If you wonder why Americans are increasingly disillusioned about the dysfunction of their government, take a look at President Barack Obama's proposed budget -- an $8.3 trillion nightmare that has no chance of adoption and fails to address most of the nation's pressing problems.
The president's last budget before the November election is a campaign document and nothing else. Absent is any real solution to the runaway entitlement programs of Social Security and Medicare. But even more startling is the lack of any realistic effort to lower the national debt except to tax the rich who make more than $250,000 annually by doing away with the Bush era tax cuts.
It simply is not a serious document and does no credit to the young chief executive who overwhelmed voters four years ago with sincere and articulate pledges of change. This budget closely follows the populist theme he has adopted for his effort to win re-election. How sad. Under the circumstances, why does Obama think he deserves it? What has happened to the man who said he would rather be a great president in one term than a bad one in two?
Budget day in this town once was a big deal. The U.S. Government Printing Office used to scramble to produce enough of the weighty tomes to satisfy not only the media but also everyone in government. Poring over it was a tedious must that would produce stories for days to come. It is a far cry from that now, in an atmosphere where no one takes the budget seriously and the real attention is focused on periodically raising the debt limit.
Congress hasn't met its appropriations responsibilities in years, instead funding the republic's operations through a series of continuing resolutions. Yet in the process, the lawmakers, who are more interested in telling us how to live than solving problems, have become full-time dawdlers on the taxpayers' dollars. What a travesty.
Obama's budget, according to the experts, is mainly aimed at enhancing the economic viability of the middle class. That's a hoot. While $250,000 seems like a lot of money, it is in the middle-class range -- at the top, I grant you, but still middle class. At that level, one's taxes are going to rise if the president has his way.
The president wants to lower the debt by $2 trillion over the next 10 years by his tax on the wealthy. At the same time, he would continue the payroll tax holiday, which Republicans apparently have agreed to, and do away with the alternative minimum tax that affects middle-class families.
Do we need a mixture of income tax hikes and spending cuts, including entitlement reform, to substantially lower the national debt? Most certainly we do. But is this a good time to single out one class by dipping into the pockets of those at the lowest end of the 1 percent scale? Probably not.
As for the super rich, who else is available to create the necessary jobs needed to permanently lift us from the continuing economic doldrums? It's a fair question. Those making millions annually are clearly vulnerable, and there are ways of raising the percentage of what they pay to support the nation's business by closing loopholes and readjusting capital gains without reinstating confiscatory rates.
The hitch in all this is that none of the president's potential Republican opponents offers much better. Mitt Romney pays a tax rate of about 15 percent on millions of dollars of income, because most of his annual revenue comes from capital gains. Rick Santorum seems more interested in dictating how we handle our personal lives than anything else. Neither seems to have enlightened us with any innovative notions about how to save the country.
So while the president's budget may be a bust as a realistic plan for repairing our crumbling infrastructure, it may hold out just enough promise to give him the edge in November. It is a sorry way to run a railroad, as my railroading grandfather used to say.
Email Dan K. Thomasson, former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, at email@example.com.