Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | April 13, 2011

Obama Doubling Down

Surely no one is surprised.  In his speech on “the deficit” today, Obama addressed not the deficit but his policy preferences, which are to raise taxes, reduce defense spending, spend on what he wants to spend on, and ensure dependence on government for all Americans.

In effect, he didn’t talk about the deficit at all.  He talked instead about why he remains committed to an unchanging policy.

The “steps” he outlines are the following:

1.  Keep discretionary spending down, but keep it going to his pet programs.

2.  Find additional savings in the defense budget.

3.  Reduce health care spending in the federal budget – not by reducing government’s footprint in the medical sector, but by “holding costs down.”  The only way to do that is to deliver fewer medical services.

4.  Raise taxes.

There is no point in going over the bulk of Obama’s speech, which amounted to a demagogic argument against the Ryan proposal.  It is worth pointing out, however, that that rhetorical approach is the opposite of presidential.  There is no leadership in objecting to what someone else has proposed.

More and more Americans are coming to understand that it’s the unchanged policies exemplified in Obama’s four-step plan today that are the problem.  Obama’s tin ear continues to operate in form: there was no sign from him that he realizes his audience was listening for him to acknowledge the significance of the debt overload, and show some sign of willingness to adjust his posture to alleviate it.

This is the exact opposite of what Bill Clinton did, under pressure from the Republican Congress, in the 1990s.  The spring of 2011 constitutes Obama’s opportunity to shimmy back from the edge of the limb he’s out on – and he’s not taking it.

The outcome of the 2011 budget skirmish demonstrated that neither Republicans nor Democrats are anxious to precipitate a crisis of government, and perhaps Obama is banking on that.  But instead of looking for common ground – a slow walk back from the precipice – he is polarizing the fiscal issue with an ideological stance that ignores the incontrovertible reality of America’s debt problem.  We cannot continue as he proposes.  Others recognize that, including a number of Democrats in Congress.

Perhaps this is what America needed: to see an ideologue take the insistent positions of the collectivist left to their natural conclusions.  For Obama, the virtually unmanageable size of the federal debt is not an issue that should make us change policies.  The main issue for him is preventing a reduction in the reach of government.  He is impervious to the demands of reality, and will apparently stay his ideological course.

Even many Democrats must recognize now that they will have to work without Obama until the end of this Congress.  He has reduced himself to a veto threat – and that may well be the best alternative for the country between now and 20 January, 2013.

J.E. Dyer blogs at Hot air’s Green Room and Commentary’s “contentions.”  She writes a weekly column for Patheos.


  1. If he and the Demos can run out the clock by keeping spending high until the inevitable T bond interest rate crisis they win what they want most. Once interest rates on T bonds start to rise significantly the deficit going out into the indefinite future increases by $150 billion for each percentage point thereby tending to cause T bond investors to want even higher rates to buy them. Presto, a spiral toward disaster brought on by evil speculators (Demo talking points) or impersonal economic factors (Repub talking points). Then both parties have no choice but to work together to do the only thing that will reassure global markets, pass a massive tax increase. I believe it will be a “temporary” VAT. The Ds will argue for 10% and no spending cuts, the Rs will argue for 5% and spending cuts. They will compromise on 8% and fake spending cuts just like the ones they passed last week. Then both parties will campaign as fiscal conservatives who saved the economy and after they’re re-elected they will adjust the VAT, again temporarily to 10 or 12%.

  2. We run up a heel of a debt by reducing taxation of the wealthy while spending a trillion borrowed bucks on a war in Iraq that did nothing good for us or anyone.

    I doubt that those things can be said to be a result of Obama’s tin ear or lack of leadership.

    • Nobody recently has been paying much attention to the eight year trillion dollar total cost of Iraq, fuster. They’re more concerned about the ten year ten trillion + dollar cost of maintaining last year’s budget increase, which the Demos seem determined to sustain after having failed to increase taxes during the two years during which they could have done anything they wanted.

    • That is a fine though common example of intellectual dishonesty. The Iraq war cost – which was spread over 8 years – is dwarfed by last years deficit alone. We could abolish the entire defense dept. and would still run a higher deficit that in 2004, which was the peak deficit of the Bush years.

      The Democrats are lying, Obama is lying, the money is not there, “the wealthy” don´t have it either, the numbers don´t add up and you´re not learning any new tricks.

  3. Why don’t the Dems apply the same demagogic “Soak the Rich” principles to government handouts? Dems would rather stiff the military than take away government subsidies to multi-million dollar enterprises like Planned Parenthood. We have corporate welfare that actually pays GE money while it builds lousy appliances and pays no taxes. We have Social Security and Medicare for the wealthy. If it is bad for the government to fail to confiscate some of the wealth of the most fortunate among us, why do we insist on giving those same fortunate ones handouts from government programs?

    (I’m not saying we should cut them off from generally available programs, just wondering why the Democrats don’t demonize the rich on these issues, as well.)

    • some good points, Cuz. their are benefit programs that that would not be harmed by introducing cut-offs for people that aren’t really the intended beneficiaries.

  4. Here we go again “demagogic” this and “demagogic” that…….

    In fact he did address the deficit issue – but not in the manner with which you seem to agree (he was also less inclined to rely on tired cliches and name-calling). But more importantly, Obama is un-American, probably a Moslem, certainly born in Saudi Arabia, not the colour normally seen in your neighbourhood, and a revolutionary socialist intent on imposing Sharia economics on us.

    I am inclined to agree with Fuster that government needs radical pruning, and that the place to start is our biggest socialist and collectivist outfit – the military. We have a military that is several times too large. It is stuffed with bureaucrats and securicrats hanging around for priviledged pensions which many of them get, not when they are old, but at the prime of their working lives. The size of the military is also providing our politicians with the constant temptation to get ourselves involved in unnecessary financially ruinous, and counterproductive military adventures.
    Which brings us to number two on the list: Foreign wars. If the French want to do to Ghaddafi what they rather efficiently did to Gbagbo in the Ivory Coast let em at it. We don’t get our oil from Libya. Its not our problem. Then, lets get out of the thrillion dollar tragedies of Iraq and Afghanistan. Pronto. Lock, stock, and barrel. We should pass a constitutional amendment preventing any foreign military intervention unless the budget is in surplus, there is a 2/3rds majority in both houses, and only members of Congress who actually served in the front line in a real war being allowed vote (I jest)
    Number three on my list is the foreign aid budget. Other than humanitarian aid administered by registered and audited US NGO’s, I would axe the entirety of this multi-billion-dollar dole for the corrupt and ungrateful. Note: the only nations we don’t seem to be throwing our tax-dollars at are the Western Democracies that share our values and might actually fight alongside us if a matter of our vital interests arose.
    Finally, social welfare and unemployment assistance are part and parcel of our modern society where the demands of labour force mobility have undermined the old familial and community supports. However, money is money, and all cash entitlements should be regarded as taxable income in the hands of the recipients. The cash value of non cash benefits should be calculated and reckoned in the same way. This is the best way of clawing back entitlements that go to those who don’t really need them – and save the tax-payer a lot of money.

    Sometimes it is necessary to bail out the private sector with our money. If the financial sector had been allowed collapse in the Bush bust we would have been back to the 1930s. There would have been no credit for business and the cash machines would have been empty. However, when our money is used in this way it must always be a loan and not a gift. It must be repaid to the taxpayed – with interest.

    p.s. I note that the Republicans aversion to spending only extends to projects they don’t like. It doesn’t apply to 2nd engines for unnecessary jet airplanes in their own constituencies. Nor does it apply to reversing the priviledges and tax-cuts Bush gave to the billionaire friends of the Republicans. There should be another constitutional amendment providing that all working Americans pay a fixed and equal portion of income above a minimum protected threshold to fund the running of our country. Such a provision would put an end to the anomaly created by Bush whereby the richer you are the smaller the portion of your income that you pay in tax. It would be an incentivising change that would see 80% of Americans paying less taxes.

    • A couple of plausible suggestions. And yet, the hatred and virulent caricature endemic to your commenting is always directed towards Republicans, and never towards Democrats, much less our presumably sainted, long-suffering President. Very interesting.

      • I don’t “hate” the Republicans. I have even voted for them on occasion. I do hate the perversion within the Republican Party which supports socialism for everyone in the world except Americans. My criticism of the latest nonsensical war is hardly supportive of the proposition that I am never critical of Obama. However, I do accept and respect him as our elected president – just like I accepted Bust and Clinton before him. Do you?

        Mostly my attitude towards politicians is one of wry cynicism.

        • Well, all the blame for everything you mention goes to Republicans, the financial crisis was apparently Bush’s alone, and conservatives must all see Obama in racialized terms, as Muslims, etc. All stuff that vreads like cut-and paste jobs from left wing websites. And the “perversion” you say you hate seems to apply to most of the Republican Party and conservative movement, so it’s a distinction without a difference. And no clever jibes or insults towards Democrats–just the occasional polite disagreement. In other words, as another commenter says, you’re obviously no libertarian, so the Paulite label is a bit of false advertising, unless you’re referring to Paul of Tarsus.

          I accept Obama as President but don’t respect him. Which I suppose makes me a bit less extreme than the attitude of most leftists toward Bush.

          • Again, the military is certainly wasteful but it is 1) also one thing the government must provide and 2) it is not what is bankrupting us. Even without ANY military we would have unsustainable deficits. In any case, we will soon pay more for servicing debt than defense.

            Saving 50 billion here – of all places – is a means to satisfy your ideological urges and hatreds, but is not a serious priority. In that respect, you are indistinguishable form a common liberal/left-winger.

    • “. . . the demands of labour force mobility have undermined the old familial and community supports.”

      Really? You don’t suppose that government social engineering has had anything to do with that, do you? People have always gone from on location to another, it’s “how the West was won”. But only since the Wilsonian “Progressives” and their New Deal children got ahold of the country’s checkbook has the all-powerful state taken over the roles of family and community, today supplying “free” food to over 14% of the population, for instance.

      ” Sometimes it is necessary to bail out the private sector with our money.”

      It is, is it? You’re another one of those confuseniks that feels that the sum total of the wealth of the country belongs to the state. It’s NEVER necessary to confiscate the wealth of one individual and give it to another. It is, in fact, morally wrong. There is no such thing as “our money”.

      • At least this last little rabbit poop from “Paulite” has now confirmed a suspicion that the persona/nomme de plume is but the headline for a “Seminar Poster” who just ran out of bluff…

        And the spelling puts this individual in one of two places: Either the Spell checker is set to British English, or “Paulite” has a tenuous relationship to the US franchise.

        Of one thing I am completely certain… Paulite is no Libertarian….

        Just what Fuster is, on the other hand, well a rubber frog that squeaks when squeezed… is about right..


        • fuster also squeaks when you lick his little leg, mighty mouse.

      • The Europeans who came here and settled the country were certainly mobile. We are less so nowdays. (In fact Europeans are now more mobile, and more likely to be working in a place other than where they born. They are also less likely than us to be working in the same type of work as their parents.)

        But back to the question. The fact is that throughout the industrial world the individual drive to seek out economic opportunity is the principal factor which has resulted in the old supports breaking down. It is also the driver of increased prosperity for those able and willing to grasp the opportunities our type of society affords its citizens.
        Great events like the 2nd world war have brought about great industrial and social change which have also spurred this process. The ethos of individuality and Social liberalization have also been factors (smaller families, marriage breakdown, and our reluctance to be burdened by our old and sick). Of course, these changes have enhanced the position of women in particular, and have given particular benefits to the healthy and educated. But there have also been casualties.
        Unquestionably, government has been reactive to these changes rather than the driving force. The real question, I suppose, is whether government should react and help the casualties – and particularly the children of the casualties, the sick, and the aged poor. How do we deal with the children of the casualties of social change whose parents cannot nourish, educate, or immunize and pay for the healthcare of their offspring? In pre-Wilsonian times we dealt with these things very simply. It was called infant and child mortality, and enormous differences in statistics between rich and the poor Americans.
        I believe that our own wealth and the fruits of our labours belong to each of us as individuals. But we also live in a society which provides the infrastructure which enables most of us to live well, prosper, and create this wealth. This expensive infrastructure has to be paid for and maintained by taxation. But I don’t accept that my paycheque should be filleted for unnecessary wars, an unnecessarily large military/security state-within-a-state, benefits and entitlements for those who don’t need them, and special rules and priviledges which allow the wealthy and powerful escape paying their fair share.

        • Old bonds were breaking down, but government stepped in and interfered with the initial attempts of people to construct new associations on their own, through insurance, mutual aid, etc. That’s what we will have to return to–new private institutions aimed at sharing risks.

        • “How do we deal with the children of the casualties of social change whose parents cannot nourish, educate, or immunize and pay for the healthcare of their offspring?”

          One, start replacing can’t with won’t for all but a few.

          Two, observe with focused attention the legions of clean, healthy, well dressed, children of illegal immigrants who carry lunches (to school of all things) that would make your mouth water, and whose parents know nothing of “getting my check”. I see them everyday, and their parents stand in stark relief to the chain smoking, hung over “disabled” single mothers prattling away on cell phones about the next court date.

          • You have spoken an inconvenient truth.

            And the greatest irony is that the great-grandparents of these young “ladies” will have been hard-working immigrants who came here with sleeves rolled-up to make the American dream work for them and their children.

            We need to ask ourselves what is causing this malaise. I am a great admirer of conservative commentator, Theodore Dalrymple, who has interesting views on these matters (and on most other things too). The irony is that the Western Europeans (who endure much more government intervention than Americans would ever tolerate) still seem to do much better in the area of personal responsibility. They have much lower incidences of abortion, teenage pregnancy, and marital breakdown than us. The exception is Britain where the trends are similar to our own. Dalrymple (who admires the values of civility and the sense of community inculcated by the French education system – he lives in France) thinks there is something to the theory that the Anglo-American values which underpin our more innovative and individualistic societies might carry a social cost in terms of personal responsibility and community values. But, of course, France has also paid a price for her “safer” society – traditionally higher unemployment than Britain or the US. I suppose its fair to say that we have opted for one model and the Western Europeans (and Canadians and Anzacs), another. We are all democracies and we live with the good and bad consequences of our freely made choices

            • I have lived in Germany for many years and I always warn anybody against making simplistic comparisons (they go both ways). Dalrymple, whom I read all the time, is not guilty of that.

              Dalrymple doesn´t blame the ruin of Britain on the individualism of anglo civilization but on bureaucracy and the welfare state. Britain HAD civility and the sense of community at a time when the state was much less intrusive and bloated.

              The trends in continental Europe are not encouraging either, but they get along for now. Obviously soft socialism isn´t as destructive of their culture and institutions as it is in anglosphere societies. To anglosphere societies, big government is a carcinogenic and causes the failure of culture and institutions.

              The obvious solution is to leave them intact, and not to contaminate them with Franco-German ideas for which no cultural antibodies exist that might introduce a limiting factor.

          • Casualties of immensely increased wealth?

        • “(In fact Europeans are now more mobile, and more likely to be working in a place other than where they born. They are also less likely than us to be working in the same type of work as their parent.”

          Somehow you forgot to include the references and footnotes for that statement.

          ” The ethos of individuality and Social liberalization have also been factors”

          What’s that supposed to mean? You’re engaging in psuedo-philosophical jabber.

          • “The ethos etc….
            For the particularly slow witted, illustration was provided within the parentheses that followed the statement.

            Philosophy doesn’t come into it – pseudo or otherwise. I would have thought the relevant area is sociology.

            References? Click into the OECD data-base and be prepared to have your shibboleths stirred.

            p.s. Next time you perpetrate one of your howlers, permit me to ask you for the source of your “wisdom”.

  5. The President does not have a Tin Ear. He is not a bad politician. He is not above the fray. He is not out of touch with reality. He is not a dishonest man. He is not an un-likable man.
    He is an academic man. A community and street organizing man. He is a wealthy man. He is a man that believes in GOVERNMENT. He has been very straight forward about all this since day one.
    He is a man that believes there comes a point when “you have made enough.” He is a man that believes we have manufactured enough goods. We have drilled for enough oil. We have started enough companies. We have a few too many successful people. We have defended too many areas of the world.
    He is a man that believes in True Equality for Everyone. If one person is poor, we are all poor. If one person is un-happy, we are all un-happy.
    He believes that Government Employment is a lofty ideal. It transcends the un-sightly competition and un-even outcomes of the private sector. He has no objection to taking the un-sightly cash from business community. It serves them right for daring to succeed. They must have robbed or cheated someone to gain their wealth.
    He is a man that believes the nation should simply take a break from success and hard work and rely on the Government for equal and fair handouts. More trains anyone? Indeed, let us take a break from personal responsibility. Everyone should join a union in order to obtain higher pay, fewer working hours and more benefits.
    I say a full days pay for morning work. The public sector unions are a wave of the future, since the private sector seems to be playing out for some reason.
    If we are all poor, then no one is poor. If we are all un-happy, we can look to Washington to make us a little less un-happy. We are all average after all.
    The President has mislead no one.
    The Democrat vs Republican pretend differences are strictly for entertainment. Both parties have increased the size and scope of Government.
    Things haven’t really reached the point when the country will have to address the real scope of the financial problem.
    We baby boomers are a real part of this problem. We have affected the country in many ways since our births. A great bulge moving through the system. We seem to be reaching the large intestines. Please forgive the graphic metaphor. Regards.

    • There is an certain amount of truth in what you say. But we could have done without the graphic metaphor at the end.

      • Did you say “we” Paulite? Best regards to you in a non scatological way.

        • I should have said “I”. “I” had been enjoying breakfast up to that moment.

  6. Ah yes, the dreams of the dreamers. The president most certainly named called and no one believes his speech was anything other than a campaign rally to his base in order to stabilize his approval ratings which must not be allowed below 40%, lest his political career end.

    There are no tax cuts in Ryan’s proposal and the military spending in Afghanistan seems to go on endlessly although the President could stop it tomorrow if he wanted to. I guess we know that Bush’s military spending in Iraq is bad and Obama’s in Afghanistan is OK and he is working brilliantly in promoting NATO in Libya.

    We know that govt spending as % of GDP is at historical highs with the exception of WWII. We know that taxation which attempts to absorb more than 18-19% of GDP typically fails to do it on a long term basis. So budget proposals – of which the president still has not provided – which rely on tax increases will not provide the level of revenue required.

    By failing to address the soaring costs of Medicare, he also fails to attack the single largest item moving us to bankruptcy, and he fails to do this with the full knowledge of the ramifications of failing to do so because his own actuaries at CMS have already told us so. So his is a very cynical ploy – I must assume he is a dunce, or a liar, or the most evil politician to ever walk the US since Huey Long. There are no other answers, the numbers just don’t allow for any other excuse. Taking the wealth of the entire top 10% will not close his deficits, as we somewhat understand them, because he has not presented a budget plan. That the top 1% of wage earners pay over 30% of all income taxes and because the top 10% pay around 75% of the income tax, apparently that isn’t enough. To make his “speech” (because he does little else and it certainly isn’t a budget plan) work he is going to have to raise everyone’s taxes – because the rich don’t have enough money.

    We also know that government’s that try to tax their way out of financial distress fail significantly more often than those who cut govt spending – but wait, the right people haven’t done it before, the Obama WH will do it because we are the best and brightest.

    Anyone who believes Obama has a plan to get our financial house in order is either a fool or is lying as they type. Obama has a plan to get re-elected by lying to the American population about the financial difficulties we really face, because in reality the Democrats are now only able to get elected by playing gramma and grampa and bestowing presents on a population that increasingly pays little by way of income tax. That they – or a fair number of the GOP – would level with us would be nice, but it is not expected.

    The advantage I have is that I have enough assets now that will allow me to protect them when the bond markets collapse and the US becomes Greece and Portugal and Ireland. You poor rubes who think Obama cares about you and will protect you – ha.

    The money is running out – we can all pontificate all we want. But when it runs out, the checkbook gets taken away and everyone gets a full dose of cold water in their face. Fuster is just playing because he likes the game. The others, good luck.

    • coulda sworn that I read that taxation and government spending was around 22% under Reagan. also coulda sworn that our spending in Afghanistan is nowhere near what it was in Iraq.

      we indeed approach a crunch that seemingly wasn’t there when Clinton left office and we cut taxes while borrowing a trillion bucks.

      I don’t think that you can lay the bulk of the problems at the feet of Medicare.

      • Again with the trivial trillion dollar tax cut that the Democrats could have cancelled out anytime in the past two years had they not been occupied with perpetrating an enormous power grab. Again with the trillion dollars of borrowing during eight years under Bush as this president borrows more than a trillion every eight months.

        • ya know what they say, sully. a trillion here, a trillion there and soon it adds up to real money.

          • Quadrillion is the next milestone. By 2070 at the rate implied by the last three decades of deficits. By 2030 at the current rate. By a few weeks, months or years from now if the Fed lets inflation truly get out of control when the bond crisis hits.

    • I appreciate that the US is considerably indebted as aresult of ruinous wars and uncontrolled military spending.

      However, in terms of loan/GDP ratios we have been in a worse place several times before. These crises occur periodically under both Republican and Democratic administrations, and for various reasons. It was sheer hubris on the part of the Fed to assume that we had finally beaten the boom and bust cycle and that the markets had become “self-adjusting”.

      The good news is that we have always in the past (and will probably always do in the present and future downturns) worked our way back to fiscal health by a combination of growth, inflation, and taxation-adjustment. The evidence provided by recent economic statistics is that we are in the process of doing just that. Bravo for that great perpetual-motion machine – the US economy.

      • And the Turkish regime is a model of democratic legitimacy, justice and economic efficiency! Winning the future!

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