being produced on Capitol Hill. Even more interesting is the fact that the Senate Education Labor and Pensions Committee draft contains all of the President's major proposals (a public plan, an employer mandate, an individual mandate, a massive Medicaid expansion) to the point where it can legitimately be called The Obama/Kennedy bill. The Congressional Budget office partially scored the bill and revealed that it would result in a whopping $1 trillion increase to the deficit. So much for deficit neutrality. This partial score has slowed progress in the Senate and left Democrats scrambling to find savings to get the cost under $1 trillion.

The details of this bill remain a mystery to the CBO. "It is important to note, however, that (the estimated $1 trillion cost) does not represent a formal or complete cost estimate for the draft legislation," CBO says. It had a hard time estimating the cost of some of the provisions it reviewed, and the administrative costs for a massive new health care bureaucracy have "not yet been fully captured." Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the markup a "joke," because the bill hadn't been fully scored by congressional watchdogs.

Meanwhile, markup of the Obama/Kennedy bill was complicated because the committee leadership decided to start with major elements of the bill missing or concealed from members of the committee. McCain wondered, "When are we going to have cost estimates? This is the most incredible markup I've ever been in my entire time at the United States Senate." The partial draft of the bill is estimated to reduce the number of insured by a mere 16 million and leaves out major initiatives that could push up the cost another $1 trillion or more.

Missile Defense

While spending is exploding domestically, Obama is cutting missile defense and other Pentagon programs. Thankfully, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), and Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) are fighting against the administration's proposed $1.4 billion cuts to missile defense.

Vitter told HUMAN EVENTS, "As North Korea continues to test nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that could serve as serious threats to the U.S. and our allies, the Obama administration is standing by its recommendations to cut back on our missile defense programs." With the presence of multiple nuclear powers and the threat of proliferation to rogue regimes, it's important for the United States to establish a strong missile defense to protect American interests.

Detainee Photos

After nearly two months of internal debate that resulted in several conflicting, nuanced positions, President Obama claims to be ready to sign an executive order banning the release of photos that depict detainee abuse. If true, that's very good news for our military and our country. As Gen. David Petraeus says, "militant and extremist groups would use these images to foment anti-U.S. sentiment and to incite demonstrators to conduct deliberate attacks against U.S. targets, as well as western Non-Government Organization facilities and personnel."

Of course, it wasn't long ago the administration said it was "hopeless to appeal" the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision demanding the pictures' release. The Senate inserted language into the emergency war funding measure to make the release of the photos illegal and to give the administration a legal reason to not release them. Liberals in the House balked, refusing to support the bill because it prevented the release of the photos even though the President himself agreed that their release would "put our troops in greater danger."

Congress stripped out the language that protected our troops in favor of a letter from the administration promising that the President "will continue to take every legal and administrative remedy available" to ensure the photos are not released. It's not the job of the commander-in-chief to give in to the demands of the ACLU. Signing an executive order preventing the release would indicate the President is committed to the goal of protecting the troops in the field.

Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation

About the Author

Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies
Government Studies

Related Issues: Economy

First Appeared in Human Events