In a nutshell President Obama’s speech outlining his new economic plan was just more of the same. He blamed Bush, lied, avoided responsibility, scared people and vilified Republicans and rich people. All that was before he got to the meat and bones of his plan, which includes more spending (he calls it investing), tax hikes (he calls them spending reductions in the tax code), keeping his trillion dollar Obamacare (which calls a savings) and cutting defense spending.
Here are some of the highlights, or should I say, lowlights.
He began by noting the greatness of this country he wants to fundamentally transform. Of course he had to give a few nods to collectivism and big government. Then he bashed Bush.
As a result of these bipartisan efforts, America’s finances were in great shape by the year 2000. We went from deficit to surplus. America was actually on track to becoming completely debt-free, and we were prepared for the retirement of the Baby Boomers.
But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed. We increased spending dramatically for two wars and an expensive prescription drug program – but we didn’t pay for any of this new spending. Instead, we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts – tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country; tax cuts that will force us to borrow an average of $500 billion every year over the next decade.
To give you an idea of how much damage this caused to our national checkbook, consider this: in the last decade, if we had simply found a way to pay for the tax cuts and the prescription drug benefit, our deficit would currently be at low historical levels in the coming years.
Didn’t the Democrats want the prescription drug program to be bigger and more expensive? And wasn’t that bipartisan. Oh, and he failed to mention how he was a sitting Senator for part of that time, or how his party ramped up spending to unprecedented levels. He went on to completely avoid any responsibility for his actions, or his party’s role in the financial meltdown and housing bust.
On top of that, we faced a terrible financial crisis and a recession that, like most recessions, led us to temporarily borrow even more. In this case, we took a series of emergency steps that saved millions of jobs, kept credit flowing, and provided working families extra money in their pockets. It was the right thing to do, but these steps were expensive, and added to our deficits in the short term.
As if he needed to take over auto companies and banks, grow the government to enormous proportions, halt domestic oil production while giving billions to Brazil (a country he held up as a role model – China, too), and have his administration skirt Congress whenever and wherever possible. (See Michael Barone’s latest “gangster government” piece for more on the subject.)
He went on to state the obvious about our debt and pretend he wants to work with Republicans. Then he bashed Republicans, lied about their plan, fear mongered and threw in some class warfare for good measure.
One vision has been championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party’s presidential candidates. It’s a plan that aims to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion over the next ten years, and one that addresses the challenge of Medicare and Medicaid in the years after that.
Those are both worthy goals for us to achieve. But the way this plan achieves those goals would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we’ve known throughout most of our history.
A 70% cut to clean energy. A 25% cut in education. A 30% cut in transportation. Cuts in college Pell Grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year. That’s what they’re proposing. These aren’t the kind of cuts you make when you’re trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget. These aren’t the kind of cuts that Republicans and Democrats on the Fiscal Commission proposed. These are the kind of cuts that tell us we can’t afford the America we believe in. And they paint a vision of our future that’s deeply pessimistic.
It’s a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can’t afford to fix them. If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can’t afford to send them. Go to China and you’ll see businesses opening research labs and solar facilities. South Korean children are outpacing our kids in math and science. Brazil is investing billions in new infrastructure and can run half their cars not on high-priced gasoline, but biofuels. And yet, we are presented with a vision that says the United States of America – the greatest nation on Earth – can’t afford any of this.
It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors. It says that ten years from now, if you’re a 65 year old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy insurance, tough luck – you’re on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.
This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. And who are those 50 million Americans? Many are someone’s grandparents who wouldn’t be able afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.
Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can’t afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about it. In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that’s who needs to pay less taxes? They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that’s paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs? That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.
He lies. He lies. He lies! The Republicans are not going to do away with Medicare, they’re trying to save it! They aren’t talking about cutting taxes. According to The Wall Street Journal, the plan would be “revenue neutral.” They also remind us that federal deficits have increased a whopping 259% in the past three years! Yes, you read that right! But we’re supposed to believe that Obama and his fellow Democrats had nothing to do with it.
Then it’s more of the same drivel. We are “generous and compassionate; a land of opportunity and optimism. We take responsibility for ourselves and each other; for the country we want and the future we share.” Blah, blah, blah. Feel free to read the whole thing for his proposals to save us from our debt – but I’m sure you have a pretty good idea of what’s there.
Update: Paul Krugman is quite pleased with Obama’s new economic plan. What’s that tell you?
Update 3: Poh Diaries linked – and notes Obama’s support is slipping among poor Americans.