No end to deficits is in sight

Tuesday, President Barack Obama submitted a federal budget for the next fiscal year. The problem is, it’s a political document, not a fiscal plan.

The budget is a showcase for policy preferences, not financial responsibility. As such, it’s more about posturing and public relations – voters see headlines with words “boost economy” and “narrow income gap,” then read how the proposal is DOA in the GOP House.

That’s unfortunate, and a missed opportunity. As Rahm Emanuel should have stated, a crisis is a time to show leadership. Yet when we need leaders to behave like adults, we get political maneuvering.

And the spending blueprint was a chance to lead.

Consider current budget, which calls for $3.77 trillion in spending offset by $3.03 trillion in expected income, leaving a projected $744 billion deficit by Sept. 30.

The budget submitted Tuesday foresees $3.9 trillion in spending and $3.37 trillion in revenue, for a deficit of $530 billion.

An improvement, sure, but if spending were kept in line with inflation, the projected shortfall could be $420 billion.

Why does this matter? Because figures in Obama’s budget project annual spending through 2024 only shrink below that number once – with deficits averaging $493 billion per year.

But by freezing spending at even the higher figure requested for 2015 would result in a balanced federal budget by 2018, if revenue projections would hold.

Perhaps the budget that eventually passes through both houses of Congress will be a compromise between raising revenue and at least containing spending. But compromise is rare in a capital where give and take usually mean one side gives and another side takes.

What’s keeping our federal government from getting on a fiscally sound course? Politics. As usual.