Thomas Sowell

Barack Obama's political genius is his ability to say things that will sound good to people who have not followed the issues in any detail -- regardless of how obviously fraudulent what he says may be to those who have. Shameless effrontery can be a huge political asset, especially if uninformed voters outnumber those who are informed.

President Obama's big pitch in his Monday night televised talk was that what is needed to deal with the national debt crisis is a "balanced" approach -- not just spending cuts but revenue increases as well.

What could sound more reasonable -- especially to those who have not been following what Obama has actually been doing and not doing? This is the same Barack Obama who, earlier this year, called for a "clean" increase in the national debt ceiling.

In this context, the soothing word "clean" referred to an increase in the national debt ceiling without any provisos. That is, no spending cuts at all. In other words, a blank check to keep spending. How balanced is that?

Another word that sounds good to people who don't stop and think is "fair." President Obama says that he only wants the wealthiest Americans to pay their "fair share." But he says zilch about just what that fair share is, or even how to determine it.

Is the "fair share" of the top 10 percent of income-earners 20 percent of all taxes? 40 percent? 60 percent? Those who talk about paying a "fair share" of taxes don't want to be pinned down.

This is another blank check that Obama wants. "Fair share" in plain English means "more," regardless of how large a share of all income taxes is already being paid by a fraction of the population, while nearly half pay no income taxes at all.

What President Obama says may not make any sense if you stop and think about it -- which he of course assumes that most people will not do. But that does not mean that he is a confused man. He is crystal clear in what he is doing, however confusing his words may be to others.

At the heart of the political games being played in Washington is taking credit and putting blame on the other guy. That is the game that Obama played flawlessly in his speech.

It began by referring to the increased government spending that had been going on for a decade -- in other words, before Barack Obama reached the White House. It is true that President George W. Bush had a record amount of deficit spending. But what is also true is that President Obama's deficit spending has broken Bush's record.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate