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No Poking President at Facebook

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Last year, when President Obama wanted to convince Americans that his policies were paying off and creating jobs, he visited a solar-panel plant in Fremont, Calif. "The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra," quoth the president.


It was an odd choice. Solyndra was in business with the help of a $535 million federal loan guarantee, had yet to turn a profit and five months later, it shuttered one of its factories to save money.

Now Obama is trying to convince Americans that "shared responsibility" means raising taxes only on the top 2 percent of income earners.

So Team Obama held a "town hall" event at Facebook, placing the president next to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, a 26-year-old who is worth $16 billion.

Obama had the good sense to put the moment in context. Plan Obama means "people like me and you, Mark" will have to pay higher taxes. And he's sure Zuckerberg's OK with that. (Good thing Obama wasn't hanging with his jobs czar, Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, the company that earned $5.1 billion in U.S. profits last year without paying a dime in federal income taxes.)

This has been a hard week for the president, so it must have felt great to talk at the website that has brought him 19 million "likes."

COO Sheryl Sandberg explained the ground rules: "No poking the president." Then again, on Monday, Obama got a pretty rude poking from S&P. The rating agency revised its assessment of the U.S. economy from "stable" to "negative." The notice explained that S&P could downgrade America's coveted AAA rating in the next two years.


As Obama told his Facebook fans, if the markets lose faith in Washington's ability to curb the deficit, that could mean a whole new world of damage to the U.S. economy.

He didn't explain that S&P's timing -- shortly after Obama presented his weak deficit-reduction package -- screams that Wall Street doesn't think Washington will fix the hole.

Obama took his usual shots at the budget proposal put forth by GOP House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. Oddly, the Ryan plan does represent shared sacrifice -- it not only cuts Medicare costs for all, it also calls for making affluent seniors pay more. All Obama can do in response is warn seniors that in 10 years, they will have to pay more for their health care.

Obama repeated his oft-voiced complaint that under President George W. Bush, America went to war twice, passed a prescription drug plan and cut taxes -- without paying for any of it. This represented, Obama lamented, the "first time we had gone to war and not asked additional sacrifice from American citizens."

The fans ate that up. They didn't seem to notice that because of Libya, America now is fighting three wars that aren't paid for -- and the president isn't asking them to sacrifice.


Also, Obama voted against means-testing the Bush drug plan. And in December, he signed a bill extending all of the Bush tax cuts, without paying for the 10-year tab of $700 million for cuts for the rich and $2.4 trillion for everyone else.

Let me posit. When the recovery is secure and unemployment has declined, Washington will have to raise taxes in order to tackle the deficit. But there aren't enough rich people to address the magnitude of the unfunded liabilities that will fall most heavily on the generation that made Facebook.

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