Why the president remains committed to a slogan in the absence of a real plan remains the most puzzling question. Again, Woodward’s book provides an insight. It notes how Obama’s political adviser David Plouffe sat in on every debt ceiling meeting and analyzed every specific proposal through the Washington lens of political winners and losers. As a result, whether Speaker Boehner’s proposed plans were good for the economy was secondary to the primary consideration of how any proposed deal would play politically and affect Obama’s reelection.
As a result of this politics-first approach being applied now, Tim Geithner has said the president is willing to sink the economy in the name of raising marginal tax rates on a wealthy few Americans, perhaps because “raising tax rates on the rich” makes for a salable talking point. But it’s no substitute for a real plan.
In contrast, the Republicans have offered several viable options (admittedly none of them great), but Obama is uninterested in anything resembling a solution. $800 billion in revenues combined with $1.4 trillion in cuts? Not interested. Increasing revenues by capping deductions at 2%? Nope. Simpson-Bowles? Not a chance. Tax reform? Yawn. Congressional two-step involving short-term fiscal resolution followed by long term entitlement reform? No thanks. Return to Clinton-level tax rates for middle and upper income Americans? No way.
Indeed, the only thing the president seems capable of is engaging in whack-a-mole demonization of his political opponents for any proposal they offer that does not identically reflect the president’s apparent fiscal death wish. This is not negotiation or presidential leadership. This is my-way-or-the-highway juvenile petulance. The presidential bully pulpit sounds more and more like a social media rant.
Americans gave President Obama another four years in part because they believed him when he said he said he “needed more time” to complete the financial turn-around he promised had begun. Yet now the president has demanded, in addition to increased tax rates on high earners, a $50 billion stimulus. For what purpose? Why would $50 billion have an impact when $760 billion did not? To quote Dr. Evil, “why make trillions when you can make billions?”
It would be one thing if the president actually proposed a viable plan to address the fiscal cliff, and then postured for political points. Instead, he postures while offering no meaningful plans, thereby shirking his constitutional responsibilities, and doing so while demanding unfettered authority to control the debt limit increase, which clearly falls within Congress’ constitutional purview.
The president ran to “fundamentally transform” America. If his incompetence and intransigence result in another recession or worse, he will have accomplished his goal. Voters remorse, anyone?
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