The media world, from the conventional to the new age, is agog with the new budget the President of the United States (POTUS), Barack Obama, presented to the Congress. All kinds of numbers are being thrown around and every political faction and interest group in Washington is vying for its own piece of the tax-receipts-and-borrowed-funds-pie with little or no representation for the tax payers themselves. All the details can be found at the web site of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in a document known as Analytical Perspectives for traditional and seasoned analysts like me.
This president, however, has made my life even easier because he has always been so savvy at using the medium of the web. The budget proposal chart looks like the new Microsoft smart phone, neatly tiled in a mosaic of oblongs, as if mirroring the American demographic of Census 2010 and its future, varying by the size of the spending, or a specific government function’s footprint in the quicksand that is the budget of the United States of America. The president’s budget is anything but smart. It is not the iPhone. The youthful feel of Google’s Android is missing also.
One look gives the glimpse that is the unfolding welfare state on the American side of the pond. Microsoft likes health care and shows its love for it through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the largesse of capitalism unleashed around the world in the enlightened self-interest of a visionary 50 year old who was not crazy at 18 to have had the dream of putting a computer on every desktop with one piece of software ever to his credit, though if I have my way I can perhaps give the Gates family more bang for their buck.
POTUS loves health care too and his love is reflected in the future philanthropy of the American people, at their own expense, through intergenerational sacrifice, because good health is all that could be desperately needed when the only way for the country is up.
Thanks to people like Gates and Jobs, a computer in every pocket is what got this president into the Oval Office, but his budget, but for the tiled picture, does not show his gratitude to the might of American innovation and entrepreneurship which has just triggered a cascade of earthquakes across the Middle East and to the generation of young and idealistic Americans who came out in droves to vote for the man in 2008. POTUS had asked college kids and young graduates to live on their parents health insurance until 26 even as the parents themselves are at risk of losing it in the current economy. The American social safety net takes up about a full-third of government spending. National defense and interest payments take up another third. This combined two-thirds of spending represents the analytical fallacy, unless it is an intended trend, at the crux of the Obama spending plan.
Microsoft had learned its lessons the hard way on software quality: bugs in its software were “features” until they were forced by market competition to enforce zero-defect coding practices. America, as a nation, is facing intense market competition on the horizon, and analytical fallacies in government policies driven by misguided ideological intents could make the United States the perfect analogy of Microsoft ― a lumbering and complacent giant at the peak of its quasi-monopoly power and wealth, content to play second fiddle to the eager upstarts because those trying to catch up have a long way to go and because they are not perfect either. The ground beneath both is shifting even as they pretend to stand firmly.
The decision point for the nation’s political leaders is whether to put more government redistributive largesse in almost every aspect of American life, including the financial markets, as this president is trying to do, or to provide incentives through smart taxation and regulation ― a smaller and smarter government which constrains itself to providing only the pure public goods such as an expansive diplomatic corps (hardly noticeable in the current budget and discretionary, but the Founding Fathers would disagree), a smarter and modern national defense, domestic security and intelligence (currently also discretionary) which sans nuclear weapons, a social safety net to help only those who cannot help themselves, and, of course, the Treasury, but with a smarter and smaller tax collector to keep the country’s books and its spending habits within its means (Alexander Hamilton would squirm at the fiscal profligacy of the America of the 21st century which has no Revolutionary War to fight). The words mandatory and discretionary are now merely labels. It has all become quasi-mandatory.
The president’s budget is as un-American as it can be for a man who wanted to bring America back (or is it for a man who represents a party that does not believe in The Federalist Papers?)