Monthly Archives: February 2009

$4 Trillion

When leftists start arguing about how much laissez-faire capitalism we experienced under the Bush adminstration, I often point out that he was the first President to preside over a $2T budget, and he was also the first to propose a $3T budget (for FY’09).

I expected Obama to spend more than Bush — but I didn’t think it would be this bad:

Details on president Barack Obama’s first budget are out today, and there is no shortage of eye-popping numbers. Total budgeted spending in fiscal 2009 (which began five months ago) will reach nearly $4 trillion, or nearly 30% of American GDP. The deficit for the year is expected to be about $1.75 trillion. As budgeted, the deficit will decline to just over $1.1 trillion in fiscal 2010, and to about $500 billion by the end of Mr Obama’s first term—close to, but still above, last year’s deficit of $459 billion. The drop is less ambitious than it sounds, however; it is primarily due to a winding down of spending in Iraq and the expiration of Bush era tax cuts. It will take harder choices to move the budget toward balance.

You can play around with the numbers a bit; i.e. the 2010 budget itself is somewhere between $3.5T and $4T, but when you include $750B in “room” for a bank bailout that we “might” need — and it’s not clear whether that’s FY’09 or FY’10 — I think you can see that planned spending is likely to top that $4T mark. Likewise, in Obama’s defense, if he’s actually living up to his promise of taking the “off-budget” spending of the Bush administration and putting it on-budget, that might not be as big of an increase as it looks.

But it’s still big. It’s still a number that should scare the hell out of most Americans. It places federal government spending at roughly a third of GDP — which doesn’t include state and local spending, of course. We’re going to be nearing a point where government, all levels combined, spend half of GDP. If anyone believed we had a true free market before, I’m sure they’ll change their minds.

And his deficit reductions [of the deficits he’s creating]? Well, it’s a combination of tax hikes, reduction in Iraq spending, and an assumption of 4% GDP growth rates. I guess it’s because he’s figuring in the Keynesian multiplier effect of all his wonderful proposals, huh?

Oh, in completely unrelated news, 2008 was the biggest year on record for lobbyists — and 2009 is expected to be bigger:

So the $3.2 billion bonanza for lobbyists in 2008 was just a precursor of the lollapalooza to come. Within three weeks of Obama’s inauguration, the Washington Post reported that more than 90 organizations had hired lobbyists specifically to influence the stimulus bill.

Hmm, a link between ever-increasing budgets and your friendly K-Street fellows trying to influence how that money is being spent? By “most open and transparent administration in history”, is Obama just suggesting that the “Open for Business” sign will be displayed prominently in the window of the White House? I’m sure it doesn’t mean that he’s installing a “No Solicitors” sign.

Quick Thought — Bobby Jindal Will Never Be President

Again, this is why I hate politics. Now, I know little about Jindal personally, and not being from Louisiana, don’t know how good of a president he’ll make. I’ve really only seen him on TV for a very short time, in response to Obama’s non-SOTU speech.

But I was immediately struck with the same sort of vibe I get from watching a Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, or to a lesser extent, Ron Paul type. It didn’t take long. I didn’t watch for more than a few minutes, but it was as clear as watching one of Pelosi’s responses to Bush’s SOTU speeches. It was a forgotten address before Jindal even stopped speaking.

There is a level to which candidates need charisma to succeed. Reagan, Clinton, and Obama have it in spades. Both Bushes 41 and 43 had a little bit of it, but by far had more than Dukakis, Gore, or Kerry. Bobby Jindal doesn’t have any of it.

It’s a sad statement on politics, but even if he had the best and most impressive ideological beliefs of any person in the country, he simply won’t be President, because he can’t own the stage.

Live Chat With Mayor Cheye Calvo Tonight @ 8 p.m. EST (5 p.m. PST) @ The Agitator

Check in this Thursday night at 8pm ET with your questions for Cheye Calvo, the Berwyn Heights, Maryland mayor who was subject to a violent, botched drug raid last year.

Calvo’s pushing legislation that would bring transparency to how Maryland’s police departments use their SWAT teams.

I’m hoping to be home in time to participate in this chat because I am very interested in what Mayor Calvo has to say. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, the mayor spoke at a Cato Policy Forum on September 12, 2008. The full 90 minute podcast can be downloaded here; the podcast below is a much shorter (just under 9 minutes) interview with the mayor following the Cato event.

Post Chat Report:
The chat with Mayor Calvo ended just a few minutes ago. The mayor stayed about a half hour over the scheduled chat to answer more questions from participants. I managed to have a couple of questions answered and the other questions which were asked were also very good. The chat was very informative and worthwhile. Readers who would like to read the full chat can click here.

The mayor answered questions about his ordeal with the SWAT team raiding his home as well as some legislation he is pushing in the State of Maryland. The proposed legislation would require all police departments with SWAT teams to provide monthly reports to the Attorney General, local officials and the general public. These reports would provide the number of raids, general locations, purpose, authorization, and results of raids. The overall goal is to provide additional oversight.

For more information about this legislation and how you can help, go to

Only Fourteen Years To Go

Statistics guru Nate Silver posits that public support will be sufficiently strong that marijuana will be legalized by 2022:

potFirstly, although support for legalization has grown, it remains the minority position. Secondly, although there has been a long, slow-moving upward trend in favor of legalization since roughly 1992, there is no guarantee that public sentiment will continue to move in that direction: support for legalization had grown to about 30 percent in the mid 1970s before dropping significantly during the Just Say No years of the 1980s.

Still, the position no longer holds the stigma that it once did. About as many Americans now support legalizing marijuana as do de-legalizing abortion. The past three Presidents have admitted, more or less, to marijuana use. Thirteen states have some form of decriminalization on the books, while fourteen permit medical use of the drug, although it is not clear how robust those provisions are as they are superseded by federal law.


My guess is that we’ll need to see a supermajority of Americans in favor of decriminalizing pot before the federal government would dare to take action on it. If the upward trend since 1990 holds (and recall my earlier caution: it might not), then legalization would achieve 60 percent support at some point in 2022 or 2023. About then is when things might get interesting. But I’d guess we’ll see other some other once-unthinkable things like legalized gay marriage first.

Seems like a long time to wait for the insanity to end, no ?

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