Having spent 6 years in the Delaware Legislature gave me an appreciation of the power of the legislature versus that of the Executive. While the Executive has a strong ability to “define the playing surface” (i.e. what are the policy ideas and initiatives that get worked on), the Legislature has the ability to decide many of the specifics within those confines. Governor Minner basically abdicated the role of the Executive branch during her tenure to disastrous effect for Delaware. Governor Markell learned (I hope) how to define the “surface” a little better after this first session where he put all his “chips” (pun intended) into gambling and an 8% salary cut. He lost both of these bets. Being a pretty bright guy, I expect that his second legislative session will be more successful.
At the federal level, the President has been following the Minner approach by allowing Pelosi & Reid define not only the specifics, but the whole playing surface, and it has been brutal on the President’s popularity and his effectiveness. But even worse, it has destroyed his future flexibility because the budget is shot. According to the CBO,
CBO released updated economic and budget projectionsa [August 28], showing baseline (i.e., current law) budget deficits of about $1.6 trillion for the current fiscal year that ends on September 30 and roughly $7.1 trillion for the 2010-2019 period. That 10-year total is about $2.7 trillion higher than the baseline projection CBO published in March 2009. As noted in our report, about half of that revision is attributable to legislation enacted since March (primarily from extrapolating the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009), while the other half stems from technical factors and updates to our economic forecast.
So, from March to today, the Democrats have passed Supplemental Appropriations that have increased the deficit by $1.3 trillion (a 20% increase in the deficit and also a stack of $1,000 bills over 80 miles tall). The economy itself has added another $1.3 trillion. These numbers are before the CBO has “updated [its] analysis of the President’s budget to reflect our new economic and technical assumptions”. The OMB’s estimate of the impact of the Administration’s proposals added $2.8 trillion to the baseline budget, so I think that it is safe to assume that the CBO estimate of the Administration’s proposals will be at least $2.8 trillion more. That would bring the total 2010-2019 budget deficit to $10 trillion. Note that in 2008, the total US GDP was about $14 trillion.
By allowing Pelosi & Reid to drive the policy bus, the President is now fiscally stuck. Maybe he should go back to what got him elected… tax cuts for 95% of Americans and fiscal responsibility.