A president’s budget has the shelf life of a shrimp. A president drafts a budget and sells it with language as chaste and extravagant as the blue sky, and his naysayers dutifully mount their soap boxes to declaim, distort and denounce.
What comes out the other end of the meat grinder is something else entirely. It was ever thus.
President Trump’s budget, revealed yesterday to the usual expectant Washington audience and to the usual cries of reception, won no hosannas. A budget never does.
What everyone in Washington learns, and quickly if he is paying attention, is that the early stages of the budget process are merely cheesy political propaganda. A president’s budget, like congressional budget resolutions, are no more binding than New Year’s resolutions, which is why they’re delivered with such carefully manufactured sincerity.
Now the lobbyists can go to work. The late Tony Snow, the press secretary for George W. Bush (and who before that presided over the editorial pages of The Washington Times), called this “rent seeking.”
“Think of a politician’s soul as an apartment,” he once wrote in these pages. “Think of lobbyists as renters. Each year, the renters show up, waving wads of cash. Politicians survey the throng. The winning contestants get to occupy the apartments on a one-year lease. It’s a great deal for lobbyists: They spend millions and take home billions. It’s not such a good deal for you and me, because we pay the billions and, if we use the goods and services of the lobbyists, we pay the millions, too.”