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Belmont Club

It’s Tuesday in America

February 16th, 2011 - 2:26 pm

IBD’s Capital and Markets blog says that even President Obama’s supporters can’t believe he is trying to solve the deficit problem, as he added $1.5 trillion to it in exchange for a promise to reduce spending by $1.1 trillion in ten years. Deficit reduction is spend now, pay part of it back later.

President Obama’s 2012 budget plan went over like a lead balloon, and not just with Republicans.

This week may be a teachable moment for the gentry liberals and Obamacons who swooned over Obama in 2008. They thought that someone so smart, so reasonable-sounding, so much like them would be the one to chart a course to fiscal sanity.

They accepted the years of massive deficits during the recession. But by the 2012, he would finally start to put the budget on a path to a sustainable future, right?

Instead, he ignored his own fiscal commission and punting on America’s entitlement crisis. As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank noted, Obama kicked the can again.

Andrew Sullivan said Obama’s budget was “deeply unserious.” Slate’s John Dickerson argued that Obama must be working on a secret plan because the one he released was so lame.

The prospect of a government shutdown if the Republicans actually try to cut spending has now been raised. “President Obama warned of stopped Social Security checks and issued a formal veto threat Tuesday to the Republican spending plan currently being debated in the House, setting the stage for a potential government shutdown next month.” OK, so maybe the President isn’t working on cutting the deficit. He’s working on the PR, he’s working on the pork, but politicians from Chicago don’t do deficit reductions.

Can’t stop the music. Nobody believes you can stop the music, because it’s been playing in Washington for so long. But suppose the music stopped and the rest of the world kept dancing? What if the world was now marching to some other drummer than the talking points on the morning shows?  Jennifer Rubin, writing in the Washington Post, seems to argue that President Obama is a small town politician who can’t see anything except in terms of the traditional variables of pork and PR. Let’s make a deal. All the rest is distraction.

the administration is now playing the role of bystander, apparently unaware that our passivity communicates a lack of interest in, and, indeed, wariness of, democratic movements.

The Times also suggests that the administration views international events, even monumental ones, as mere distractions … This president plainly sees his domestic mission as paramount and all else as secondary.

Which would be nice if it still worked. Maybe in the past reality could be seen as distaction. But not any more. The Canadian Press reports that oil prices are up on the backs of continued unrest in the Middle East. Now Libya, Bahrain, Iran, Algeria, Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia are experiencing or are feeling the tremors of the unrest sweeping the region. Oil prices from the Middle East drive the price at the pump, especially when you’ve clamped a moratorium on drilling.

All of these events will hit Main Street in the wallet, and not much of it can easily be controlled by Harry Reid or Barack Obama.They can shut the government down as much as they want and still won’t change the price of oil.  Zbigniew Brzezinski, speaking on Morning Joe, said Al Jazeera had more influence in the Egyptian crisis than Barack Obama.Obama the bystander.  That might appear to change after the IMF presents Washington with a proposal to bail out Egypt and Tunisia, whose economies were previously on the rocks and whose unrest has intensified these conditions. Then it will be Obama the donor, but still the bystander.

The political turmoil is already clearly having an effect on the economies, particularly tourism and foreign direct investment, which will lower budget revenues, Ahmed said.

“There will be a hit on growth,” Ahmed said. He said that, based on government figures, Egyptian growth in the first half of this year is likely fall to 2% to 2.5% from around 5.5% in the second half of last year. He said it is unclear how long it will take for the economies to recover, given the uncertain political situation.

Ahmed said the authorities in the two countries–and in the Middle East and North African regions as a whole–need to better target their safety nets to the poor, particularly focusing on food subsidies. Safety-net programs currently target products, such as food and fuel. Instead, the authorities should focus on reaching the poorest populations, and not distributing the subsidies across the entire economy.

Who’s going to pay for this? Don’t ask because if somebody does then President Obama can simply stop mailing Social Security checks to grandma until everyone sees reason. Can’t stop the music. There’s nothing in the world which can’t be solved, as Jennifer Rubin observes, with more PR and more pork barrel. But wait, what day is it today? J. Wellington Wimpy captured the Federal Government’s attitude towards problems in his famous line. “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”. President Obama’s problem is that it’s finally Tuesday in America. It’s Tuesday all over the world and nobody has given much thought to what happens when the dread day finally arrives. Well they did once, but that was long ago.

Rick: If it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?

Sam: What? My watch stopped.

Rick: I’d bet they’re asleep in New York. I’d bet they’re asleep all over America.

Not asleep. Just watching Lady Gaga.


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