President Obama and others negotiating an end to the debt limit mess are searching for ways out of a political crisis of their own making and trying desperately to kick cans full of worms and of blame down the road to avoid losses during next year’s elections. Solving the underlying problems would have taken lots of unglamorous work rather than political pandering, so comforting during a political season which has neither a beginning nor an end. Now that it’s too late to do anything definitive, the rhetoric is full blown and occasionally rancorous while substance is lacking.
In his weekly speech on July 16th, President Obama called for shared sacrifice by big corporations and the rich. He said,
Simply put, it will take a balanced approach, shared sacrifice, and a willingness to make unpopular choices on all our parts. That means spending less on domestic programs. It means spending less on defense programs. It means reforming programs like Medicare to reduce costs and strengthen the program for future generations. And it means taking on the tax code, and cutting out certain tax breaks and deductions for the wealthiest Americans.
. . . .
The truth is, you can’t solve our deficit without cutting spending. But you also can’t solve it without asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share — or without taking on loopholes that give special interests and big corporations tax breaks that middle-class Americans don’t get.
It’s pretty simple. I don’t think oil companies should keep getting special tax breaks when they’re making tens of billions in profits.
As was the case with President Obama’s address on July 15th, he failed to “name a single entitlement he is willing to cut. His sacred cows are still sacred, but yours are up for slaughter.” It may be true, as reported by CBS News, that
President Obama on Friday acknowledged for the first time that he was considering changes to the programs like raising the retirement age or applying means testing.
Additionally, an administration official tells CBS News political analyst John Dickerson that a deal based on Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s “back up plan” could include a binding commission charged with reviewing the entitlement programs.
President Obama did indeed put it “simply”; so simply that even a third grader could understand that he claims to want just good stuff and to kill the demons — even though the third grader couldn’t learn what the good stuff and demons are. Neither, most likely, does our Harvard Law School graduate and former “constitutional law professor” know.
Children too young to understand what’s happening are susceptible to demagoguery; so are too many chronological adults.
As to Social Security, President Obama spoke of raising the retirement age — to what, when, for whom and to produce what savings how and when he did not indicate. Means testing? What means that? He has yet even to touch upon the extent to which, if any, such tests may change or adapt existing means testing formulae with which the progressive Revenue Code and Treasury regulations already abound.
What “loopholes that give special interests and big corporations tax breaks that middle-class Americans don’t get”? Oil depletion allowances — obviously Harry Homeowner doesn’t get them and if he did wouldn’t have any use for them. Do the big bad corporations include Boeing Aircraft but not Government Motors? General Electric? Do the wicked special interests include domestic oil drilling, production, and refining companies but not unions, malpractice lawyers, and his other supporters? What “loopholes” are bad, which are good? Are they good or bad in terms of social fairness as perceived by President Obama or in terms of real economic impact? Demands for more good stuff and less bad may be sufficient for those who still hold him in absolute awe; they can’t be for the rest of us.
Everything has been so amorphous as to be meaningless. As Charles Krauthammer recently said on NPR,
[The President] talks a good game. “Oh, I’m prepared to do entitlements, I’m ready to do entitlements.” Not once has he ever enunciated in public — other than all these leaks which I don’t trust for half a second — one structural change in entitlements, and without that, everybody over the age of nine knows we are not going to get a handle on the debt. So let’s hear him say it in public once.
Rick Moran asks here whether the Republicans will “cave on taxes.” How does one cave on such things as unspecific as more taxes for fat cats, big corporations, and special interests? What’s to cave on? A marriage subsequently to be arranged with someone unknown?
President Obama to the contrary notwithstanding, it’s not “pretty simple” and anyone who claims that it is either does not himself understand “it” or has, at best, a very low opinion of the intelligence of his audience. There may be some specifics under discussion but if so the discussion has been behind closed doors; what little has leaked out under the transom has been no more solid than quicksand and no more reliable than Daily Kos.