Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Boy, Was I Wrong – Nonvoters Rule!

November 18, 2014

Before the election, I said “Obama might be forced to get serious about accommodation with Republicans, on such urgent issues as tax reform and immigration, to avoid his second term being even more conspicuously a failure than it already is.”

I should have known better.

UnknownIn his news conference, the President refused to acknowledge the obvious, that Republicans won not due to their popularity, but his unpopularity. Instead, he said, what voters really showed is that they want both parties to get stuff done. Then he proceeded to do all he could to make that impossible.

This is the hallmark of Obama’s presidency, beginning with his first campaign promising some sort of post-partisan politics with old divisions put aside; then even before taking office, closing Republicans out of his putative love-in.

Unknown-1And so it continues. What Obama really means by working together is Republicans just giving in to him. His news conference resembled the bumper sticker, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” Just substitute “I” for “God.”

So, after over three years of slow-walking the Keystone XL pipeline, conducting reviews, reviews of reviews, and reviews of those reviews, paralyzed between economic benefits and the environmentalist scolds in his base, Obama finally seems set to coddle them and veto it.

Unknown-2The re-re-reviews have shown no material environmental problem, with the economics clearly favorable. Obama could, perfectly reasonably, give Republicans at least this one thing. But no. Instead, with dubious justification on the merits, he must stick his thumb in their eye.

Likewise with immigration. I actually favor the measures Obama is readying. But doing it by executive order is the political equivalent of suicide bombing. It is simply declaring war against the Republicans – when they’ve just decisively won an election* and will control both houses of Congress. Obama’s action (subject to reversal by a future president) will kill hopes for a permanent legislative solution, which might otherwise have been promising. (And, while perhaps not palpably unconstitutional, such a far-reaching policy initiative without congressional consultation savages the spirit of our republican system.) This will furthermore poison the air for cooperation on any other issues.

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson says Obama’s action will bring about exactly what voters hate: “overreach, backlash, deadlock, threats and lasting bitterness.” (Just like with Obamacare.)


Meantime, Obama and Democrats are whining that the election results shouldn’t much count because of all the non-voters who would have voted Democratic. Of course, it’s chutzpah to presume how they would have voted; paternalistically taking people for granted. Dems made gigantic efforts to get their (presumed) supporters to turn out. But many didn’t turn out because they weren’t turned on, by what Democrats were selling. That resounding silence of voters Dems thought were theirs ought to tell the party something. imagesInstead, they continue to act as though these voters belong to them, even though the voters withheld their votes. In a sense they were voting by not voting, conveying a message Obama and Democrats refuse to hear.

Anyhow, in our democratic country, voters rule. Not non-voters.

* Far more so than the supposedly “decisive” 2012 result which, in fact, was just 51% for Obama, with a bunch of key states won by razor-thin margins.

And the Winner is …

October 4, 2012

One might be perplexed that given all the ways the President’s campaign has painted Romney as a bogeyman, Mr. Obama didn’t do much of that in the debate. Of course he didn’t have to, with his nasty ads flooding swing state airwaves; why sound nasty personally? And yet, by leaving all that stuff out of the debate, Obama may convey that it’s just garbage voters should ignore. Which it is. And what can you say of a candidate willing to fling lots of mud — except when the target is standing right there.

For example, the President’s only mention of “shipping jobs overseas” referred to a supposed tax break, which Romney quite effectively refuted. But not a word calling Romney himself an “outsourcing pioneer,” which might have been uncomfortable for the challenger, if only because it takes more than one simple sentence to answer. I’m almost sorry Romney wasn’t thusly forced to defend economic reality.

 The one attack the President did insist on pursuing, repeatedly, was the “$5 trillion tax cut” canard. Democrats seem so in love with the “tax cuts for the rich” accusation that they just can’t let go of it, even though Romney did have a simple one sentence answer: I’m not proposing that. (He isn’t.) Not only might that good clear answer have been foreseen, but for the President to invite it again, giving Romney further opportunities to call him, well, “inaccurate,” was to me the dumbest thing in the debate.

On that point, I was glad Romney followed the script I gave him. There was another one too: saying that wealthier people (like me) will have to see their Medicare benefits reduced. Though he didn’t stress it, and nobody seems to have picked up on it, I think that was both new and important as a first step toward the highly necessary concept of means-testing such programs. With Democrats allergic to the word “cut” regarding any entitlement spending, it’s interesting to hear the party they accuse of coddling the rich proposing to cut benefits for the rich.

Maybe this is still a horse race after all.

UPDATE 10:20 PM: The President’s been going around the country today saying the Romney in the debate wasn’t the real Romney. As if he’d hired some impersonator. And Obama still insists the real Romney does want a $5 trillion tax cut (for the rich). Oh, please. Give it up already.

How Romney can win the debate (and election)

October 2, 2012

I chuckled when Jonathan Haidt, in his recent book, said he’d been a 2004 campaign speechwriter for John Kerry – in his head, frustrated at Kerry’s failure to say what he (Haidt) thought necessary. Well, I’ve been speechwriting like that for Romney (posted here on 3/1 and 8/19). And now David Brooks, in his latest column, has given it a shot too, for Romney’s opening statement in the debate.

I’ve taken Brooks’s draft and reworked it:

Till now I’ve let myself be packaged as an ideological candidate. But, to be honest, that’s not really me. I see myself instead as a pragmatist problem-solver. So as the election nears, I’ve decided to leave aside political game-playing and get real.

My friends, America’s going broke. The next president had darn better finally make a “grand bargain” with the other party to get the budget under control. Mr. Obama has tried to (well, sort of), over the past four years, but failed. There’s no reason to think he’ll succeed in the next four.

One factor is that, while in 2008 he promised to be post-partisan, he actually shut out Republicans from Day One, making bipartisanship impossible.

Now, Republicans do share part of the blame, by refusing to consider any tax increases. And we should certainly aim to tax as little as possible. But there’s no way we can deal with our debt crisis through spending cuts alone; and no way Democrats will agree to major spending cuts unless Republicans budge on taxes. Other countries facing similar problems have successfully overcome them by raising something like $1 in new revenue for every $3 in spending cuts.

That’s a basically reasonable way forward. The only possible way. President Obama will never be able to achieve it; he’ll never get Republicans to accept it. But I can – and I will.

Make no mistake, we have to do this. We can’t keep spending a trillion a year more than we take in; and if nothing is done, it will only get worse, as the ratio of taxpaying working people to retired and benefit-receiving people inevitably shrinks. In fact, we’re able to borrow a trillion a year for now only because interest rates are at historic lows. But as our debt balloons, and repayment grows doubtful, countries like China won’t keep lending us money at such low interest rates. And when interest costs on our debt ($16 trillion and counting) jump up to more normal levels, we’ll be in deep doo-doo. We won’t be able to afford any of those benefit programs Democrats keep vowing to protect. Our government will be bankrupt and our economy destroyed.

This is the biggest problem facing America. Tackling it will take some spending cuts and tax increases none of us will like. President Obama and the Democrats are frankly incapable of dealing with it. They don’t even want to hear about it.

And by the way, the president’s proposals for higher taxes on the rich are not an answer. They’d be a drop in the bucket. I would also like to make clear that, contrary to what they tell you, I am not – repeat, not – proposing to reduce the taxes rich people pay.

But what would also help our debt problem is better economic growth, getting more Americans working. Democrats seem to think government can create jobs. They never seem to understand that most people work for businesses, so for high employment you need businesses to be successful, competitive and, yes, profitable. But according to the World Economic Forum, American competitiveness has fallen in each of the last four years.

Well, what do you expect with an administration that basically sees business as a public enemy? A Romney administration will instead aim to help businesses to be more competitive and successful, because that’s how you get more jobs – and less deficit spending.

President Obama has no plan for the next four years except to continue fighting the same fruitless battles he’s failed to win over the last four. If you think that’s a good plan for our economic future – then vote for him.

The Road Not Taken

October 15, 2011

The rich should pay their fair share of taxes.

But how can we tell what’s fair? With all this “Buffett Rule” hullabaloo you might think the rich pay less than ordinary people. Not so. The more you earn, the higher a percentage goes to income tax. The top 5% of earners pay 57% of all income taxes; the wealthiest 1% (with 19% of the income) pay 37% of income taxes. And these percentages have been rising, mainly because the richies’ biggest tax break is the lower rate on investment gains – but since 2008 most investments have fallen (also, by the way, reducing wealth inequality).*

So, can we say the rich don’t already pay their fair share? Or even more than a fair share?**

But meantime income taxes on the whole are too low in relation to the government spending level that voters seem unwilling to change. Much spending goes to the rich, so whether to cut that, or raise their taxes, is really an equivalent choice. But as long as voters won’t accept cuts even in welfare for the rich, then taxes are too low.

However, for President Obama and the Democrats to advocate only raising taxes on the richest Americans is a disgraceful cheap shot, not only because demonizing the rich is demagogic, but mainly because this addresses only a tiny sliver of the problem. Squeezing a bit more tax out of the highest earners wouldn’t begin to come to grips with the massive and growing gap between spending and revenue, and the economic catastrophe this presages.

 So the Democrats have nothing to say about that; they take a pass on the great issue of our time. So do the Republicans. They say it should be all spending cuts. But it’s doubtful they’ll suddenly find the cojones to actually put through massive cuts in the teeth of public opinion. And it couldn’t happen anyway without Democratic support; the Democrats won’t make such a deal without tax increases; but the Republican presidential candidates unanimously say they would not accept even $1 in tax rises for $10 in spending cuts.

Obama might have chosen to fight them on that turf, seizing the responsible center, arguing for the reasonableness of a balanced package of tax increases and spending cuts (the “grand bargain”). Instead, he opted to veer sharply left, and into his re-election campaign, with a same-old same-old job stimulus plan combined with a populist “tax-the-rich” plan, neither of which has a snowball’s chance in Hell of getting enacted either (making his fiery speeches advocating them fundamentally dishonest). But this stuff is catnip for the activist left wing of the Democratic party. In short, Obama chose political posturing in lieu of governing.

Maybe he can eke out re-election this way. But to what end? He’ll still have a Republican controlled House and likely a GOP Senate as well. The country will be more polarized and gridlocked than ever, with no centrist mandate for the sensible, balanced, necessary approach that our economic mess cries out for.

It’s just like the Palestinian impasse. The obvious deal stares us in the face, majorities on both sides actually want it, but the zealots make it impossible. Arafat’s walking away from the Camp David deal in 2000 was the Palestinians’ Original Sin. Obama’s Original Sin was walking away from his own Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission’s recommendations. That was the moment of opportunity when a real leader might have gotten the nation to face reality and move toward responsibly tackling our fiscal problems.

That was the fork in the road; Obama went the wrong way; and (to quote Robert Frost) that has made all the difference.

What a tragedy. Obama is very smart and very likable. But as president, disastrous.

* Click here for some data on all this.

** The idea of the Wall Street protests, dividing the nation between a decent 99% and an evil 1% whose greed causes all the problems, is flat-out childish and useless for addressing our true economic problems. See a recent David Brooks column.