Peter Orszag, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, has announced that he intends to resign after 18 months. Orszag intends to marry soon, but the real reason for his departure would seem obvious.
Peter Orszag was one of the Obama administration officials responsible for putting together the nearly $900 billion stimulus package that passed last year, and was supposed to power the American economy out of the economic turmoil that consumed it during the waning days of the George W. Bush administration.
But, a year later, with persistent unemployment, anemic economic growth, and exploding budget deficits, some might say that the Obama administration might have piled the $900 billion in the middle of a road and set fire to it for all of the effect it had on the economy.
With deficits in excess of a trillion dollars, unheard of in American history, Peter Orszag’s tenure at OMB can only be considered a conspicuous failure. The only restraint so far on spending practiced by the Obama administration seems to be in areas that the federal government is properly charged with, defense and homeland security, as well as NASA and a handful of other accounts that are out of favor at the Obama White House.
Orszag was also one of the Obama administration officials responsible for crafting and then moving into law the health care reform bill. Promises that health care reform would lower the cost of health care and broaden access have so far proven to be illusory. Indeed, “unexpected” costs (at least by the administration) have exploded in the hundreds of billions.
Along with Rahm Emanuel, Peter Orszag might be getting out of the Obama administration while the getting is good. The likely turnover in Congress that will occur this year promises that the last two years of the Obama administration will feature gridlock and political trench warfare, especially on spending. Being Director of OMB in that situation will not be as much fun as it has been during the first two years of the Obama administration, when the spending spigots have been wide open.
Peter Orszag thus leaves a federal government whose fiscal house is in chaos, with not much immediate prospect of things righting themselves. It will be left to others, perhaps in Congress, perhaps in the next administration, to try to fix the fiscal ruin that Orszag is leaving behind him.
Peter Orszag to resign: first big name to quit Obama’s White House, Richard Adams, The Guardian, June 22nd, 2010