How badly have this Congress and this president mangled the nation's financial picture?
It's so bad that the Democrats in charge of Congress didn't even attempt to write a budget this year.
One gets the impression they didn't want the bad press before the election. For that, anyway.
You have to wonder, though: If the federal government can't balance the budget -- and it can't -- what is to blame? Is the government not taking in enough money? Or is it spending too much?
Mr. Obama and his friends in Congress won't even consider the second possibility. All they want to do is take more of our money.
The big issue right now is whether to extend the so-called Bush tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year.
For months and months, Democrats have resisted the notion of extending the tax cuts, which actually affect most families. The Associated Press reported last week -- belatedly, but finally -- that a family of four earning $50,000 a year will pay $2,900 more in taxes next year if the Bush tax cuts expire. A similar family earning $100,000 would be forced to cough up another $4,500.
Unless something changes, that's a done deal.
Now that the election is nigh, however, Democrats are changing their tune. The Democratic leadership says it wants to extend the Bush tax cuts affecting those earning $250,000 and less. The massive $800 billion federal "stimulus" did next to nothing, and unemployment is flirting with 10 percent -- though the real number is north of 15 percent when you count the chronically unemployed. So Democrats are resorting to class warfare: tax cuts that look good politically, but which wouldn't get the economy going again.
A growing number of Democrats are finally admitting it publicly, too: A group of 31 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to their leaders imploring them to extend the Bush tax cuts for all Americans, even the so-called rich.
"While those in the highest income brackets comprise only 2 to 3 percent of American taxpayers, economists estimate that they are responsible for 25 percent of national consumer spending," they wrote. "As 70 percent of our economy is driven by consumer spending, this is not the time to jeopardize further growth. It is also estimated that up to one-third of high income tax payers are small business owners, our nation's job creators and the backbone of our economic recovery."
This, from Democrats, mind you.
They're right -- as is Mr. Obama's former budget director, Peter Orszag, who wrote an op-ed recently saying it would be deleterious to raise taxes right now.
It's nice that Democrats and the mainstream media are finally beginning to question the wisdom of sucking $4 trillion in taxes out of the economy in the midst of the worst economic times since the Great Depression; better late than never. Yet, where were these people the past two years, as the economy continued to sputter and shed jobs? Now, just before the election, they're worried about raising taxes?
And what about the threshold question they never seem to get to: Is the federal government not getting enough revenues, or is it just spending too much? We think most Americans know the answer. But why is that not the central question of the debate?
Answer: Because it's largely someone else's money they're playing with.
Well, the owners of that money are watching -- perhaps more closely than they ever have.