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Obama needs to get serious on the debt

By | September 21, 2011 | Opinion, Top Opinion Story

During the summer, in the midst of the debt ceiling fracas, President Barack Obama said this about himself:

I’m prepared to take on significant heat from my party to get something done, and I expect the other side should be willing to do the same thing if they mean what they say.

This is how the president has presented himself to the American people.

He is the “adult in the room.” He is the pragmatist, the non-ideological reasonable man in between the crazies on the left and the right. He was the “post-partisan” president who would solve all of our problems by the sheer force of his personality.

As if we needed any more evidence to the contrary, along comes Obama’s plans for the economy.

His jobs bill was more or less a big bunch of nothing. It was the same old stimulus that has been tried and failed, though this time it is on a much smaller scale.

And as for how he would pay for that stimulus? We now have the answer.

Here are the five ways that Obama is planning on paying for this new round of stimulus: the $1.2 trillion in cuts that were already scheduled from the bill which ended the debt ceiling crisis; $580 billion in cuts and reforms to various programs; $430 billion in interest savings; $1.1 trillion in the expected drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is never a for sure; and $1.5 trillion in tax reform, which is a less-scary way of saying tax increases.

So much for Obama the Pragmatist.

This plan is manna from heaven for liberals: Medicare is barely touched, Social Security isn’t discussed at all and taxes are increased on the “rich.”

Unfortunately, for Obama and the libs, this bill is D.O.A. in Congress — dead on arrival.

The tax aspects of this bill are simply incompatible with Republicans and some moderate Democrats in Congress. According to the website Talking Points Memo, centrist Senate Democrats Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu and Jim Webb have already come out against the bill. And, obviously, no Republican will accept any sort of tax increases.

What tax increases is Obama proposing? He wants to let the Bush tax cuts for “upper-income earners” expire, limit tax deductions for those making more than $250,000 per year, close some tax loopholes and eliminate some tax breaks and incorporate the “Buffet rule,” which would require all people making more than $1 million a year to pay more in taxes than their secretaries do.

The bulk of this is plain political demagoguery.

As The New York Times’ resident Republican columnist, moderate David Brooks, wrote, Obama’s plan “recycles ideas that couldn’t get passed even when Democrats controlled Congress… He repeated the populist cries that fire up liberals but are designed to enrage moderates and conservatives.”

When you’ve lost David Brooks, one of the famed Obama Republicans, that’s when you know you’ve lost the country.

As Brooks points out in his column, the rich already do pay their fair share: the top 10 percent of wage earners pay 70 percent of all income taxes, and the richest 1 percent pays 31 percent of their income to the government while the average worker pays only 14 percent.

But most importantly, this bill will not do anything to alleviate the debt/deficit crisis we currently find ourselves in.

We need real reform, in all areas. We need a real balanced approach, not the phony type that we get from the president.

All of the untouchables in American politics must be yanked from their pedestals, including Social Security, Medicare, defense and taxes.

The only balanced solution requires actually reforming all of these areas. There have been plenty of good proposals laid out that tackle each of these: the Simpson-Bowles commission, Rep. Paul Ryan and former Clinton Director of the Office of Management and Budget Alice Rivlin have all given good plans to combat the debt problems we face, along with the countless think-tanks that have given plausible plans.

The solution is out there, and it is obvious. It’s up to our government to have the will to do what is necessary.

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One Response to Obama needs to get serious on the debt

  1. joshua4234 says:

    I think Obama knows it won’t pass, but he’s just campaigning now. I’m pretty sure progressives see through this though. To me, it’s pretty obvious he’s just another corporatist like almost all republicans and a lot of democrats, whose only solution is more tax cuts.

    I don’t particularly see the problem with going back to tax rates that we clearly couldn’t afford to cut (silly nobody cares about the debt when it comes to reducing revenue via tax cuts). There are plenty of problems with taxation, whether it’s corporate loopholes allowing the most profitable corporations to pay little to nothing in taxes or tax holidays allowing people to let money sit overseas as a hostage until they are allowed to bring it back at tiny tax rates, but rich people paying too much is not one of them. Your assessment is fairly deceptive. For one, the richest people don’t make most of their money from some yearly wage, but things like capital gains, dividends, etc etc, not to mention their wages are already high and have been steadily going up for decades while the middle class’s has been stagnant so it’s natural they will pay more.

    And I really don’t know if you are just too entrenched in right-wing propaganda or what, but social security has nothing to do with our debt/deficit. It has its own funding paid for by us and has currently taken in more money than has paid out to the tune of trillions. It will remain like this for decades without intervention, then when that time comes it can fund around 80% what it should without adding to the debt. This can easily be fixed though without cut by increasing how much it takes in.

    The Simpson-Bowles commission is a center-right plan, with tax cuts (with vague reduction in loop holes that will just come right back in a few years) and cuts to social security. Basically these proposals are center-right, with major cuts to things the middle class use and tax breaks. I don’t know why you need to lie and call these “balanced approaches.” Just call them things you want because they are where you are politically. I am open enough to say that I think all these plans are jokes and corporatists wet dreams, and I would be for a plan more like what comes from the House Progressive Caucus…plans you never seem to acknowledge even exist or even dissect to say what’s wrong with them.

    The real issue is the lack of jobs and the stagnant wages of the middle class. If you fix these things the government will bring in more revenue and then it will be easier to fix the debt.

    The solution is out there and it is obvious, but it’s not more of this bogus right-wing policy of tax cuts upon tax cuts while destroying things the middle class relies on in their struggle to barely get by as it is.

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