(Centennial Fellow) In the movie "Flight," something major goes wrong with a passenger jet. It starts plunging downward, the pilot amazingly, incredibly rolls the plane upside down to keep it just barely under control, and, at this point, if President Barack Obama were watching, he'd probably stand up to reassure the audience."We don't have an immediate crisis," he would say, an encouraging smile on his face. "The plane is in a sustainable place."The plane wasn't. Though still in the air, it was definitely heading for a crash, just as our economy and federal government are heading for a crash. The issue is a debt that still menaces the American future, no matter what the president said to ABC correspondent George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning America."He pleasantly maintained that deals with Republicans about such things as fiscal cliffs and debt ceilings meant budgetary reasonableness, if not fulfillment of all the best possibilities. His stated view is that we are in a noncrisis situation "sustainable" for the next decade.Nope. The real prospect is for a $16 trillion-plus debt growing to an economy-squeezing, budget-banging, catastrophe-inviting $23 trillion. You think that's rabble-rousing right-wingers talking? It's nonpartisan number crunchers in the Congressional Budget Office.Obama has made it sound as if the accomplishments to date ought to elicit a grin a minute from his once-fretful debt commission. It's still fretful, as Jonathan Karl of ABC reveals in quotes from interviews with its two leaders, Democrat Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, and Republican Alan Simpson, the always colorful, always wise ex-senator from Wyoming.There's trillions of dollars more work to do, said Bowles. The responsible parties have stayed away from the "tough stuff," such gargantuan matters as making Social Security solvent or reforming the tax code to make it work. Simpson's word of the day was "madness." Americans are reaching the age of 65 at the rate of 10,000 a day, he said, and federal programs for them are going to "eat a hole through America." Lack of action is not just irresponsible, his words suggested. It is insane. It's already the case that entitlements -- mainly Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- constitute a major share of the budget and are passing the point at which "obese" is an adequate adjective. If the government maintains them without significant restructuring, just two basic ways exist to prevent a debt that could well bring us economic calamity. One is hiking taxes so high as to do the same thing. The other is cutting other federal programs so much as to bring us jokes about ending White House tours for even the president himself.The problem is that Medicare and Social Security are immensely popular with the middle class and that demagogic politicians have made it sound that even perfectly reasonable refashioning would force the elderly to survive on dog food. Obama is still playing that game, referring to tiptoeing Republican proposals as gutting the programs, which is to say that he remains so enmeshed in his collectivist, welfare-state, big-government ideology that he is can no longer recognize reality.Republicans to the rescue? The sad case is that some in this beleaguered bunch are lately playing down the looming crisis, too. It is not difficult to find astute fiscal critics who think the most recent budget proposal by Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, does not go nearly far enough.Back to the movie "Flight." In it, the pilot performed brilliantly during the emergency, even though he was criminally under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Maybe he did as much as could be done, because while the plane did crash, most aboard survived. Obama and GOP leaders are not alcohol-addled, thank heavens, but neither have they performed brilliantly. They have not done a fraction of what needs to be done, and no responsible citizen should let them off the hook. Otherwise, the economic survivors could be a precious few.
(Centennial Fellow) In the aftermath of every Republican Presidential defeat in the last half century the Democrats aided and abetted by the “mainstream” media have declared the GOP to be dead, on the “wrong side of history’’ and about to disappear like the Whigs.
The template for this tactic was set following Lyndon Johnson’s thrashing of Barry Goldwater in 1964. Amazingly the Democrats showed no inclination to abandon this tactic even after losing five of the next six Presidential elections- four of them by landslides.
Even their worst defeats never called into question the sublime virtues of the Progressive Agenda to which they have been devoted since the days of Woodrow Wilson. Instead they blamed their losses on Republican “dirty tricks”, stupid voters, unworthy candidates or campaign misstep.
To understand the persistence of this ideological conviction one must view the Democratic Party in its’ historic context. Going all the way back to the party’s founder Thomas Jefferson who saw much to admire in the French Revolution there has been an element in the Democratic party that has had an enduring fascination with European Leftism.
Philosophically this belief system espoused the vague but attractive principles of “equality” and “social justice”. In practice these principles disguised an unchanging commitment to State Planning (Big Government) and Income redistribution (“Fairness”).
In this Socialist/Progressive world view the enemy is invariably Capitalism in general and the “Rich” in particular.
In the campaign of 2012 the doctrine of Big Government/Income Redistribution found an advocate of remarkable skill in Barack Obama who inveighed endlessly against “millionaires and billionaires”, and promised to aggressively tax and regulate the “fat cats” and “greed-mongers” of Wall Street.
As we know by a margin of 51% to 48% this campaign of unalloyed Class Warfare- the Politics of Envy- succeeded.
Despite the relative closeness of the election the Democrats are acting as if they have a clear mandate to aggressively implement the above noted Progressive Agenda.
In the Democratic view the only obstacles to these plans are a badly outdated Constitution and the appalling unwisdom of American voters in granting Republicans continuing control of the U.S. House of Representatives and a majority of state governments.
The Democrats however believe that these obstacles can be overcome if they persuade a significant number of Republicans that the only way the GOP can get on the “Right Side of History”, and avoid the fate of the Whigs is to start acting (and voting) like Democrats.
With mock solicitousness Democrats and their media echo chamber urge Republicans to yield to “historical inevitability” and start supporting Amnesty, Gay Marriage, more taxes, more regulation, and less freedom because it’s the “right thing to do”.
In return for this betrayal of their principles Republicans can hope to someday “rise from the dead” as a political party, and maybe- just maybe- win a County Council election or two, somewhere down the road.
What all this amounts to is as follows: Having thoroughly “Europeanized” themselves over the last half century, Democrats are urging Republicans to do the very same thing.
The bottom line- should this happen- is that the United States would continue to have a two party system, however, both parties would be Liberal, just like our European role models.
It is more than ironic that Republicans and by implication our whole country are being pushed leftward toward the Socialist Welfare State at precisely the moment we are seeing that model beginning to crumble in Europe.
The crisis of the European Union derives from long standing inherent contradictions best summed up by the famous dictum of Margaret Thatcher: “The Problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”.
The looming economic catastrophe in Europe is simply a more advanced case of the same disease that is already metastasizing in the United States where the exponential growth of ballooning debt and deficits is on track to wreck the world’s greatest economy and destroy the American Dream in the process.
This stark object lesson unfolding before our eyes both here and in Europe should be more than sufficient to deter any Republican even toying with the idea that the Democratic Agenda is the way to go.
So, if becoming Democrat-Lite is a non-starter for Republicans, what is the better road for the GOP going forward?
First, Republicans must recognize that they have more control over the “Fiscal Cliff” than they realize. Without delay Speaker John Boehner should give the following speech.
“As it is now clear to all that President Obama and the Democrats have zero interest in real compromise or negotiation, the House of Representatives must do all in its power to avert economic catastrophe for the American people.
Up until now we had hoped for a ‘Grand Bargain’ that served all Americans. In Good Faith we even offered to discuss the issue of revenues though only in the context of reforming the Tax Code which all serious parties agree needs to be done. We hoped that before the end of this session a beginning could have been made. The only response to these hopes has been endless demagoguery by Democrats. All our efforts have been rebuffed.
The Senate has passed a bill that makes permanent the Bush Tax Cuts for the Middle Class- 98% of the population.
Until now Republicans had sought to preserve the Bush Tax Cuts for all Americans including our small businesses who must be a principal driver of any real economic recovery.
It is now clear however that as recent remarks by Senator Murray, Governor Dean and others illustrate, the Democrats want to raise everybody’s taxes. As Governor Dean very candidly put it: “Raising taxes on the wealthiest 2 % won’t give us anywhere near the revenue we need. We must raise everyone’s taxes, including the Middle Class”.
Thus we see the Democrat’s pose as defenders of the Middle Class as a sham and a deceit. They want Middle Class Taxes to go up, but only if Republicans alone get the blame.
The House of Representatives is refusing to accommodate them. This day we have passed the Senate bill making the Bush Tax Cuts for the Middle Class permanent without any changes.
We now call upon President Obama to do what he has repeatedly promised: Sign the Bill into Law on the very day it achieves final passage.
Doing so will give tax stability and predictability to the vast majority of the American people, and will be an enormous boon to the American economy.
At the same time we sadly note and decry President Obama’s unswerving determination to wage class warfare. Tax rates on the upper 2% of earners will rise on January 1st not because it is just but because such result is the ideological “pound of flesh” that he demands.
The severe damage that will be done to our economy will not fall upon the “billionaires and millionaires” the President endlessly decries, but instead will devastate the small businesses that are the principal job creators in America.
So the end result will be less revenue for the Treasury and fewer jobs for the American people.
Also this day the House of Representatives has passed an appropriation that fully restores the Sequestration of Funds for the Department of Defense.
Every dollar of this appropriation has been paid for by spending cuts enumerated in the bill.
We do this to avoid what Defense Secretary Panetta rightly called a “catastrophe” and a ”hollowing out of the U.S. military” that would dramatically increase the vulnerability of our people from the many threats posed by this dangerous world.
We call upon President Obama and the Democratic party to step away from the “War on the Military” and instead support this bill which is essential not just for our brave men and women now serving in Harm’s Way but also for the continuation of the United States’ indispensable role as World Leader.
My Fellow Americans, today we in the House have done what we can and what we must. So much more needs to be done, but we cannot do it alone.
Finally, let me thank you for the chorus of support we have heard from across our great country. It is you who are the vital foundation of the work we do this and every day in the People’s House.
God Bless You and God Bless America”.
If Speaker Boehner were to do and say the above the following things would be achieved:
1. GOP would have saved the Middle Class- the 98 %
2. Obama would lose his most devastating one liner: “Republicans are holding the Middle Class Hostage to save their billionaire and
Millionaire friends “
3. GOP would disassociate itself from Tax Increases on Anybody thus uniting the House Caucus
4. Democrats would be deprived of the trillions in future revenues that they have been lusting for.
5. Obama and Reid would bear the burden of the Defense Sequester.
6. The largest single element in the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ – Middle Class Tax Increases- would be averted.
7. 7. The pernicious extension of unemployment benefits- The Democrats' hoped for road to a permanent dole- would be avoided.
8. Advantage in any future negotiations would shift from Obama to GOP
Someone have a better Idea? Time is Running Out.
William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado Education Commissioner. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post and Human Events.
(Centennial Fellow) In the course of perusing the “fiscal cliff” rhetoric dominating the political world recently, I came across a story about deliberations over the Times magazine “Person of the Year.” While meditating on the issues surrounding the fiscal cliff, it occurred to me the perfect nominee for the Times cover is Julia — the haplessly dependent animation the Barack Obama campaign used to show the joys of cradle to grave handouts. Sure, Sandra Fluke does a mean real-life impression, but I doubt her actual impact.
I’ll get back to that. First, the fiscal cliff. The American economy faces a
lose-lose proposition. Absent some kind of deal between President Obama, Senate Democrats and House Republicans, tax rates will rise across the board, including those for the middle class, and send the economy back into recession.
Well, we don’t want that. So what is option B? Unfortunately, the only option seems to be Obama’s vengeance tax on the wealthiest. Oh dear.
One thing that’s curiously absent from any of the current bedlam surrounding the “fiscal cliff” negotiations is any proposal to actually deal with the provenance of this theatrical mess — debt and spending. Neither of these options address the problem, let alone repair the beleaguered economy.
Democrats remain intoxicated with “tax the rich” hysteria fueled in part by their election victory. Their blood lust for a tactical victory in the Great Class War has blinded them to much else. So we are left with a Democratic president and Senate whipped into a frenzy to punish the rich with tax increases and a largely ignored spending crisis.
It’s unlikely a deal will be hammered out that isn’t economically harmful, let alone beneficent. As conventional wisdom suggests, Democrats have little to lose.
If we do plunge off the cliff, they can blame Republican intransigence. If a deal is struck, they get their tax increases — nothing else is on the table — and still blame the resulting economic disaster on whatever token concessions they might have thrown to “ideological” Republicans.
Still, lurking in the background as the Dems raise celebratory glasses will be the persisting situation of stagnant growth, ballooning debt and unsustainable spending — problems freshly compounded with higher taxes.
So what are Republicans to do? Holding firm and insisting on real solutions will send the economy over the cliff — and they will be blamed for it. Caving in to White House demands for tax hikes makes them responsible for the outcomes of such irresponsible policies and lends credence to complaints of Republicans being no better than Democrats.
Well, it might not be quite as bleak as that. Yes, it’s stinging after the election, but the GOP has more leverage than conventional wisdom would suggest.
First, President Obama no longer has another election to worry about, but a legacy – one he has no desire to see tarnished by renewed recession.
Second, even if the Republicans take the brunt of the blame for cliff-induced consequences, Democrats won’t be immune. They are, after all, the party in power. Continued or worsening economic malaise will offer the GOP the chance to demonstrate they were right all along.
The Republicans, as I eluded to in my previous column, need to present an alternative, a real solution — pro growth tax reform that doesn’t raise anyone’s taxes; cuts to federal spending based on an analysis of what the federal government is really for; and meaningful, even revolutionary, entitlement reform — a conservative program that can position the GOP as a reasonable and wise alternative to the status quo … if the GOP is adroit enough to make the case. That’s a big “if.” In any event, it’s the Republicans’ best, perhaps only, play in addition to being proper policy.
Yet, I remain pessimistic an economically acceptable deal can be reached. What’s ultimately driving the U.S. off this coming cliff is an electorate comprised of real-life “Julia’s.” Obama appealed to Julia. Julia voted en masse for Obama. Obama will either steer us off the cliff or into the mountain. And Julia is who the GOP needs to speak to after her taxes and costs rise in inverse proportion to her economic prospects.
Julia, therefore, receives my nomination for most influential person of the year — for better or, I fear, worse.
('76 Contributor) Believing a free press to be a vital safeguard of liberty, Thomas Jefferson said, “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” Many believe the inverse of Jefferson's maxim — the people are uninformed, and therefore the government can't be trusted. After all, what well-informed American would knowingly allow politicians to lead us to the monumental economic and budgetary “cliffs” we face? Despite a proliferation of new media, it's increasingly difficult to separate fact from narrative. Combined with rancorous political discourse in which opponents are demonized in order to delegitimize competing arguments and render unnecessary the defense of one's own, it makes demoralized Americans struggle to discern the truth.When invited by The Aspen Times to help diversify its opinion page, I proposed my “Think Again” column as a fact-based, issue-oriented commentary that would challenge conventional wisdom and remind readers of the values that made America the freest and most prosperous nation in world history. Like “Ripley's Believe It or Not!” I attempt to expose readers to easily certifiable facts and perspectives they might not otherwise consider (see columns at www.thinkagainusa.com). The goal of “Think Again” is not to change minds but to open them, for civil discourse requires being informed and thoughtful, which is the essence of citizenship.Last month, a community member targeted me in the letters-to-the-editor section with an unusual level of hostility and mean-spiritedness — he accused me of being an egregious, bald-faced liar and an embarrassment to Americans. Declaring me guilty without any possibility of innocence (or trial), my accuser and those who defended him from criticism believe their claims are objectively true and mine are lies. Calling someone a liar is the ultimate character assassination. It means truth doesn't matter to that person and that lying is not only habitual — it's an indelible mark of a deceitful and immoral character. According to Jewish ethicist Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of “Words That Hurt, Words That Heal,” the most grievous violation of ethical speech is “giving another a bad name,” for words are like bullets whose damage is mortal. To fight fairly, he writes, “you have the right to state your case, express your opinion, explain why you think the other party is wrong, even make clear how passionately you feel. … You do not have a moral right to undercut your adversary's position by invalidating him personally.”In my columns, I've made the case that our undisciplined, indebted and special-interest-oriented government is a bipartisan problem that subverts everybody's interests. I've quoted Sen. Tom Coburn, member of the Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission, who said, “Our economy is on the brink of collapse not because politicians can't agree but because they have agreed for decades … to borrow and spend far beyond our means … to create or expand nearly 40 entitlement programs, carve out tax advantages for special interests, build bridges to nowhere and earmark tens of thousands of other pork projects.”I believe it is a moral travesty that we've mortgaged our children's futures because we're unable to live within our means and are more indebted than any other nation in world history. Mandatory spending on “entitlements” (such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) is the single biggest financial problem we face, consuming 60 percent of our annual budget — up from 21 percent in 1955. As baby boomers retire and live longer, the current spending trajectory is unsustainable. Without reforms, it's unlikely that these vital programs will be available for people who need them in the future. One fact in particular irritated my accusers: We've spent less cumulatively on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars plus the 2008 TARP bailouts than we spend annually on mandatory programs. In contending that I'm a liar, and without citing sources, they claim the wars' total costs will exceed $5.8 trillion and that TARP exposure exceeds $15 trillion. It's not my goal to disprove their claims, only certify mine. According to the Congressional Budget Office — created by Congress in 1974 to “provide objective, impartial information about budgetary and economic issues” — federal spending (excluding interest expense) totaled $3.3 trillion in fiscal year 2012, of which $2.1 trillion were mandatory expenditures for entitlements. Meanwhile, the Budget Office reports that through October, a total of $1.4 trillion was spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, while TARP has cost a net of $24 billion, after repayments. My accusers argue that “true” costs must project a decade's worth of related and longer-term expenses. Therefore, we'll have spent $29 trillion on mandatory expenditures through 2022, according to the president's fiscal year 2013 budget, while unfunded liabilities exceed $60 trillion, according to the trustees of Social Security and Medicare. To put these numbers in perspective, consider that 1 trillion hours ago, dinosaurs roamed the earth.No doubt, fighting fairly is difficult, especially given the personal narratives that inform how we see the world. But as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Unfortunately, the one thing on which die-hard partisans seem to agree is that only one party is at fault — and it isn't theirs. Unable to hold competing facts simultaneously in mind, it's not surprising that they consider inconvenient truths to be lies. But embedded within our First Amendment right to free speech is a responsibility not merely to tolerate others' perspectives but to listen. Imagine if my accusers and I were to summon the mutual respect necessary to listen to each other's concerns. I'm confident we'd discover that despite our differences, we're equally committed to a “more perfect union.” Think Again — instead of playing the “liar” card, we might each learn something new, informing us enough to elect leaders who can be “trusted with our government.”Melanie Sturm lives in Aspen. Her column runs every other Thursday. She reminds readers to Think Again. You might change your mind.
(Centennial Fellow) Good grief, says an Obama campaign struggling to regain its footing after a bad debate stumble, Mitt Romney said he wants to strip Big Bird of federal funding, and that would be awful. What could really be awful -- a tipping-point calamity for this country of ours -- would be a second Obama term in which the White House continues its politically convenient fiscal negligence.
It's that prospect that was most dramatically exposed in Romney's remarks and then underlined again in the trivializing response that a chubbily successful "Sesame Street" operation needed welfare.
The subject came up after Romney was asked what he would do about deficits. He said first off that the extent of our spending had been immoral. The government was adding $1 trillion a year to a debt that would be "passed on to the next generation," he said, explaining that those victims would "be paying the interest and principal all their lives."
The Republican presidential candidate said one way to address that issue was to get sufficiently serious about spending, to ask of any program whether it was "critical" enough to justify "borrowing money from China to pay for it." As an example, he mentioned stopping subsidies to the Public Broadcasting Service, home of Big Bird, but first mentioned repealing something else, something much bigger, something that sums up Obama's first term: "Obamacare," introduced on formal occasions as the Affordable Care Act.
We'll get back to Obamacare in a moment, but first let's talk about the core issue here, a national debt of $16 trillion that may not even wait until the next generation to visit ruin upon us. Short of serious remedies, the debt will keep the economy in a slow-motion, scarce-jobs mode with the possibility of crises that would make our current struggles seem a mere "ouch" moment in comparison.
The driving force of ever-increasing debt is entitlements, mainly Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which of and by themselves eat up better than half of all federal outlays. As economics columnist Robert F. Samuelson points out, they will do far more chomping than that as the elderly population gets twice as large over roughly the next two decades. There is no tax solution that would be less than devastating for younger workers paying the bill.
This hazard did not appear yesterday. We've known about it for years, but almost every time some bold statesman has suggested a solution, an opportunistic demagogue has risen up to charge that the plan would condemn the elderly to misery. One such statesman was Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), now candidate for vice president, who came up with a plan to save both Medicare and the nation and was then put down by one such demagogue, none other than President Barack Obama, who treated his substantive proposals as mean-spirited imperilment.
It's true the president made his own Medicare cuts -- lower fees to hospitals and doctors that will result in reduced treatment options for patients -- but did not thereby help solve the debt problem. He made the cuts to help finance Obamacare. Even though he himself concedes something must be done about entitlements, his only concrete answer to date is to give us another entitlement.
And this particular entitlement happens to be a doozy -- a massively interventionist, bureaucratically cumbersome, still-developing surprise a day that does nothing good that could not have been achieved more cheaply and simply. It meanwhile does a lot that's bad. Just one example lately in the news concerned the Darden restaurant chain experimenting with making full-time employees part time to escape Obamacare costs under coming rules that could endanger its future.
Back to Big Bird and PBS. They won't go away if subsidies go away. They do very well, thank you, and can almost surely pull in more money if that becomes necessary. This country, however, will cease to do well if the desperate need to shrink government continues to be met with a compulsion to expand.
(Centennial Fellow) A month ago, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank excoriated U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., for “sabotage” in the work of the “debt supercommittee.” The column was vintage Freudian projection, the technical term in psychology for the left’s attributing to its political opponents its own slanderous behavior. (Who will ever forget hearing Bill Clinton whining hypocritically about being a victim of “the politics of personal destruction?”)
As I write, the Congress is again at an impasse, reminding one of the wrangling last August leading to creation of that “supercommittee” — an exercise in nibbling around the edges that may have been designed to fail, as it certainly did. I suggest the supercommittee came into existence only as a hiding place for Members of Congress as they voted to increase the nation's debt ceiling.
Milbank called Kyl, “cold and ruthless … different from you and me.” Those descriptors are inconsistent. Yes, I like being exempted from Milbank’s projection onto Kyl of being cold and ruthless. It was the height of presumption, however, to suggest fairly that Kyl’s work in preventing another compromise on the road to Pres. Obama’s vision for the United States made Kyl different from a great many of us.
About October 30, 2008, candidate Obama proclaimed to his supporters, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”
That had a distinctly ominous ring, given the identities of those few known to have influenced Obama up to that time (e.g., Saul Alinsky, Frank Marshall Davis, Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn).
Sinister is the accurate word today in light of nearly three years’ experience with the Obama presidency, two during which Obama enjoyed the connivance of congressional majorities led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Some of us believe the United States of America to be the most successful experiment in world history — a nation exemplifying the exceptionalism so favorably attributed to it by the great Alexis de Tocqueville — and in no need of transformation ala Obama.
The fundamental transformation to statism sought by Obama and his Occupier allies is anathema to a majority of Americans. There is now a bright line between two camps. Neither can compromise, one must win.
The statist camp of the left has a notable advantage: a visceral commitment to being governors (or dictators, as the case may be). They also have the allegiance of major blocks of voters to whom they continue to pander with public resources.
Therefore, those of us in the camp rejecting statism have the more challenging task. The road back to what our Republic must be is narrow. We simply must do all possible to keep policy-makers between the lines on that narrow road. Those fatuously wringing their hands over failures to “compromise” would help drive us into Obama’s statist ditch.
The congressional supercommittee did not have to be Superman, leaping over tall buildings in a single bound. The mission was more on the order of being lackadaisical traffic cops. See all those cars going 100 mph? Let's get the accelerator madness down to 96 or 97, OK?
Sorry, but committee members avoided even that duty. The Democrats wanted a ruinous, trillion-dollar, hit-the-rich-hard tax increase as the major part of a $1.2 trillion, relatively picayunish, 10-year deficit reduction in $45 trillion worth of corruptly tinged spending that threatens immediate crisis and long-term suffering.
Think of it as incumbency investment. Every dollar spent helps buy a vote from some constituency or the other. The rich have few votes, and why get serious about slowing down government growth when we can happily imitate the modern-day, near-collapse of Greece? We can also look forward to our struggling children and grandchildren cursing us as the most selfish, freebie-inebriated generation in American history when they have to foot the bill.
The Republicans on the committee were better. They at least favored some halfway meaningful cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the most threatening programs in our budgetary future. And despite the overreach of multiple pledges to avoid any and all new taxes, one brave GOP soul stood tall for tax reform simplifying our system, ending numerous corporate and individual deductions and raising revenue both by boosting the economy and grabbing more money right away through the revisions.
But no deal is not a new deal, and we're not going to be saved by the standby law that mostly skips over the entitlements, says phooey on a strong defense and makes it likely that George W. Bush-era tax decreases will be allowed to perish.
That law, referred to as "sequestering," does allow some reductions in Medicare fees paid to doctors and hospitals, meaning health-care providers that do not drop out of Medicare or go out of business will make up the loss by scheduling more appointments, it has been argued.
Don't worry about defense because we don't need as much as we have and there's lots of waste out there, some conservatives join liberals in averring. I, myself, think we still live in a dangerous world and have noticed our secretary of defense saying the cuts could make us weaker than in decades. While I am persuaded by experts that our defense structure needs reshaping to better meet current needs, I do not think lower budgets will accomplish that end. And since when does lowering a bureaucracy's budget do away with a bureaucracy's waste?
If the Bush tax cuts go away, the middle class will learn just how significant they were to them, despite prattle to the contrary, and if we get no leadership soon -- agreeing on $4 trillion worth of 10-year cuts in increased spending right away, and more trillions to come -- the recent news of a record $15 trillion debt will seem a sneeze prior to the heart attack.
Sadly, President Barack Obama, having failed at governing, has turned practically full time to the only thing he does well -- campaigning. He has repeatedly turned his back on opportunities to deal with the debt, negotiates mostly through the inoperable techniques of aloofness and lambasting, aims to please the crowd with dangerous, envy-mongering demagoguery, and has been earning the disgust even of devout followers, one of them being ultra-liberal MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews.
"He never tells what he's going to do with regard to reforming our health-care systems, Medicare, Medicaid," Matthews said before a national TV audience. "How is he going to reform Social Security? Is he going to deal with long-term debt? How? Is he going to reform the tax system? How? Just tell us. Why are we in this fight with him? Just tell us, commander, give us our orders and tell us where we're going."
My apologies for the Matthews understatement. In addition to offering no leadership, Obama has even pledged to veto steps in the right direction. Many cheer, but more and more, people seem to be catching on.
(CCU Faculty) President Obama’s proposal to increase taxes by 1.5 trillion over the next 10 years in the name of “fairness” is merely a smokescreen for increasing revenue to temporarily maintain what is ultimately unsustainable government spending. As many conservatives have stated: “we don’t have a revenue problem; it’s a spending crisis.” A massive tax increase is not the solution to this problem.
President Obama is of the opinion that if he can just get some more money from America’s rich people, he can continue to spend at the record pace he directed from the beginning of his administration. He is also of the opinion that the government has greater wisdom when it comes to people’s money, greater than the very people who earned it. He is convinced that if government directs the economy, it will lead to a reduction in American unemployment. There are three major problems with Obama’s view of economics and his plan to reduce the deficit:
First, even if he could obtain all of the capital of America’s wealthy people, it would only temporarily suspend our deficit spending. Andrew Stiles at National Review Online summarizes the limited impact that even a 100% tax on our nation’s millionaires or even a complete confiscation of the wealth of nation’s 400 wealthiest citizens would have:
(1) The federal government will spend about $3.6 trillion this year (a rate of $300 billion per month), running an annual deficit of about $1.3 trillion. So, even if the IRS decided to confiscate every cent earned by millionaires in a given year, it would amount to less than half of the new debt we are taking on each year, and would barely be enough to fund the government for two months.
(2) According to Forbes, the 400 wealthiest individuals in U.S. are worth a combined $1.37 trillion. Confiscating all their wealth (not just annual earnings) would buy us another 4.5 months.
So even a tax scheme exaggerated beyond the levels proposed by President Obama and an even more unrealistic confiscation of wealth would do no more than keep us going at current spending levels for a few months!
Second, President Obama continues to argue that our wealthiest citizens aren’t paying their “fair share.” Fairness is a subjective standard. Nevertheless, when you consider that between 47% and 51% of Americans are paying ZERO in federal income tax (depending on which measurement is being used), that the top 1% of earners pay 38% of all federal income taxes, and that the top 10% of earners pay 70%, there may indeed be a fairness issue, but is probably that the rich are paying too much as a percentage of total revenues.
Finally, the issue must come back to who knows what best to do with money earned. I doubt that Warren Buffet has always felt that he was taxed too little. While he was an ambitious young businessman, seeking to turn small investments into large gains, Buffet, like most businessmen, must have known that with every dollar he possessed, there was an opportunity to make more. And in the process of turning his thousands of dollars in investment into billions, he would be making possible new businesses: businesses that hired one, ten, one hundred or perhaps thousands of new employees.
With each of these employees having new spending power that would have generated new economic activity. And in some cases moving people off of government assistance; and, yes, creating new taxpayers. Warren Buffet used to know that this is the key to growing an economy, reducing unemployment, and creating new wealth. Unfortunately his sidekick, President Obama, never did. Combined, the two are a danger to American prosperity.
We don’t need new taxes and new government spending. We need businessmen like the old Warren Buffett to use their talents and their entrepreneurial energy to grow the economy, in an environment with will minimal government interference.
(Washington Times, Aug. 12) Perhaps the most telling remark during the whole of the debt-ceiling negotiations came on Aug. 7 from White House consultant David Axelrod. Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Axelrod echoed a growing chant from the left wing: The Standard and Poor’s downgrade of America’s credit rating was “essentially the Tea Party downgrade,” he charged -- adding that the “Tea Party brought us to the brink of default.”
What a shameful abdication of responsibility from an office which once was, as an earlier occupant said, where the buck stopped. Apparently not any more. Barack Obama, you’re no Harry Truman. This administration’s passing of the buck is even more brazen when you remember that never has the White House offered a debt-ceiling plan of its own.
Who did? Well, the Tea Party members in Congress for starters passed “Cut, Cap and Balance” well before the debt-ceiling deadline. Even Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid, put forth a plan. Since the Supreme Court isn’t a legislative body, that leaves the Obama Administration as the only branch of government which failed to lead.
Still, if you listen to no one but the media, you’d think that the Tea Party had done something malicious by forcing Congress and the White House to agree to serious spending cuts – exactly what S&P had demanded. The talking heads on the left – and even some Democrats in Congress – unleashed a flurry of criticism, calling the Tea Party “terrorists,” “hostage takers,” and akin to one “holding a gun to the head” of the American people.
Most Americans see what the Tea Party did as something else: Taking responsibility. At least someone has to.
Which brings us back to President Obama’s – via David Axelrod – disclaimer of responsibility. While in no way is this the “Tea Party downgrade,” those aroused millions of working Americans known as Tea Party have shown themselves more than ready to assume the responsibility that no one in Washington appears brave enough to take on. On our mountain trails here in the Rockies, they’ll tell you to lead, follow, or get out of the way. It’s time to get out of the way, Mr. President.
That sentiment was strong when we convened a thousand delegates from 25 states at Western Conservative Summit 2011 in Denver last month. It was not a partisan gathering, but there were many activists from the Tea Party, 9.12 chapters, and taxpayer groups. They expressed disgust with the administration’s fiscal indiscipline and economic ineptitude, mixed with impatience for constitutional restraints on taxes and spending at the federal level similar to those that have served Colorado so well.
As a force for renewal of our nation’s founding principles, the Tea Party is the most potent reassertion of individual citizen responsibility since the grassroots conservative movement of the 1970s propelled Ronald Reagan to victory over Jimmy Carter. The parallels between the two eras are clear: Then as now, the Washington elite were flummoxed on the economy. Some even explained America’s seemingly insurmountable problems as the natural result of a nation in decline. Criticism of the president was dismissed as a juvenile reaction to the only “adults in the room.”
Because congressmen attentive to the Tea Party are only one element of one house of one branch of government, today’s heirs to the Reagan legacy can only do so much. But look at what they’ve already done. 2011 began with the president sending a bloated budget to Congress which added to the nation’s deficit. The presence of the Tea Party ensured that the irresponsible Obama budget was dead on arrival. After the debt-ceiling debate, the Tea Party has now shifted the dialogue in Washington away from job-killing tax increases to serious, long-term budget cuts that reduce the nation’s $14 trillion debt. In a city that considers budget cuts as akin to Armageddon and higher taxes as the Holy Grail, the Tea Party’s success is no small feat.
The fiscal deficit is a grave concern. But the worst pathology threatening the USA with terminal decline is the responsibility deficit, a “not me” denial syndrome which infects too much of American society right now. And nowhere is this deficit more on display than in the current White House occupant. We can only hope that 2012 will bring us a candidate who, like Reagan, wants to lead with more than just words. Until then, the bottom-up responsibility movement famously or infamously called the Tea Party is America’s best hope.
(Nantucket)The 18th century English political sage Edmund Burke wrote that the vigor of any society can be measured by the “balance between its impulses of innocence and decadence”. He further noted that when that balance tilts decisively toward decadence then “decline is steady and inexorable”. In the recent fulminations over the debt ceiling “crisis” one could clearly see if not innocence and decadence then certainly their counterparts populism and elitism vigorously battling for political advantage. The elitists were the usual alliance of Democrats and “mainstream” (i.e. left wing) media. The face of the alliance was, of course, Obama with Reid, Biden and others filling out the chorus. The populist role ultimately fell to that which is known as the “Tea Party”. This entity however because of its inchoate and evolving nature had no face or identifiable center, and in fact wasn’t even a party. This elusiveness created a problem for Democrats who tried very hard to attack the Tea Party using the “identify, isolate, and demonize” strategy patented by Obama guru Saul Alinsky. Because the identify and isolate part proved inapplicable the Democrats concentrated on demonize, and variously characterized the Tea Party as uneducated, easily led, racists, hostage takers, and terrorists. The more restrained voices in the punditocracy described Tea Party adherents as politically innocent, naïve, simplistic, and most damming “unrealistic”. To the pundits realism is the highest good. A realist is someone who never stands on principle, is always ready to make a deal, and worships regularly in the Church of Compromise. For years this worldview has profited the Democrats who define compromise as “you give me what I want, and I agree to take it”. This approach resembles John Foster Dulles’ long ago description of Soviet negotiating strategy: “What’s ours is ours; what’s yours is negotiable.” In the recent stand-off Democrats defined compromise as follows: Republicans agree to raise the debt ceiling and taxes NOW; Obama agrees to discuss spending cuts and entitlement reform LATER. The media echo chamber insisted that Obama had Republicans over a barrel: Accept his demands or be blamed for worldwide economic catastrophe. Even some Republicans believed this. Strangely, things didn’t turn out that way.The final “deal” while greatly flawed- at best a very modest step in the right direction- nonetheless utterly confounded conventional Washington wisdom. In the end it was Obama who caved, not the Tea Party. Suddenly spending cuts- albeit painfully small were NOW. Tax increases were off the table- banished to the land of discussions later. In a heartbeat Obama threw his left-wing base under the bus, sacrificing long cherished liberal orthodoxies on the altar of his dimming hopes for re-election. Additionally the Fear-Monger-in-Chief threw away his Medicare trump by including that program in the “automatic cuts” in Part II of the legislation. In the final act it was not the Republican Party that imploded but rather the Democrats as perfectly reflected by their 95-95 split in the House vote. At day’s end the Tea Party’s perceived intransigence did not scuttle Boehner’s credibility as a leader, but instead was the Speaker’s bulwark in standing firm against the Democrats’ “sky is falling” rhetoric. By the numbers Boehner commanded three quarters of his conference, including a majority of the Tea Party Caucus while a majority of Pelosi’s minions voted against her. That Obama recognized the magnitude of his capitulation was made clear when he signed the legislation- not before a fawning Rose Garden crowd with souvenir pens all around, but alone in the Oval Office in silence. Thus the Tea Party- innocent, naïve, inexperienced, simplistic, and unrealistic- had been more than anyone else the principal driver of the narrative in this American melodrama that ended better than most conservatives thought possible. How did they do it? David Gregory- host of NBC’s Meet The Press- spoke for “pundits” everywhere, when he addressed a mostly liberal and largely baffled gathering here on Nantucket: “It’s hard to explain. They’re not like most people we know”. On the night the legislation was signed the ever pretentious Bill O’Reilly insisted to a guest on his Fox program that it wasn’t the Tea Party who made Obama cave, but rather the American people- “The Folks” in O’Reilly speak – who did it. His guest- the 21st century American political sage Charles Krauthammer- contradicted him saying, “Bill, the Tea Party are the Folks.” Who knew?