You Did a Heckuva Job, Mr. Orzag

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Spending: After accruing a $1.3 trillion deficit and the largest debt in U.S. history, what do you do for an encore? For Peter Orszag, exit was the only option.

If ever someone smelled the smoke and knew it was time to leave the burning building, it's the director of President Obama's Office of Management and Budget.

After a stint as director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Orszag was brought to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue for his fiscal street cred. But only last month, he found himself bracing the country for a betrayal of the president's no-tax-increase pledge.

During the presidential campaign, candidate Obama said, "I can make a firm pledge: Under my plan no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase - not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital-gains taxes, not any of your taxes."

But five weeks ago, Orszag called that just a preferred "stance." Obama "still believes that's the right course forward. But he has also been very clear that we shall let the commission go do its work."

The panel Orszag referred to is the new Commission on Fiscal Responsibility that some fear will recommend further Europeanization of the U.S. economy by means of a value-added tax, or other job-killing measures.

Orszag also speculated that "everyone is going to come along with this idea - the value-added tax, this thing under $250,000, Social Security, Medicare changes, what have you - and you're looking for us to say 'no,' 'yes,' 'no,' 'yes,' 'no,' 'yes' - which will mean that the commission has absolutely nothing to talk about and nothing to do. The president has been very clear that we're not going to play that game."

But is breaking a solemn - and endlessly repeated - campaign promise a more winnable game? Wisely, Orszag isn't sticking around to find out.

Earlier this month, he caused another stir while speaking to the left-wing Center for American Progress, claiming that if the president sent Congress immediate spending cuts, they would likely "go nowhere."

Endless spending and more taxes. Orszag can flee the tsunami of voter outrage he sees coming; the president can't.


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