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March 02, 2010

Now You Go Pay

A fight sprang up this week as Senator Jim Bunning single-handedly blocked efforts by Congress to extend unemployment benefits noting that Congress was ignoring the “pay-as-you-go” legislation it passed just weeks earlier by refusing to offer offsets to the expected $10 billion in costs.

Some have unfairly suggested that the White House's support for the measure is somehow at odds with President Obama’s effusive praise of PayGo having remarked in a weekend address that after a decade of profligacy:

“The American people are tired of politicians who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk when it comes to fiscal responsibility.”

 But there’s something they don’t understand.

This is an emergency!

We can only imagine the conversation that unfolded as this was brought to the President’s attention:

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: [Bursting through Oval Office door] Mr. President!  We’ve got a problem.
President Obama:
  I’ll say.  How am I going to get this massive comprehensive health care bill through Congress?
Emanuel:
I was against that, you know.
Obama:
Yes, I know, everyone knows.
Emanuel:
Just so we’re clear.  I advised that you take a more measured approach to…
Obama:
Rahm, you said we had a problem? What is it?
Emanuel:
Take a look at these numbers.  Apparently, we’ve had high unemployment for over a year.
Obama:
What?
Emanuel:
It’s true, Mr. President. I double-checked the numbers myself.  We’ve got high unemployment.
Obama: Oh. My. God.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: [Walking in oval office] Have you two heard?
Emanuel:
I just told him.
Geithner:
I never saw this coming.  Who could?
Emanuel:
Well, you never were that good with numbers.
Obama:
Now, boys…
Emanuel:
Mr. President, we have to do something. We have to get Congress to extend unemployment benefits. Again. It could cost as much as $10 billion
Obama:
I know, but how?  They passed PayGo just two weeks ago. Where am I going to find $10 billion in a multi-trillion-dollar budget?
Geithner:
Exactly!  That’s like, what? 50% or something?
Obama:
Tim, could you go take a seat.  No, in the other room.

Emanuel: Mr. President, I just may have a solution. This is clearly an emergency.
Obama:
Keep talking.
Emanuel:
Mr. President, PayGo was never meant to enforce fiscal discipline in trying times such as these.  It was meant to enforce fiscal discipline only during those times when we don’t need to.
Obama:
Why, you’re right! This is clearly a completely unforeseen emergency for which the PayGo legislation I championed was never meant! To suggest otherwise would be irrational.
Geithner: Okay, I've got it.  $10 billion isn't 50% of $3.6 trillion, it's 500%.  Wait, that's not right either...

Emanuel: Anyway, there are a few other items in there as well, such as extending health insurance benefits.
Obama:
Well, that’s an emergency.
Emanuel:
And highway funding.
Obama:
We need to build highways?  Sounds like an emergency to me.
Emanuel:
And extend a flood insurance program, stop cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors and add some more money for small businesses.
Obama:
Emergency. Emergency. Emergency.
Emanuel:
Thank you, Mr. President.  I’ll get this down to Harry Reid right away.
Obama:
And here I thought this fiscal discipline stuff was going to be hard…

J.

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March 2, 2010 at 02:07 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink

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