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.