Several smart columnists and respected conservative editorial pieces tell us that a major silver lining in the crisis deal just concluded is that by agreeing not to reinstitute the Clinton tax rates (and leave the Bush rates in place) for all but the "wealthy" (income of $400,000 for single filers and $450,000 for marrieds), Obama and the Democrats made a major concession. They argue that if Democrats couldn't do better after Obama was just re-elected and when the debt is so high, they'll never be able to. They'll have to realize that they will never be able to sustain their desired welfare state through raising taxes alone and have to come to the table on serious spending cuts and entitlement reform.
This assumes that Obama and the Democrats have any real interest in reducing spending or curbing entitlements. They have shown no interest in doing so, despite the crushing debt problem threatening the nation's solvency.
Obama doesn't base his spending plans on projected revenues, except on a micro level when the law requires him to present bills with revenue-neutral scoring, at which point he manipulates the numbers to make it work out. He spends as much as he can get away with because spending (and taxing) are his tools to fundamentally transform America and to right the myriad economic and social injustices he perceives. I am convinced that the enormity of our deficits and debt never cost him a minute's sleep.
The silver lining proponents also assume Obama has now exhausted his avenues for extracting more taxes. I frankly don't have any idea how anyone could assume that. After all, during the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney capitulated to Obama's class warfare theme that the rich weren't paying their fair share and promised to eliminate deductions and "loopholes" to remedy this. Then House Speaker John Boehner, in one of his early fiscal cliff offers, surrendered on the very same point.
Is it any wonder today's Republicans have so much trouble with voters? Here we have a class A demagogue running up our deficits and debt to nation-bankrupting levels through runaway spending and obstructing entitlement reform, and Republicans allow him to establish the counterfactual narrative that we have a revenue problem -- caused by the rich, no less. Even if it were a revenue problem, we couldn't solve it by punishing the rich. Increasing taxes on everyone wouldn't put a serious dent in our deficits and debt.
Only entitlement reform and major discretionary spending cuts would do that -- coupled with policies designed to generate economic growth, which, by the way, do not include tax hikes on the wealthy and major job producers. But how can we possibly win arguments when we don't even articulate them?
So here we have Obama for his entire first term obstructing entitlement and spending reform and railing about the alleged unfairness of the tax code, which has nothing to do with the debt. During the fiscal cliff negotiations, this distorted dialogue continued unabated, with the main things being discussed having nothing to do with the problems we're facing. It's no surprise, then, that the budget deal finally reached will not only not improve our debt picture but exacerbate it.
But that's all fine, we are told. Round two is coming up in two months, in which Obama will take "revenues" off the table and really focus on spending cuts and entitlement reform. Really?
I don't know what is more disheartening, Obama's obvious determination to take this nation into socialism and bankruptcy or the deniers on our side of the aisle who insist on pretending we're dealing with a man who eventually will be reasonable and work in good faith on balancing the budget.
Be offended if you choose, but Obama is either trying to bankrupt the country or so addicted to spending and determined to fundamentally transform the nation that he refuses to be bothered about the reckless spending he is causing. We remain blind to this at the nation's peril.
I hate to say I told you so, but after the budget deal, Obama wasn't humbled; he was emboldened. He was ungracious toward Republicans, chastising them and promising there would be more revenue increases coming and absolutely no negotiation over the debt ceiling. Now reports have emerged that, indeed, the deal has emboldened Obama to demand more revenues.
If Obama cared about this nation's solvency and prosperity, he wouldn't have to be enticed through budget bargaining to agree to spending cuts and entitlement reform. He would be initiating dramatic reforms himself. He isn't, and he won't. Peace in our time.