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Friday, July 15, 2011

The President's phony posturing

Let us review a tiny bit of how President Obama's position on raising the debt ceiling has evolved. Originally, as April, he wanted a clean vote on raising the debt ceiling. That approach crashed when even the Democrats didn't want that. Then Vice President Biden worked on negotiating cuts in spending for around a $2 trillion debt ceiling increase. Then, when those talks broke down because of the insistence on tax increases, the President has decided that he wants to go big addressing all sorts of other issues like the tax code and entitlements reforms for a $4 trillion increase.

Of course, we don't really know what the President has been supporting because his proposals are made in closed-door meetings and aren't put into writing. That is why John Boehner compares the President's bargaining position to the single most repulsive food our cuisine contains, Jello.

But let us remember that Obama's pose of fiscal virtue is phony. It comes after the period of largest government spending since the Great Depression and World War II. And never forget that, until January of this year, the President and the Democrats had control of both the Legislative and Executive branches. If he was so enamored of any of this debt ceiling proposals, they could have passed it any time last year, even after the 2010 elections. But they wanted the Republicans to be involved to share the blame. They didn't want to own the debt ceiling increase even though they owned the spending.

Don't buy into the President's posturing. As the WSJ writes today,
The President is now claiming to have found fiscal virtue, but notice how hard he has fought House Republicans as they've sought to abate the spending boom. First he used the threat of a government shutdown to whittle the fiscal 2011 spending cuts down to very little. Then he invited Paul Ryan to sit in the front row for a speech while he called his House budget un-American.

Now Mr. Obama is using the debt-ceiling debate as a battering ram not to control spending but to command a tax increase. We're told the White House list of immediate budget savings, the ones that matter most because they are enforceable by the current Congress, are negligible. His offer for immediate domestic nondefense discretionary cuts: $2 billion.

As for Mr. Obama's proposed entitlement cuts, they are all nibbling around the edges of programs that are growing far faster than inflation. He's offering few reforms that would make a difference in the long run. Oh, and ObamaCare is untouchable, despite its $1 trillion in new spending over the next several years, growing even faster after that.

So now we have the inevitable showdown over the debt limit, which must be raised to pay for all of this spending. And Mr. Obama is blaming Republicans for being irresponsible because they won't raise taxes in return for promises of modest future spending restraint. And some people even fall for it.
The President even has gone on TV to lie about having to withhold sending out the August Social Security checks if the GOP doesn't send him a deal he likes. He compares himself to Ronald Reagan, but as Peggy Noonan reminds us, this is not how Reagan negotiated.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor reports Mr. Obama went into enough-is-enough mode during White House talks this week, warned Mr. Cantor not to call his bluff, and ended the meeting saying: "Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting here?" I'm glad Reagan is his model for how presidents should comport themselves, but he should know Reagan never tried to scare people into doing things his way. Instead he tried to encourage support, and with a light touch. When locked in battle with a Democratic Congress he didn't go on TV and make threats. He didn't say, "Congress needs to know we must rebuild our defense system, and if they don't, your children will die in a fiery hale of Soviet bullets."

That was—how to put it?—not his style. It's not any president's style. But it's what Mr. Obama was doing when he told CBS's Scott Pelley that he isn't sure there will be "money in the coffers" to send out Social Security checks. Soon he may be saying there won't be money in the coffers to let students return to college or to pay servicemen. The president is playing Targeted Catastrophe. He's attempting to agitate and frighten people into calling their congressmen and saying Don't Cut Anything, Raise Taxes on Millionaires.
However, the President doesn't even have the unanimous support of his own party. The WSJ quotes four Democratic senators on their opposition to tax increases. For those up in election next year, they're going to be very chary of voting for any tax increases. And three Democratic senators are opposed to an increase in taxes on the oil and gas industry. So he have trouble getting such increases through his own caucus in the Senate.

That is why it makes a lot of sense to dial back for a smaller deal such as Charles Krauthammer is proposing. Let us get past this deadline. Then take time to address some of the proposals out there on tax or entitlement reform. Don't rush those through like everything else in this presidency has been rushed through without time to consider the consequences. And use the 2012 election to debate these important questions.


mark said...

What a shame that we have an opportunity to do something big, and we're letting it go to waste.
Conservatives remind me of the school "Zero Tolerance" policies (recently mocked here) that lead to absurd decisions; a 10-yr. old getting suspended for giving a Flintstone chewable to her friend. You're supporting loopholes and subsidies that, given the deficit, are insane and immoral. But because repubs signed a pledge to never raise taxes, all common sense and decency are out the window.
Repubs and dems are to blame for the mess we're in, but Obama is doing the right thing now. The lack of outrage here about McConnell's cowardly ploy (only tfhr has said anything) shows who the real phonies are.

Pat Patterson said...

Obama has tried to pull off a player to be named later routine. He's had over two years to look for a major reform and waits till a new deadline pops up in two weeks. And since the Democrats will not pass any major spending cuts or reforms of entitlements, they haven't even proposed a new budget in over two years, why should the Republicans suddenly trust them?

tfhr said...


Obama is NOT doing the "right thing now". Where are the concrete specifics? He's posturing and the American people are growing tired of it, finally.

And speaking of posturing, where do you get off condemning the readership here for what they don't say? You do it often and I'm tired of it. Your unceasing effort to tar everyone else because of something you're laying on a third person or because, in your opinion there hasn't been a sufficient negative commentary about something that bothers you is as ridiculous as it is tiresome.

Furthermore, that knife cuts both ways, mark. I remember when Biddle was cracking jokes about raping children here - you didn't offer a word of disapproval. Should I draw a conclusion about you from your "silence"?

mark said...

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you.
I'm not talking about stray misfires and stupid comments like my "fish joke" or your "my sandwich was tasty" when I linked to lawsuits by soldiers who became sick from tainted food and water. I'm talking about lies and disgraceful comments that are common and become accepted.
"Death panels", birtherism, and the idea that criticizing the president was "spitting on the troops" (that was under Bush, now it's okay under Obama). And yes, there is an attitude here that all people who get govt. assistance are undeserving and freeloaders. People here have mocked the ethanol subsidies. Yet when we have an opportunity to get rid of them, you balk because somehow that would somehow break the "no new taxes" pledge.
I'll remind you again that if my comments upset you, you have the option of not reading them. No use getting your panties in a bind. There are plenty here that will allow your lies, exaggerations and disgraceful comments to go unchallenged.

tfhr said...


I'll send you some Kleenex.

You live in a fantasy world, mark. I've not seen your snivel referenced ethanol comment supported here. I'm completely against the stuff and any subsidies behind it - as are most conservatives. We want to drill for oil because we hate polar bears, caribou and because we are concerned that penguins will start migrating to the Arctic and want the first chance to kill them when they arrive.

Raising taxes will hurt the economy and raising the debt limit will not help us rein in government spending. That's the truth and whether or not everyone here chimes in to suit you or not, does not change those facts.

Try and stay on topic and try to stop pawning Obama's massive failure as a president on others. He had both houses and failed to talked necessary and corrective actions when he had the chance. Instead he chose to "stimulate" his paid-off constituencies and raise our debt by 35% in the process.

Live with that mark; the rest of us are struggling to do so and we are eagerly awaiting our chance to put people in place that help us recover.