If you believed that President Obama and his congressional allies had any interest in cutting government spending and reforming runaway entitlement programs, then last week should have dispelled your illusions.
During the presidential campaign, Obama tried to take credit for the meager spending cuts of 2011 -- which he had actually tried to prevent. But with his second term secured, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney began to lay the groundwork for increased government spending in the name of stimulating the economy.
"[D]eficit reduction is not a goal -- a worthy goal unto itself," Carney told reporters last Wednesday. "This is all about making our economy stronger and making it more productive and allowing it to create even more jobs. I mean, that is the most important thing when it comes to economic policy as far as the President is concerned."
That's a far cry from Obama's promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term. "It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we've long neglected," Obama said in 2009. "I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay -- and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control."
The federal debt, of course, is over $16 trillion, while the deficit -- the amount of money spent each year that exceeds tax revenue -- will exceed $1 trillion for the fifth year in a row.
Democratic Party leaders have no interest in making those "difficult decisions" Obama referred to, even with the federal government on a collision course with the legal debt limit.
Although House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, believes that government spending should be cut by the same amount that the debt ceiling is raised, congressional Democrats would rather do nothing -- even if that means weakening Congress relative to the president.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., encouraged Obama in a letter Friday "to ensure that America does not break its promises and trigger a global economic crisis -- without congressional approval, if necessary." Reid's letter outlined a position similar to that of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who has long argued that Obama should claim the authority to raise the debt limit under the 14th Amendment -- an unprecedented arrogation of power by the executive.
"Instead of using this opportunity to address Washington's spending problem or begin a dialogue with Republicans on entitlement reform, the leadership of the Democratic Party has chosen to advocate a clearly unconstitutional approach," Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, told The Washington Examiner in a statement. "To even suggest the president could raise the debt limit 'without congressional approval' is extreme and totally unnecessary."
It is necessary, though, if the Democrats intend to continue spending money while hiding the nation's financial situation from the American people. Reid hasn't allowed the Senate to pass a budget in over three years as Obama and his allies work to create a European-style welfare state.
Polls continue to show that Americans are deeply concerned about government overspending, but that's the opposite of the Democrats' and Obama's agenda. That explains why Senate Democrats would rather cede congressional power to Obama and let him exercise Congress's constitutional borrowing power than hold a recorded vote on their long-term budget plans.