He toys with us. Then he loses interest.
By Michael Podwill / February 24, 2012
When the subject is fiscal prudence, cutting spending, balancing the budget and setting America straight on a path toward viability (or even survivability), Barack Obama’s words and his actions are two very different things.
For instance, regarding the budget, Obama said this last week: “My goal is to actually solve the problem. It’s not to get a good headline on the first day.”
Those were his words. His actions, however, were something else – in the form of a 2012 budget proposal that does anything but work toward solving the problem of America’s soaring debt, bulging deficit and looming insolvency. We need clear and honest solutions. All he gives us are smarmy words laced with sleight-of-hand.
Indeed, Obama endorsed a $3.7 trillion budget for next year – and an additional deficit quantified at over $1.1 billion. Naturally, given a Republican congress, such a budget cannot possible be enacted as it is. Everyone knows this, including Obama, so his “goal” to “actually solve the problem” couldn’t be more disingenuous. That budget deficit, by the way, equates to some 10.9% of our gross domestic product – a colossal percentage that has not been reached in this country since the days when America was footing the bill for a little venture called World War II.
Obama claims he’s serious about the budget, but he’s merely playing games. Political games. His proposal doesn’t even come close to making any hard choices regarding spending cuts, especially ones that deal with major entitlements like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Indeed, he barely mentions them in his proposal. He’d rather just cluck about “fixing the problem” and leave the real dirty work to the Republicans with hopes of making them the heavies – the spoilers — in the eyes of the public, all to try and position the Democrats, Obama especially, as the “good guys,” the ones out to coddle and pay “the people” as we ramp up to the elections of 2012.
Never mind that the president is the country’s CEO, and as such he should bear the mantle of leadership, by positioning America for the hard choices ahead, and by reminding us of precisely what’s at stake here. He should be plotting an honest means for pulling us out of the depth of this grave problem and getting us on a solid pathway toward real solutions. But instead of such meaningful guidance, all we get from him is gimmickry. On this count, as on so many others, Obama falls hopelessly short. His politics are shrewd, cagey, cynical and about as self-serving as they come.
But even if most of the mainstream media still resides largely (and inexplicably, given the problems America is facing) in Obama’s pocket, growing numbers of Americans are more and more aware of 1) the real dangers that loom and 2) our president’s non-stop bag of glib tricks, blame games and utter refusal to do what a president must do during times of trouble: make hard choices, offer real solutions, lead.
Thomas G. Donlan is the editorial page director for Barron’s. In the February 21 issue, he offers a sterling essay (“Fussing Over Budgets,” page 51) that captures the true essence of exactly what’s going on – and how our government is failing us when, above all else, we need responsible, sober policies to get American moving in the right direction and avoid financial disaster.
Donlan properly sets both parties straight in his assessment. He says the Democrats need to face reality in this way: “They know they’ll have to sacrifice some Social Security and Medicare benefits for the middle class.” And the Republicans will likewise have to face their own reality – by understanding the need to allow taxes to rise.
More than anything, however, we need straight talk. There is simply no more room – and no more time – for games. But games are all we get from our shrewdie-in-chief. For instance, Donlan points out that Obama conveniently forgets about the massive interest on our debt when he discusses his prospective “solutions.” In fact, Donlan says the president has “adopted reporting standards worthy of Argentina or Greece. He has begun to focus on the ‘primary deficit,’ which is spending minus receipts, ignoring the interest on the debt.”
Thus, when Obama says “We’re not going to be running up the credit card anymore,” what he really means, as Dolan aptly puts it, is this: “The country will make minimum payments for as long as the bank will allow it.” That’s the solution granted to us by this president, the one who promised a new way, with plenty of transparency, and a better outcome for all Americans.
What does Donlan say about Obama’s scheme for sounding good by ignoring the crushing interest on our debt? “That plan, as any of about four million Americans who filed for bankruptcy in the last three years could tell him, is doomed.”
Michael Podwill’s Viewpoints appear in The DC Post on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He is a freelance writer and a creative marketing/advertising consultant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at M.Podwill@thedcpost.com