Getting Back in the Game

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Feb 28, 2009 1:04 PM
It's obvious to anyone with eyes to see that, with President Obama's sweeping plans, he's intending to move America to the left and expand government as dramatically -- if not more so -- than FDR did back in the '30's.

Given the administration's success at spreading fear, Republicans are going to need to come up with a compelling way to make the case that in many ways, Obama's prescriptions are exactly the wrong medicine for an ailing economy.  They need to point out that:

First, the President's promises are simply too good to be true -- not unlike the lendors who convinced homebuyers that they could have something for nothing.  Much of what Obama has promised is simply pie-in-the-sky.  As Jack Kelly has noted, the President wants us to believe that:

The Bush deficits were bad, but he proposes to triple them, then cut them in half within four years, and do this without raising taxes on 95 percent of Americans or leaving a mountain of debt for our grandchildren. He's going to expand health care coverage, while reducing its cost. He'll impose a "cap and trade" carbon emissions plan that will generate revenue and create jobs while easing global warming.

If you believe all that, I've got a bridge you can buy.  But if the promises Obama makes are incredible, what reason do we have to believe that his projections for the economy are credible?  That's especially true when investors and financial experts aren't buying what he's selling  -- reflected in the fact that, in the month since his inauguration, the market is down more than in any month since 1933.  

Second, the GOP needs real stories -- not just of government waste, but of the small businesses and owners (and regular Americans) who are going to be hurt by the tax-and-spend policies Obama is advocating.  Joe the Plumber became an overnight sensation because he put a human face on the dry policies that McCain had talked about.  The GOP needs to find an army of Joes and Josephines -- good, hardworking Americans who aren't looking for a handout, and who are going to suffer if Obama's plans are put into place -- and introduce them to the American people.

Third, the divisiveness of Obama's policies needs to be emphasized.  Americans have survived many (and worse) crises in the past -- not by being divided, one citizen against another, but by standing unified against a common threat.  Obama's approach relies on a certain scapegoating of "the rich" -- even those whose wealth has come through years of hard work and sacrifice.

Certainly, those who have behaved illegally or unethically should be held to account.  But trashing all bankers, just because some have behaved inexcusably isn't just unpresidential.  It's wrong -- and Obama ought to stop it.  He was supposedly elected to "unite" us, not to stoke resentment and hatred between different groups of Americans.

Fourth, the GOP needs to explain that we all fall or rise together, as Americans.  If Obama taxes the job-creators out of existence, what happens to the job-seekers? 

It would be instructive to remember the "yacht tax" that the Democrats put in place about twenty years ago.  It was supposed to raise tax money by really sticking to the yacht-owners -- that's right, "the rich."  Who suffered?  The yacht-builders and those who worked for them.  By 1992, even the NY Times ran a favorable story about (the first) President Bush's efforts to have the tax repealed in order to help yacht industry workers.  The moral of the story?  It's impossible to bring real prosperity through a class warfare strategy of soaking the rich.  For better or worse, economically, we all rise and fall together.

Finally, shouldn't someone be pointing out that we have the least experienced President in modern times touting the biggest plans to remake this country that we've seen in almost a century?  Given that he's never really run anything in his life -- or been responsible for hard results --  is it wrong to ask that President Obama show that he knows how to fix the economy before, say, we go allowing him to remake the health care system?