Instead, in January, President Obama proposed a budget showing deficits north of a trillion dollars a year as far as the eye could see. It disappeared without a trace. And though House Republicans later passed a budget cutting the long-term budget roughly in half without new taxes, largely by dramatic changes in Medicare, Democrats and the president denounced it.
Since then, neither the president nor the Democrats in either House have produced any budget at all.
Meanwhile, Moody's threatens to downgrade our debt, and official unemployment persists at more than 9 percent, with unofficial figures at twice that level.
We know this country cannot long continue to spend 23 to 24 percent of its GNP while taking in only 18 to 19 percent in revenues. This disparity, and the lack of any discernable agreement on a road out of the dilemma, is causing pervasive, country-wide pessimism — which is in turn contributing heavily to a continuing recession and a lack of significant job growth.
Vice President Biden spent a month or more meeting privately with a handful of secondary leaders of both parties, apparently reaching some agreement on modest but unspecified spending cuts outside of the major entitlements. and yet only last week Republicans walked away from those talks because of the Democrats' insistence on tax increases. This week the president is meeting with congressional leaders to discuss the subject, apparently without a specific proposal of his own that would sharply change our present disastrous fiscal course.
Is there any wonder that a weak recovery is grinding to a halt? We lack any certainty that the United States can and will meet its budget and employment challenges any better than can Greece. And what’s worse, we have no one to bail us out. Where is the necessary leadership?
Only strong, articulate and courageous leadership now can meet and surmount the two challenges of debt and unemployment, and the only individual who can provide that leadership is the president of the United States, who has so far played no significant role in finding a solution.
We must distinguish, of course, between the institutional opportunity for leadership from the White House and from the Congress. Any president is the final and sole spokesman for the entire administration. What he says becomes its position. His trumpet is either clear, muted or silent. Not so with the Congress. Speaker Boehner (and Senators Reid and McConnell as well) can lead only to the extent that he can persuade the members of his caucus to follow, a task seriously complicated by the promises they made to their constituents in order to become members of that caucus.