The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

(un) Balanced

It was fascinating to listen to President Obama provide us with the latest iteration of his position on deficit reduction. A significant portion of his speech—a speech that sounded more like a campaign speech that a serious discussion of policy by the President of the U.S.—focused on class-warfare. Using his latest euphemism for taxing the rich, the President talked about “balance.” But it appears that when the President is forced to discuss reducing the size of government, he loses his balance.

To be charitable, the spending “reductions” he proposed were tenuous at best. They made assumptions that were absurd (that economic growth would average 5 percent over the next 12 years), claims that were dishonest (e.g., that Obamacare would reduce the cost of medicare), and arguments that were beneath the dignity of the office that he holds (e.g., that the “rich” somehow don’t contribute enough to this country). He attacked Paul Ryan (the first politician in a generation who had the courage to propose substantive deficit reduction measures), suggesting dishonestly, that Ryan’s proposals would starve little children and hurt grandma. Demagoguery of this type accomplishes nothing of value.

The Wall Street Journal (certainly no friend of the President’s) comments:
Did someone move the 2012 election to June 1? We ask because President Obama's extraordinary response to Paul Ryan's budget yesterday—with its blistering partisanship and multiple distortions—was the kind Presidents usually outsource to some junior lieutenant. Mr. Obama's fundamentally political document would have been unusual even for a Vice President in the fervor of a campaign.

The immediate political goal was to inoculate the White House from criticism that it is not serious about the fiscal crisis, after ignoring its own deficit commission last year and tossing off a $3.73 trillion budget in February that increased spending amid a record deficit of $1.65 trillion. Mr. Obama was chased to George Washington University yesterday because Mr. Ryan and the Republicans outflanked him on fiscal discipline and are now setting the national political agenda.

Mr. Obama did not deign to propose an alternative to rival Mr. Ryan's plan, even as he categorically rejected all its reform ideas, repeatedly vilifying them as essentially un-American. "Their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America," he said, supposedly pitting "children with autism or Down's syndrome" against "every millionaire and billionaire in our society." The President was not attempting to join the debate Mr. Ryan has started, but to close it off just as it begins and banish House GOP ideas to political Siberia.

Mr. Obama then packaged his poison in the rhetoric of bipartisanship—which "starts," he said, "by being honest about what's causing our deficit." The speech he chose to deliver was dishonest even by modern political standards.

What's most disturbing is that the President actually believes his own ideological delusions. If only the “rich” paid a more “balanced” share of taxes, we’d be fine.

The simple reality is that even if we confiscated the wealth of every millionaire, we would not solve our deficit problems—problems so severe that the country is headed for default in decades to come; problems so profound that the legacy we leave to our children and grandchildren is frightening, problems so all-encompassing that the most vulnerable in our society (a phrase much used by the President) will be the first to suffer when the real reckoning starts in about a decade.

But the President and his shrinking coterie of supporters don’t seem to care. Instead of proposing real solutions, they look for someone to blame. I wonder who our grandchildren will blame in the year 2040.