Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Having a Serious Conversation

I wasn't able to watch all of President Obama's town hall meeting in St. Louis today, and what I did see had me alternately shaking my head and wishing that, at least here in the Pacific time zone, it had been late enough to start drinking. One particular portion, though, actually managed to make my blood pressure start to rise...




I'm happy to have a serious conversation about these issues, too, Mr. President. So as you say, let's not play games, and let's stop pretending.

Let's stop pretending that the record deficits in your 10-year budget plan, approved earlier today by Congress, were inherited from George W. Bush. This is your budget, your stimulus, and your spending, Mr. President. A serious conversation would acknowledge this.


Let's stop pretending that asking your cabinet to find $100 million in spending cuts is "tightening our belts." A serious conversation would call this what it really is: A joke. And a bad one at that.


Let's stop pretending that we're going to lower health care costs, thus saving money and Medicare, not to mention reducing the deficits, by spending an additional $646 billion of money we don't have. And that's just for the "down payment." A serious conversation would acknowledge that your health care reform is going to cost us even more in the long run, not less.

Let's stop pretending that we can save Social Security without cutting benefits for future retirees or raising the retirement age, and that all we really need to do is just lift the cap on the amount of income that's subject to the payroll tax. A serious conversation would acknowledge that this won't even cover half of the unfunded Social Security obligations we're facing.

Let's stop touting that $400 tax cut you keep talking about, considering that the members of your own party in Congress just voted to end it after next year. A serious conversation would acknowledge that even the people voting for your budget understand that the numbers just do not add up.

And while we're at it, let's stop pretending that your $400 tax cut is actually a "tax cut." Because a tax cut means taking less of someone's money. It doesn't mean refunding money to people who don't even owe any income tax, which your $400 "tax credit" does. Even if you justify giving out this money by saying that those people still owe payroll tax, this is still a transfer payment, not a cut in their payroll tax, and transfer payments need to be paid for -- either by raising taxes in some other area or by borrowing still more money. Even the Congressional Budget Office scores these credits as "direct spending." A serious conversation would admit this.

Let's also stop justifying your policies by pretending that under the Bush administration, only the wealthy received tax cuts. Millions of people who previously had owed federal income tax each year ended up owing no federal income tax at all after the Bush tax cuts. Middle-income earners paid lower federal taxes under President Bush than they did under President Clinton. I know I did, and I'm far from wealthy. Not to mention that lowering the bottom rate from 15% to 10% is hardly a tax cut for the wealthy. If you want to argue that the wealthy got more than their share, then go ahead and make that case, but frankly, I'm tired of being told by any member of the "reality-based community" that I never received a tax cut under the Bush administration. And a serious conversation wouldn't ask me, "Who are you going to believe? The words on my teleprompter, or your lying checkbook?"

Let's also note the irony of touting a $400 tax credit as a major boost to families and the economy, Mr. President, when during the campaign, your own wife dismissed the $600 stimulus payments with the phrase "What can you do with that?" A serious conversation might include some explanation about how a payment of $200 less suddenly became so much more effective and meaningful.

Mocking those "folks waving tea bags around" might make for a good laugh line, Mr. President. I'll admit that, and also that after the first 100 days of your presidency, I'm rather tired of the dismissive, Jon Stewart-esque smirk you tend to bestow on anyone who disagrees with your policies. But those folks are voters, Mr. President. And not only do they understand everything discussed in this post, they're waiting for some indication that you do as well.

They're also waiting for that serious conversation, Mr. President, just as soon as you decide to get serious.

UPDATE: Welcome to all Instapundit readers! Thanks for the link, Glenn!

UPDATE II: I welcome comments. I really, really do. But please, let's keep them in good taste.

23 comments:

The Captain said...

I'm all for YOUR seriousness, and not at all interested in His.

In particular, your 'value' comparison between Bush's $600 payment and His $400 is brilliant in its accuracy and simplicity.

Courage.

Rocker 419 said...

Obama has an agenda which he is not talking about. He is into "remaking" America, which he admitted to, although no one in the main stream media has the balls to ask him what exactly he means by that. Platitudes, generalities and vagueness is his weapons and smoke and mirrors is what Americans deserve right now, those who voted Obama in. Maybe after a few years of some serious hard times, Americans can be Americans again. Until then...

Anonymous said...

I clicked on ONE of your fucking "sources." Just one! And it went to Fact Check.org and it says the OPPOSITE of what you are saying! Bush Tax Cuts were grossly misrepresented in that post. How the hell am I supposed to take you seriously?

Wesley M. said...

I'm leaving the third comment up so I can ask Anonymous which FactCheck.org link says the opposite of what I'm saying here, and where I've misrepresented the Bush tax cuts.

And by all means, feel free not to take me seriously.

Elena said...

Excellent post! Though I am not crazy about Bush policies either, he is one of the reasons we are where we are; but Obama is trying to cure the patient with more of the same poison...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous above apparently can't read and thinks that the factcheck.org post to which you linked was a response to your post, rather than a rebuttle of the claims of a chain email. No point in arguing with the illiterate.

Borepatch said...

Excellent post. Unfortunately, we're not likely to see a serious discussion until a serious discussion looks like it will further the Administration's agenda - namely a consolidation of political power by the left.

Cosmo said...

Sneering at critics and calling out the few media personalities and outlets who don't have their tongues shoved up his fundament is petty and classless. It diminishes him.

I can't imagine Bush responding to the 'Peace Mom', or the media's relentless demonization of his administration, or even Dan Rather's attempted fraud in such a fashion.

But when Stewart-esque snark passes for serious commentary . . . well, we are no longer a very serious people.

Stan said...

The Bush tax cuts shifted a great deal of the burden of the income tax from the middle income earners and onto the highest income earners. There is no debate about it. Simply look at any of the graphs of tax burden before and after.

The tax cuts also shifted the burden slightly to the future. That was to stimulate the economy. As Obama's own chief economic adviser found from a recent academic study she published, tax cuts are far more effective at stimulating the economy than govt spending.

Gary said...

Anonymous - you apparently missed the section at factcheck (3/4 of the way down) that actually says....exactly what the post said it did, that the tax credits are counted as direct spending. Fact check linked to the letter form the CBO to Nancy Pelosi

TParty4USA said...

Thank you for your very excellent response to the snide, xenophobic comments that our President seems wholly unable to contain whenever he speaks about anyone with whom he disagrees. He evidently has nothing but consuming disdain for millions of Americans who dare to challenge any of his policies and actions that very much affect the lives of those Americans, as well as the lives of their children.

"Our" President finds it so easy to show respect for our country's enemies -- and he does so at every opportunity. Yet, he expresses not the least bit of consideration at any time for Americans who dare to express an opinion critical of his policies and actions. He is, instead, constantly ridiculing and demeaning them in a clear effort to marginalize their views.

Anyone who recalls the "soaring" affirmation of "one" America that Obama delivered at the Democratic convention in 2004 can readily see that Obama is a fraud of the worst sort, a fraud with no regard at all for a huge swath of Americans.

As he would say today, he won so that's the end of any dialogue.

In his view, millions and millions of Americans are foreigners in his Obama Land. And he has an intense fear or dislike of those "foreign" people, their customs and culture.

If Obama watched a video replay of his "We Are One America" speech from the 2004 convention, he would not recognize himself, and would probably claim it was an imposter.

And he'd be right.

JR

PS: One addition to your comment on the piddling "tax cut" that Obama wants everyone to believe is soooo generous, and will save our collective (pun) butts from ruin. He awards a retiree, not $400, but instead a one-time check for $250.

Wow!!! That's a REAL stimulus!

S said...

Yeah that comment of his really stuck in my side too. The ‘don’t blame my spending meme [re: blame Bush and his free market ideas]’. You know, if we have a serious conversation; Bush and his free market ideas didn’t cause this recession or the housing bubble. But this crazy spending, new anti business rules, and printing money to pay our debts are making it worse. The world sees the game is up with US debt and is going to stop buying it, business is not going to start new capital spending until they know what Obama is going to do to them, and we all are waiting for the Obama created inflation… which is just creating more market uncertainty. Shales wrote that FDR’s erratic policies created business uncertainty which helped wreak the economy. We are going down that road now. ‘Hope’fully it won’t be as bad this time…

rdasher said...

One thing I noticed about the Obama "tax cut", it you have no withholding as is the case with a lot of part time workers, then the Obama tax cut takes you from $0 withholding to $0 withholding. i.e. Nada! At least under the Bush plan the part timers got $300.

I linked your article at http://www.mnsd56.com and grabbed am excerpt.

JM Hanes said...

If you want to make this post a full page ad in the Washington Post, I'd kick in some $$ to the cause!

Cat said...

Perhaps cheaper than the excellent JM Hanes idea is a piece on YouTube - you read your superb column, music reinforces the beat. Maybe - A hard rain's a-gonna fall?

Kudos.

Cat

PD Quig said...

I'm eagerly anticipating the day when even a few in the media turn on Obama. He is the thinnest of thin-skinned, arrogant liberals and is going to have a f**king aneurysm when he starts catching the well-deserved spears. We have already seen the classless, whiny, self-centered side of him. Can you imagine what would happen to him if he had to endure even 1 percent of what Bush was subjected to?

It's going to be DELICIOUS!!

Tom said...

It seems like you skipped over the two significant issues (and questions) that President Obama raised as an example of what our country has gotten itself into:

1) how are we going to cut our health care costs over the long term?
2) how are we going to stabilize Social Security?

Your thoughts?

It's critical to recognize that this is a failure of the Presidents and the Congress for the past forty-something years, not simply George Bush or Barack Obama. At least somebody's acting like a grown-up and admitting that we have a significant problem...

Anonymous said...

Tom - isn't interesting that if Obama recognizes that we have a problem with social security it means we have someone acting like a grown up? But when Bush tried to reform social security in 2005, I recall the Democrats playing political hardball to oppose him. This included playing on the fears of senior citizens to misrepresent Bush's plan. We lost 4 more years of necessary reform just so the Democrats could play gotcha. Very grown up indeed.

alanstorm said...

Tom,

The answer to both your questions is, largely, "get government out of the way!"

I'm at the end of lunch so don't have time to write a book here, but it's not a coincedence that health care costs keep rising when the government's share of health care costs keeps increasing.

As for SS, let's privatize it. Mandate that everyone has to invest some percentage of wages, but leave hands off after that. I must echo Anonymous below your comment, as well - Bush caught hell for suggesting SS reform before, was told it's perfect the way it is. Don't even think of trying to attempt to tell me that only since 1/20/09 has a problem developed.

Tom said...

Anonymous said:
"when Bush tried to reform social security in 2005, I recall the Democrats playing political hardball to oppose him. This included playing on the fears of senior citizens to misrepresent Bush's plan. We lost 4 more years of necessary reform just so the Democrats could play gotcha. Very grown up indeed."

That underscores my point - the last 40-something years have been spent protecting pet issues and not taking a hard, realistic look at the financial disaster that Medicare and Social Security represent for our country. This is a Congressional and Presidential failure, not a failure by any one party. If that were the case, then either party would have fixed this when they had significant majorities in both houses.

Tom said...

alanstorm said...

"The answer to both your questions is, largely, "get government out of the way!"

I'm at the end of lunch so don't have time to write a book here, but it's not a coincedence that health care costs keep rising when the government's share of health care costs keeps increasing.

As for SS, let's privatize it. Mandate that everyone has to invest some percentage of wages, but leave hands off after that. I must echo Anonymous below your comment, as well - Bush caught hell for suggesting SS reform before, was told it's perfect the way it is. Don't even think of trying to attempt to tell me that only since 1/20/09 has a problem developed."

I wasn't arguing that this is a new problem at all - blaming George W. Bush or Barack Obama for the deficit would be disingenuous, ignoring all of the financial irresponsibility that preceded both of them, and continues to this day inside of Congress. Congress holds the purse strings.

Is there a working example out there of a country with universal, privatized, high-quality health care at a large scale with low levels of government regulation and oversight? It seems to me that this is easy to wish for, but has no clearly established precedent.

- Tom

Wesley M. said...

I want to thank everyone for their comments -- and apologize for not being able to keep up with responding to them. Juggling work, family, blog posts, and blog comments is one thing when 30 hits made for a banner day. I've now learned that an Instapundit link forces you to develop a whole new level of time-management skills.

I do want to tell Tom that those are good quesions you asked. Each one is a full post in itself, though. Hopefully, I can answer them in detail in the not-too-distant future.

daniel said...

The popular comment layout is common, so it is easily recognized when scanning to post a comment. If the comment section is in a different format, then I am going to spend more time trying to decipher what everything means.

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