A Balanced Approach
I am not a speech watcher, and I am certainly not a speech writer. But Monday night, I took notes on two speeches. And this is what I was able to take away from speeches by President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner.
President Obama addressed the nation to talk about the crisis in Washington D.C. that has been coming to head. It took him less than one minute (60 seconds) to blame his predecessor, George W. Bush. The President claimed that he inherited a bad economy, and he did. But that is where the truth-telling stopped. The President said “the recession meant that less money was coming in, so we had to spend more money”. Only in a Marxist fairytale does that make sense.
He continued to rehash the same lines that he’s been using for months. President Obama used the phrase “balanced approach” no less than seven times in his 15 minute speech. I stopped counting after the seventh one. He promised once again that families earning less than $250,000 per year will not see any increase in taxes. Obama compared himself to Ronald Reagan a few times, and even had the audacity to quote him. He yet again bemoaned millionaires, billionaires, corporate jet owners, and big businesses for not being taxed enough; for not paying their “fair share”. The president reiterated that the Republican Party is the ‘Party of ‘No’’. He criticized a short term plan released this morning by Boehner as “kicking the can”. President Obama again turned to fear tactics and class warfare by threatening Social Security and Medicaid checks. He said the Republicans refuse to compromise, refuse to increase revenue, demand deep spending cuts and are “holding the economy captive”.
The entire speech was spent trying to eviscerate the Republicans for being partisan, ideological, and stubborn. But the President was able to sprinkle in a few other tidbits that many people might not pick up on or focus on. Mr. Obama mentioned that most Americans were just starting to ‘tune in’ to the stalemate, and that outside of Washington, most people “have no idea what the debt ceiling means.” Was I the only one offended by that? This is the age of the Internet, Mr. President. If someone hears a term or word that they are not familiar with, all they have to do is “Google it”. In fact, in all my discussions and rants over the past month on this topic, the only person who needed an explanation of the debt ceiling was my nine-year-old son! Mr. President, Americans are not stupid. President Obama, after explaining the debt ceiling in layman’s terms, also said that an increase in the debt ceiling does not mean an increase in spending, it will just be to pay our bills. Really? When I call my credit card company to ask for an increase, it’s so that I can spend more (borrowed) money.
On top of the lies and the insults to the American people, President Obama was even brave and brazen enough to contradict himself within his own speech. After demagoguing the Republicans for fifteen solid minutes, he told us that we “need to put politics aside and make progress”. He scolded Speaker Boehner for kicking the can down the road with his short term (6 month) plan, and then praised the plan from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s long term (16 month) plan. Harry Reid is just better at kicking that can, I guess. The president repeated over and over again that we need a balanced approach, but failed to mention that Reid’s plan has no tax increases. With so much double-talk, I wonder if the President may suffer from multiple personality disorder.
Shortly after the president signed off, House Speaker John Boehner offered a brief rebuttal. I specifically chose the word rebuttal, not response, because I think he did a good job of refuting the major points that Obama tried to make. John Boehner introduced himself as the “Speaker of the Whole House”, and as a former small business owner in Ohio. You see? instantly bi-partisan and appeal to the average person. The speaker noted the sharp contrast between running a business and making tough choices versus the “spend all the problems away” mentality he encountered in Washington, D.C. He accused the president of wanting another “routine increase in the deficit”, and for wanting a ‘clean’ debt ceiling increase, both of which were denied by Congress.
Speaker Boehner, unlike the President who refused to offer any details, got into some specifics. He said that President Obama created “this atmosphere of crisis” in part with his rhetoric, as well as the Patient Protection and affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) and all of the stimulus spending. He stated in no uncertain terms that there will be no increase in the debt ceiling without real spending cuts and meaningful reforms. He reminded everyone that the House passed a plan called Cut, Cap and Balance, but that the President threatened to veto it before it was passed.
Mr. Boehner stated that he put forth a “sincere effort” in negotiations with President Obama, but that just when he thought that they had found something to agree on, Obama demanded more, and said the President would not “take yes for an answer”. The Speaker summed it all up in plain English by saying that “If we’re spending more than we’re taking in, we need to spend less.”
The fact that we are here debating to raise the debt limit shows a failure in leadership. Yes, that is what Senator Obama said five years ago, and that is the only area where I agree with him. After that, he loses me. But Speaker Boehner is no messiah either. If the president wants a balanced approach, why hasn’t he proposed one? He emphasized cuts to domestic programs (which ones? your guess is as good as mine) and to defense spending. But why not balance that with cuts to international spending? Speaker Boehner wants no new taxes, but why does Ethanol get a subsidy instead of coal? President Obama refuses to look at any plan in “phases”, but Republicans need to compromise.
Everyone keeps talking about default. If you default on your car, it is because you didn’t make the payments, and the lending bank repossesses your car. And the same with your mortgage. If you don’t write that monthly check, you’ll get evicted sooner or later. If America ‘defaults’ on its debt, does China get to take over? I don’t think so. The truth is, America will not default. The monthly payment, America’s ‘mortgage’, if you will, amounts to about 10% of it’s income, or tax revenue. And my next-door neighbors will get their Social Security check next month, because that column accounts for only roughly 35% of monthly tax revenue. Default will not happen, but a shutdown might. Personally, that might not be so bad.
The fact of the matter is that politicians make lousy accountants, and serious reform in needed across the board. I’m no economist (heck, I barely have an A.A. degree), but here’s my plan. Fight for Cut, Cap and Balance. Call the Democrats’ bluff. Erick Erickson at redstate.com would say, “Hold the freaking line!” They will cave. Harry Reid practically has already, and Obama won’t let a default or a shutdown spoil his legacy. Let the Senate offer amendments if they want to, but stick to your principles. After you pass that, and it will pass, pass a truly balanced budget for FY2012. Go line by line and find everywhere possible to pinch pennies, not just political or social issues like Planned Parenthood and NPR. With a budget out of the way, go after the tax code. Start closing loopholes, eliminating deductions and banishing subsidies. And if you’re feeling extra frisky, reduce marginal rates. Once you prove that can reform the tax code, tackle the unsustainable ‘entitlements’. Create an ‘opt-in’ or ‘opt-out’ for Social Security. Give the states more power and control over Medicare and Medicaid. And that’s just for starters, before the 2012 elections. Yes, it is a lot of work, but it can be done. It must be done. Or a default will be the least of your concerns.