President Obama's latest news conference was further confirmation that his voracious appetite for spending was not satisfied but whetted by the fiscal cliff deal, which he views as an appetizer.
We were told that the GOP achieved a coup in the fiscal cliff negotiations because they lured Obama into an agreement to lock in the Bush tax rates except for the highest-income earners. Never mind that Obama agreed to no spending cuts or entitlement reform after demanding a "balanced approach" to deficit reduction; they told us he'd be forced to address those matters in a couple of months in the debt ceiling negotiations. They argued that by agreeing to make the Bush rates "permanent," Obama had tacitly admitted that he couldn't sustain the welfare state through tax increases on the middle class and that he'd now have to -- grudgingly or not -- turn his attention to spending cuts and entitlement reform.
As I've written before, I never understood this optimistic outlook, because from the get-go, Obama and his Democratic colleagues swore that they had only begun on the "revenue" side and that they were bound and determined to focus on more revenue extraction in the next round of negotiations.
It is painfully naive to assume that Obama is operating in good faith. Throughout his term, he has rarely focused on the merits of policies he's promoted. He has used various scapegoats to distract the public's attention from the substantive arguments in order to facilitate the results he seeks.
With Obamacare, the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, his many environmental initiatives, his assault on religious liberty and his ruthless opposition to Arizona's immigration law, to name a few, he glossed over the substantive issues involved and demonized his political opponents and certain individuals and interest groups in order to make the outcome turn on personal, rather than policy, considerations. This is the stuff of sheer demagoguery.
Similarly, in the fiscal cliff negotiations, Obama wouldn't permit the discussion to focus on the real issue: our crushing national debt. If that had been his intention, he would have used his presidential bully pulpit to steer the conversation toward the major debt drivers, which are spending and entitlements, not a lack of taxes.