Today, President Obama abandoned any lingering pretense of bipartisan leadership. His speech on deficit reduction was combative and pointed, pitting his push for “fairness” against GOP intransigence against tax hikes. In what was widely recognized as initial architecture for his reelection campaign, Mr. Obama sought to solidify his support among union workers (embracing job creation for teachers, health care and construction workers) and the middle class. Emboldened by polling that shows most Americans favor hiking taxes on the rich and on large corporations, the president repeatedly promised to make sure those groups were made to pay “their fair share” while also assuring that our ballooning budget deficit will not be plugged by cuts in programs important to those less fortunate.
All of which makes for great campaigning. The question all Americans should ask: Does it move the country forward? Will the president’s refusal to address the future of Social Security, or to do more than trim the edges of our disastrous Medicare and Medicaid programs, pave the way for reforms essential to our fiscal health?
More important, will the debate over tax increases overwhelm what most Americans care most about – job creation?
It is beyond depressing to imagine that the next fourteen months will be spent mired in rancor, and yet an ongoing – indeed amplified – slugfest seems inevitable. This past summer the debate over raising the debt ceiling plunged the country into gloom, with Americans handing out the lowest ratings yet for both Congress and President Obama. This frustration and hopelessness does nothing for our economy. Sliding consumer sentiment and increased nervousness about the future retards spending, investment – and hiring.
The debt ceiling imbroglio was notable for the stubbornness of Republicans who refused to raise taxes. Now both sides appear equally dug in; President Obama today vowed to veto any measure that didn’t include higher revenues. With GOP leaders (and some nervous Democrats) dead set against tax hikes, it is hard to see where we go from here. Most likely, nowhere fast, as far as creating jobs is concerned.
Americans need to have confidence in their political leaders. They need to be inspired and reassured. The president’s speech today did neither. The White House claims that the proposals outlined by Mr. Obama would save $4.4 trillion; the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget puts the number at $1.5 to $2 trillion. The difference is that Mr. Obama includes in his tally various measures already in the works, such as the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans are not fooled by this sort of budget gimmick; like his patently insincere assertion that “Washington has to live within its means,” it makes the president suspect, which simply deepens the gloom of the nation. Moreover, President Obama’s projections would still have U.S. debt at 73 percent of GDP by 2021.
The United States needs a vigorous program targeted at building up our small and large businesses. From the very outset, this administration has ignored any effort to court international firms, ramp up exports, drive down barriers to entry, loosen labor rules or promote other measures proven to be successful in fostering job growth in countries like Germany. President Obama and his cohorts have little idea how to make our industries hum; their tone-deaf anti-business policies have hurt this country. Instead, they have relied on mammoth federal spending, which has fueled both our budget imbalance and a profound anxiety across the nation.
President Bush and the Democrats in Congress may have driven our economy into a ditch, but President Obama has toppled us into a fiscal black hole. At least you can see the bottom of a ditch.