WASHINGTON - The latest sign President Obama fears he's headed for defeat came this week when he said he'd seek a "grand bargain" with Republicans to reduce a $16 trillion debt.
Over the course of his campaign, Obama has ignored the monstrous debt he's piled up over the past four years in an orgy of unprecedented annual spending increases and budget deficits. Now, with little more than a week left before Election Day, and the presidential race in a dead heat, he suddenly wants a compromise with Republican leaders in Congress to curb spending and borrowing.
Well, he's four years late and $5 trillion short of dealing with an issue that threatens to engulf our government, the economy and every American in a sea of unfathomable debt and possibly another recession.
The front page headline in Thursday's Washington Post says "Obama vows to refocus on debt" in his second term.
In an interview Tuesday with the Des Moines Register, that he initially said was off the record, Obama called for a budget deal that he said was "one of the biggest things we can do for the economy."
Then on Wednesday, amidst new polls showing he was statistically tied with Republican Mitt Romney, the Obama campaign abruptly changed its mind and released the full transcript of the interview.
Next to the unendingly weak, slow growing economy and feeble job creation, the nation's debt remains one of the top three major concerns among voters. And polls now show that Romney is being given much higher approval score for his ability to balance budgets and deal with the debt.
No doubt the president's tightening polls were the key reason for the Obama campaign to release the transcript, a portion of which said this:
"We're going to be in a position where I believe in the first six months we are going to solve that big piece of business," Obama said. "It will probably be messy. It won't be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I've been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of [spending] cuts for every dollar in [taxes], and work to reduce the costs of our health-care programs."
(Actually, it was House Speaker John Boehner who first broached the idea of a grand compromise.)
The president offered no new details of what he would offer the Republicans in such negotiations, nor how they would deal with the Jan. 1 deadline when a mountain of automatic tax increases and spending cuts will take place.
Republicans are unalterably oppose to raising income tax rates on anyone in an anemic economy that has barely been growing at between 1 and 2 percent.
Even former President Bill Clinton has urged Obama and his party to temporarily extend all of President Bush's tax cuts in the present economic climate, giving Congress time to pass a tax reform plan that would broaden the tax base and lower all the income tax rates at the same time. This is essentially the same plan former governor Romney has been proposing in his agenda to get America working again.
But Obama has stubbornly refused to consider such a plan, saying Romney's "numbers don't add up." In fact, his bipartisan, deficit reduction commission proposed the very same tax reform approach that Romney is championing.
Republicans responded Wednesday to his late eleventh hour grand bargain proposal by dismissing it out of hand as a warmed-over plan right out of his last budget which was decisively rejected by the House and Senate.
If all this looks like an last-minute maneuver of political desperation, that's exactly what it is. Obama's campaign strategists believed they could easily defeat Romney by playing class warfare, attacking his wealth that he earned the old fashioned way by working for it and by investing in businesses right here in the USA that created thousands of jobs. Obama thought he could bring Romney down by pointing to some of his investments abroad, but it turns out Obama's own retirement pension invested in China, too.
They attacked him for some investments made by his venture capital firm that didn't turn out so well as happens in the real world. But Romney struck back at Obama's own failed investments in green energy businesses that went bankrupt, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for billions of dollars in bad loans.
Obama's campaign believed they could crush Romney with small, petty issues, while ignoring the president's own immense failures: four insufferable years with an economy that's barely moving, 23 million Americans who are either unemployed or underemployed in part-time work, falling incomes, and a suffocating debt that looms over all of us.
Obama's record-shattering deficits since he took office:
$1.4 trillion in 2009; $1.3 trillion in 2010; $1.3 trillion in 2011; and an estimated $1.2 trillion in 2012, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Unprecedented spending, far in excess of the federal government's annual tax revenues, are also fattening the publicly held debt as a percentage of the U.S. economy. In 2010, the debt mushroomed to more than 50 percent of the economy and, says CBO, could reach 87.4 percent by 2021.
"Obama turned a temporary expansion of government, through TARP and the auto bailouts, into a permanent expansion of government.Before Obama, federal spending averaged 20 percent of GDP for decades. Now he is presiding over a much bigger government, at 24 percent of GDP," says Stanford University economist Keith Hennessey.
Future generations will have to pay for all this spending. As things stand now, each American's share of that debt comes to $32,000. If the government's spending levels continue on their upward course, that figure soars to $103,827.
There's one more thing Obama decided to do in the last few days that he had not done over the course of his re-election campaign because he cynically believed he didn't need to: tell voters what his agenda would be if he wins a second term.
Obama's "New Economic Patriotism: A Plan for Jobs & Middle-Class Security" went into the mail this week. It was nothing more than a rehash of the same failed spending and tax hike plans he has peddled before. And look where it's gotten us.