Do you remember what the mainstream media mainly talked about as the country careened toward the fiscal cliff? Did they talk about the harmful economic effects of impending tax increases? Did they talk about which tax increases would be worse than others? Did they talk about the need to get rid of waste in government without causing economic harm?
No. None of that. The taking heads and opinion writers focused like a laser on one and only one question: who was going to get the blame if we went over the cliff.
Up next will be the debt ceiling deadline (in a matter of weeks), then the automatic sequester of federal spending (in less than two months), and then (in three months) comes a close-down-the-government-moment, when Congress will have to pass a continuing resolution, because it can't seem to ever pass a real budget. Through it all, expect more of the same. Instead of real issues, the media will treat these events like a boxing match. Who's landing a blow? Who's getting hurt?
Think about that for a moment. If we don't curtail entitlement spending, we're going to end up like Greece. Even the Democrats are unwilling to tax enough to pay the bills. But none of this is interesting to people who talk and write for a living. Only the blame game holds their attention.
OK. I'm willing to devote at least one column to that topic and here is my answer: President Obama deserves about 90 percent of the blame for these crises. Here's why.
During the 2008 election, I was actually hopeful about Barack Obama. He was the only serious candidate in the Democratic primary who said we need to do something about entitlement spending, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. For this, he took much abuse from the left, including scathing condemnation by Paul Krugman in The New York Times. Yet he stood his ground.
What made me especially hopeful was that Barack Obama was a liberal Democrat. Just as it took a Republican (Richard Nixon) to go to China, I fear it will take a Democrat to reform entitlements. Bill Clinton was about to do what needs to be done with Social Security and Medicare until Monica Lewinski derailed him. Then George Bush proved that Republicans are never going to be able to reform Social Security. Perhaps, Barack Obama could pick up where Bill Clinton left off. Could that really happen?
John C. Goodman is President of the Goodman Institute and a Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute. He is the author of the widely acclaimed book, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis. The Wall Street Journal and National Journal, among other media, have called him the "Father of Health Savings Accounts.”