Today we witnessed something truly remarkable. Barack Obama managed to out-do himself by uncorking what very well may have been the most dishonest, demagogic, and bitterly partisan speech of his presidency. I render that assessment as someone who has sat through and analyzed countless Obama lectures, some of which earned very high marks for deceit and ideological invective. Indeed, today's Occupy-inspired rant takes the cake. It was a depressing and enraging preview of the next seven months, over which this president will unleash a barrage of sophistic and pernicious arguments deliberately designed to sow discord and divide Americans. He will do so with no regard for the truth, history, or the Constitution he swore to uphold. I genuinely cannot see how anyone who considers him- or herself a "conservative" in any meaningful sense could watch this screed and not immediately redouble his resolve to help defeat the man who delivered it. Adequately addressing and debunking this speech is going to be a Herculean undertaking. Nearly every single paragraph is littered with distortions, scorched straw men, and flat untruths. But I'm going to take a stab at it.
Disclaimers: (1) This is going to be a very long post, even as I try to pare down my responses. If I dissected every misstatement and fib in the full remarks, this piece might achieve War and Peace proportions. (2) I'm working from C-SPAN's rush transcript. (3) I'll add video as it become available. And with those items securely in place, we're off ... President Obama begins by feigning fealty to the private sector and free markets. After ticking off a list of Republican presidents who supported some form of government expansion, he assails "trickle-down" economics, branding the conservative vision for America a failed "experiment:"
Show me a business leader who would not profit if more americans could afford to get the skills and education that today's jobs require. Ask any company where they would rather locate and hire workers, a country with crumbling roads and bridges or one committed to high-speed internet and high- speed railroad and high-tech research and development? It doesn't make us weaker when we guarantee basic security for the elderly, sick, or those who are actively looking for work. What makes us weaker is when fewer and fewer people can afford to buy the goods and services are businesses sell. When entrepreneurs don't have the financial securities to take a chance and starting a business. What drags down our entire economy is when there is an ever widening chasm between the ultra rich and everybody else...Yet, for much of the last century, we have been having the same argument with folks who keep paddling some version of trickle-down economics.
How is it possible that America remains plagued by "crumbling roads and bridges" after we've just spent $825 Billion of borrowed money on a stimulus program ostensibly fashioned to fund and execute precisely those types of "shovel ready projects"? Obama's solution is more spending, more borrowing, more failure. Next, income inequality exists, but this "ever-widening chasm" language is both exaggerated and unsupported by the facts. The presidential "education" goes on:
They keep telling us that if we convert more of our investment in education, research and health care into tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, our economy will grow stronger. They keep telling us if we strip away more regulations and let businesses pollute more and treat workers and consumers with impunity, somehow we will all be better off. We are told that when the wealthy become even wealthier and corporations are allowed to maximize profits by whatever means necessary, it's good for America and their success will translate into more jobs and prosperity for everyone else. That is the theory. The problem for advocates of this theory is that we have tried their approach on a massive scale. The results of their experiments are there for all to see. At the beginning of the last decade, the wealthiest americans received a huge tax cut in 2001 and another huge tax cut in 2003. We were promised that these tax cuts would lead to faster job growth. They did not. The wealthy got wealthier, we would expect that. the income of the top 1% has grown by more than 275% over the last few decades to an average of $1.3 million a year. But prosperity sure did not trickle down. Instead, during the last decade, we had the slowest job growth in half a century.
Here, our "post-partisan," self-stylized messiah accuses Republicans of supporting pollution and worker abuse. How insulting. I'll address this point when he revisits it with a vengeance later on. His unserious caricature of free market capitalism is hardly worth responding to. It's the equivalent of a petulant Republican president standing up and saying the Democrat vision for the country is to transform it into a North Korea-style police state. This brand of rhetoric is below the presidency, but has never been below this president. The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts helped pull America out of the recession that President Bush inherited. It led to more than 50 consecutive months of job growth and declining deficits (prior to the 2008 crisis) -- even as we spent heavily on two wars. President Obama is asking Americans to turn their backs on the "bad old days" of 5.3 percent unemployment (Bush's average)* and annual deficits that look like foothills compared to today's Obama-institutionalized Himalayas of red ink. And does this president really want to gripe about previous "slow job growth"?
The typical American family actually saw their incomes fall by about 6% even as the economy was growing. there was a time when insurance companies and insurance -- and a financial lenders did not have to abide by strong enough wedges -- strong enough regulations and found ways around them. what was the result? Profits for these companies soared, but so did people's health insurance premiums, patients were repeatedly denied care, often when they needed it most, families were enticed and sometimes just plain tricked into buying homes they could not afford, huge, reckless bets were made with other people's money on the line and our entire financial system was nearly destroyed. We tried this theory out. you would think after the results of this experiment in trickle-down economics, after the results were made painfully clear, the proponents of this theory might show some humility. might moderate their views a bit. You would think they would say, you know what? Maybe some rules and regulations are necessary to protect the economy and prevent people from being taken advantage of by insurance companies or mortgage lenders. Maybe, just maybe, at a time of growing debt and widening inequality, we should hold off and giving the wealthiest americans another round of big tax cuts.
Banks were forced into lending people money to "buy" homes they couldn't afford through federal edicts like the Community Reinvestment Act. As a young community organizer, Barack Obama trained Left-wingers to aggressively agitate in favor of coercing banks into issuing these risky, subprime mortgages. Directly contradicting the tale Obama is now spinning, Republicans repeatedly tried to increase regulation to prevent the meltdown that Barack Obama helped cause -- and that perversely helped sweep him into office. Democrats strenuously objected at the time. It takes a stunning degree of cognitive dissonance and cynicism to pawn off the consequences of your mess onto your political opponents after it nearly sinks the entire economy. And to echo a previous question, does this president really want to discuss "reckless bets made with other people's money"? Really? Next, Obama paints a cartoonish portrait of the dystopian hell-hole America will become if Paul Ryan's budget is enacted:
Instead of moderating their views even slightly, the Republicans running congress right now have double down. They have proposed a budget so far to the right it makes the Contract for America look like the new deal. In fact, that renowned liberal, Newt Gingrich, first called the original version of the budget radical. He said it would contribute to right- wing social engineering. This is coming from newt gingrich. This is not a budget supported by some small group in the republican party. This is now the party's governing platform. This is what they are running on. One of my potential opponents, Governor Romney, has said he hopes a similar version of this plan from last year would be introduced as a bill on day one of his presidency. He says he's very supportive of this new budget and he even called it marvelous -- which is a word you don't often hear when it comes to describing the budget. [laughter] It's a word you don't often hear generally. [Laughter].
Hilarious! Say, has Obama himself used "marvelous" in public remarks on multiple occasions? Of course he has! But that's a silly critique. In the passage above, Obama plays into the tired liberal trope that every single Republican politician or idea is either dumber or more evil than the previous one. He expects us to believe the Contract for America was spectacularly awesome compared to this wing-nut Ryan budget. (Also, thanks a lot, Newt). And since when did Republicans take over "Congress"? Last time I checked, Democrats -- who have intentionally avoided offering budget plans of their own to escape all accountability -- run the Senate. The president elides this pesky little nugget for some reason. It's almost as if he's actively trying to confuse people, or something. We continue...
Here is what this marvelous budget does...I want to go through what it would mean for our country if these cuts were to be spread out evenly. Bear with me, I want to go through this because I don't think people fully appreciate the nature of this budget. The year after next, nearly 10 million college students would see their financially cut by an average of more than $1,000 each. There would be 1600 fewer medical grants, research grants for things like alzheimer's, cancer and AIDS. There would be 4000 fewer scientific research grants, eliminating support for 48,000 researchers, students and teachers. Investments in clean energy technologies helping us reduce our dependence on foreign oil would be cut by nearly a fifth.
If this budget becomes law and cuts were applied evenly, starting in 2014, over 200,000 children would lose their chance to get an early education in the headstart program. 2 million mothers and young children would be cut from a program that gives them access to healthy food. There would be 4500 fewer federal grants at the department of justice and the FBI to combat by the crime, financial crime, and helped secure our borders. Hundreds of national parks would be forced to close for part or all of the year. We would not have the capacity to enforce the laws that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the food we eat. Cut to the FAA would likely result in more flight cancellations, delays, and the complete elimination of air- traffic control services and parts of the country. Over time, our weather forecasts would become less accurate because we would not be able to afford to launch new satellites. That means governors and mayors would have to wait longer to order evacuations in the event of a hurricane. That's just a partial sampling of the consequences of this budget.
This bit is so shrill and hysterical, it almost reads as satire. Paul Ryan's budget -- which increases federal spending from $3.5 Trillion to $4.88 Trillion over the next ten years -- is so unfathomably "draconian" that cancer-stricken babies will choke on polluted air, planes will collide mid-flight, and your local AccuWeather forecast will be rendered useless. Obama makes these statements as if Republicans don't drink the same water, breathe the same air, and eat the same food as the people Obama claims to be "protecting." The Republican budget proposes spending $40 Trillion over the next decade, compared to the ten-year, $47 Trillion price tag attached to this president's proposal. We're to believe this gap represents the difference between unicorn-dotted green pastures and a zombie apocalypse. But this isn't just one man's deranged opinion, Obama assures us; it's "the math:"
This is not conjecture. I am not exaggerating. These are facts...As a practical matter, the federal budget would basically amount to whatever is left in entitlements, defense spending, and interest on the national debt, period. Money for these programs that have traditionally been supported by bipartisan basis would be basically eliminated. The same is true for other priorities like transportation, homeland security, and veterans' benefits for men and women who risk their lives for this country. This is not an exaggeration. Check it out for yourself. This is to say nothing about what the budget does to health care. We're told Medicaid would simply be handed over to the states. That is the pitch. let's get out of the central bureaucracy, the states can experiment, there will be able to run the programs a lot better. But here is the deal the states would be getting. They would have to be running these programs in the face of the largest cut to medicaid that has ever been proposed. A cut that according to one non- partisan group would take away health care for about 19 million Americans. 19 million. Who are these Americans? Many are someone's grandparents who, without Medicaid, will not be able to afford nursing home care without without Medicaid. Many are children. some are middle-class families with children with autism or down's syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24- hour care.
Forget defense spending. If we do nothing, entitlement spending and servicing the national debt alone will consume our entire paid-for federal budget within the next decade or so. That statistic comes directly from President Barack H. Obama himself, nearly one year ago:
"By 2025, the amount of taxes we currently pay will only be enough to finance our health care programs, Social Security, and the interest we owe on our debt. That’s it."
Even if we taxed six-figure earners at 100%, we still wouldn't even pay off this year's deficit, so raising revenues isn't the solution here -- especially in a weak economy. Again, that's not crazy right-wing babble; that's another pearl of Obama wisdom:
Alright, back to today:
Then there is Medicare. Because health care costs keep rising and the baby boom generation is retiring, Medicare, we all know, is one of the biggest drivers of our long term deficit. That is a challenge we have to meet by bringing down the cost of health care overall for seniors and taxpayers who share in the stakes. But here's the solution proposed by Republicans in Washington and embraced by most of their candidates for president. Instead of being enrolled in Medicare when they turn 65, seniors to retire a decade from now would get a voucher that equals the cost of the second cheapest health care plan in their area. If Medicare is more expensive than at private plan, they will have to pay more if they want to enroll in traditional Medicare. If health care costs rise faster than the amount of the voucher, as, by the way, they have been doing for decades, that's too bad. Seniors bear the risk. If the voucher is not enough to buy private plan with bit specific doctors and carry need, that's too bad...The net result is our country will end up spending more on health care and the only reason the government will save any money is is because we have shifted it to seniors. They will bear more of the costs themselves. It is a bad idea. It will ultimately end Medicare as we know it.
After airily trashing his own bogus "Obamacare will bend the cost curve down" fantasy, the president hammers Paul Ryan's vicious, uncaring, partisan Medicare reform package. As I've written over and over again, Ryan's new plan is borrowed from the legislation he co-authored with liberal Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden. Under this bipartisan framework, needier and sicker future seniors will receive much more generous government assistance than wealthier and healthier ones. Yes, some well-to-do future seniors will have to pay more out-of-pocket for certain Medicare programs they may choose. And yes, that "ends Medicare as we know it." But Medicare as we know it will be insolvent in twelve years, according to its own trustees. Medicare as it exists today is a phantom for future seniors; it will be gone -- period. The question is what to do about it. President Obama's plan is....nothing. Aside from forking more power to an unelected, unaccountable rationing board (he only dislikes those types of panels when they're gathered at the Supreme Court), our president suggests absolutely nothing in the way of meaningful entitlement reform. He's content to sit back at viciously attack the only responsible plan in town, while offering no viable alternative of his own. His Treasury Secretary has admitted as much in February:
Real solutions aren't the order of the day, though. Demonizing and fear-mongering are. After all, there's an election to be won...
The proponents of this budget will tell us we have to make all these draconian cuts because our deficit is so large. This is an existential crisis, we have to think about future and that argument might have a shred of credibility were not for their proposal to also spends $4.60 trillion over the next decade on lower tax rates. We are told that these tax cuts will supposedly be paid for by closing loopholes and eliminating waste full deductions. But the Republicans in Congress refused to list a single loophole they're willing to close, not one. And by the way, there is no way to get even close to $4.60 trillion in savings without dramatically reducing all kinds of tax breaks that go to middle- class families, tax breaks for health care, tax breaks for retirement, tax breaks for home ownership. Meanwhile, these proposals and tax breaks would come on top of more than a dollar trillion in tax giveaways for people making more than two and $50,000 per year -- more than $250,000 per year...This is supposed to be paying down our deficit? It is laughable.
President Obama seems to believe that allowing people to keep the fruits of their labor constitutes government "spending." This view is built on the implicit assumption that the federal government owns all of your income, except for the portion that they magnanimously permit you to retain. It's true that the Ryan budget recommends lowering income tax rates in exchange for reducing and eliminating loopholes and tax credits. Like the president, I'd like to see more details on these changes -- which Ryan has held close to the vest, perhaps because Obama would demagogue the hell out them if he publicly specified them at this point. This approach is based on the model recommended by...the president's Simpson-Bowles deficit commission. Speaking of which, here's Obama's next "laughable" sentence:
The bipartisan Simpson-Bowles committee that I created, which the Republicans were for until I was for it, that was about paying down the deficit. I did not agree with all the details. It proposed about $600 billion more in revenue and $600 billion more in defense cuts than I propose in my own budget. But it was a balanced effort between Democrats and Republicans to bring down the deficit. That is why, although it differs in some ways, my budget takes a similarly balanced approach. Cuts in discretionary spending, in mandatory spending, and increased revenue. This congressional Republican budget is something different altogether. It is a trojan horse. It is disguised as deficit reduction plan and is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social darwinism. It is antithetical to our entire history as the land of opportunity and upward mobility for everybody who's willing to work for it.
First of all, the Ryan budget does reduce deficits by trillions compared to the president's plan, and it does balance. That's math. Second, Barack Obama and the Democrats utterly rejected the Simpson-Bowles report. Nancy Pelosi called it "simply unacceptable." Why the angry denunciations? Because the commission suggested significant entitlement and tax reforms that are reflected in the new Republican budget. So the president, after mocking commissions on the campaign trail, created one, then spurned its advice, but is now trying to take credit for the ideas it produced, even though he's roundly scorned them. Wow. Next, the president briefly speaks of his budget. Excellent. Surely his "balanced approach" is far less extreme than the Satanic Ryan budget, no? Oh, what's that? It was defeated 97-0 in the Democrat-held Senate last year and 414-0 in the House last week? What a serious, workable, consensus-building alternative our fearless leader has devised. Details, details. The president has already moved on to tarring his political opponents as unAmerican -- which, ironically, is what he also called President Bush's debt accrual in 2008, before he surpassed his predecessor's debt mark in less than half the time, of course. Good news, though: He went on to say this:
We have to get serious about the deficit. that will require tough choices and sacrifice.
How does he propose to "get serious"? By raising taxes on small businesses and job creators, increasing federal spending beyond our crisis-inflated levels, and imposing the so-called "Buffett rule," which would shrink our $16 Trillion debt monster by...a whopping $30 Billion...over 11 years. But remember, everyone, he's serious! Obama concludes with a flurry of class warfare and blathering about "fairness" (that word doesn't actually mean what he believes Americans think it means). Not to worry: This is "not class warfare," he explains. "That is math." Here's some more math: If Barack Obama could confiscate every penny of net worth from every single American billionaire, he would not be able to pay down his annual budget deficit. His unanimously-defeated budget offers zero solutions to our unfunded liability and debt crisis -- that according to his own administration. And it never balances. Ever:
No, president's adult plan is to vilify his opponents and contort their plans beyond recognition in order to win an election. His budget piles $11 Trillion atop our spiraling gross national debt and cravenly takes a pass on any authentically tough choices. Nevertheless, he effortlessly summons the gall to conclude that Paul Ryan's budget is "a prescription for decline." Revolting. Last but not least, Obama informs the press that they ought to cover this debate based on the framework that he's a beleaguered "centrist," helplessly trapped by a Republican Party that has moved so far right, they're barely recognizable:
This pathetic work-the-refs gambit reprises the "dumber and more evil" trick we discussed earlier, but even if it were true, let's recall that this president and his allies had nearly two full unimpeded years to do whatever they pleased. They could have passed any budget, raised any taxes, enforced any "fairness." Republicans were literally powerless to stop them. What they chose to do was jam through a failed stimulus and a loathed healthcare bill. Unemployment remains high. We're mired in the slowest "recovery" in memory, and energy costs are walloping American family budgets. The Great Obama Experiment has failed, and he knows it, which is why we'll hear a lot more of today's venomous drivel in the months ahead. Our president is a shameless, cut-throat ideologue masquerading as a pragmatist. That fraud crumbled long ago. The time has come to reward this man with the retirement he's so richly earned -- but which he would surely blame on someone else.
*UPDATE - A thoughtful reader suggests that if it's fair to blame irresponsible Democratic excesses for contributing to the housing bubble (and thus, the economic collapse), it's at least somewhat misleading to assign unqualified credit to President Bush for the low unemployment, and strong GDP and job growth that occurred during most of his presidency. After all, those strong numbers were aided, at least in part, to the dangerously inflating bubble. This is a fair point.