JP, regarding Obama’s editorial in USA Today, July 21:
Well, what always annoys me is his “both sides are at fault” shtick, is the fact that the vast majority of our budget problems are due to two things: the Bush tax cuts and the Bush Wars. None of it is due to social security, which is its own separate tax. (Of course, since Obama extended the Bush tax cuts and hasn’t ended the war, I guess they are now bipartisan-ly at fault).
Overall it was an okay editorial, and he gave a few decent examples of things we’d have to give up if we did everything with spending cuts alone. Yet he still dances around the edges of real tax hikes that are needed. The whole corporate jet tax sounds good but doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. At least he does mention hedge fund managers and question why they pay such low rates.
I would have liked to see something really bold, like say, going back to the Clinton tax rates, when the economy was roaring. (Okay, that isn’t really bold, but it’s still beyond what is possible in Washington today. Really bold would be calling to eliminate the Reagan tax cuts for the wealthy that really started our generation long shift of more and more wealth to the richest one percent. I heard some pundit say that if Obama succeeds in cutting Social Security and Medicare, he’ll be the best Republican president since Clinton. I think that’s going a bit far, but thought it was funny. I mean, Clinton reformed welfare, and bush failed to privatize social security…)
So overall I think the editorial is okay, and too measured to really challenge anyone or move the debate. He needs to give more historical examples of how tax cuts haven’t worked to help the economy. And even more examples of how government spending, taxes, helps people and are what maintain and run our society.
And it would be nice if he reminded people that this isn’t the time to have this debate. Always in the past we’ve just raised the debt ceiling, because it was money we had already agreed to spend. It is just housekeeping, as even Mitch Daniels said. The real time for this debate would be for next year’s budget, when we’re deciding what to spend next year. It’s a bad precedent to start having these debates over whether to pay our bills after we’ve spent the money (and it gives too much power to the tea party in setting the debate). Sure, just saying that won’t change the tea party and get people to vote to raise the ceiling, but if you don’t say it, you’re conceding that they’re right to have the debate now, and they’re not.
You debate with yourself whether or not to buy the big screen TV when you put it on your credit card and take it home from the store. You don’t decide whether or not you want to pay the bill when it comes in the mail while you’re watching your TV.
All that said, this is exactly the editorial I expected from Obama. Very measured, very reasoned, bending over backwards to blame everyone, putting forth fairly vague solutions, calmly. Good, if quite predictable. He’s trying to sound like the adult in the room, and for the most part he does. But he’s blaming both kids (parties) equally, when that isn’t the reality. If he had real guts, he’d just say the Bush tax cuts have been tried for ten years and haven’t worked, and we have to let them expire. That’s not a leftist position; it’s simply looking at the results of the policy of the past decade. (But then, a third of his re-election donations are coming in bundles from the financial industry, and they’re the ones who benefited from the Bush tax rates, so he’s stuck defending them. Again, not his fault, but what the system makes him do. Doesn’t mean I have to say it smells like a rose.)
And I checked, and he doesn’t mention the word “jobs” a single time. He’s bought into the Republican meme hook, line, and sinker that the debt is more important that jobs, evidently.
Now I’m Watching his town hall meeting. Think he’s doing a great job, as he does in these settings. And at least in that forum he did say that the economy isn’t producing enough jobs. Nice if he could get something for jobs into a debt deal. (Of course he could have saved himself this whole debate by simply not signing the extension of the Bush tax cuts.)
And, I’m shocked, as I write, he’s talking about Clinton’s high tax rates and great job creation and Bush’s low rates and job losses. He needs to say that over and over! He says, I have to keep reminding the Republicans of this. He must be doing that in the secret meetings because its’ the first time I’ve heard him say it. Say bluntly that the idea of lower taxes creating jobs is not borne out by the evidence. Amen. Now Barack, repeat, repeat, repeat.