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Belmont Club

Math

September 19th, 2011 - 5:39 pm

President Obama vowed to veto any deficit reduction measure which did not include tax increases, according to the NYT.  “I will not support — I will not support — any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans. And I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share,” the President said.

Raising taxes sounds like a good idea when somebody else pays, but it loses its charm when the ‘contributions, investments or sharing’ — whatever you want to call them — are slated to come from you. The Baltimore Sun says that Federal employees have found that out already.

Arguing that employees are already contributing to deficit reduction through the two-year pay freeze for federal workers that began this year, union leaders said the requirement that they contribute an additional 1.2 percent to retirement amounted to a cut in salary.

For an employee earning $47,500, the change would cost $570 a year.

Obama announced the idea as part of the $3 trillion package of spending cuts and tax increases he unveiled in a Rose Garden speech Monday.

The fundamental problem facing President Obama is simple. Because theres no free lunch whatever Paul Krugman says, then you can’t create “investments” out of thin air. Any measure which pays down the deficit has to come from somewhere; any “job” given to Peter is going to have to come from Paul’s pocketbook.  About the only argument left for President Obama to make is that Paul, like Warren Buffet, is absolutely happy to give money to Peter.  But obviously not everyone agrees with Buffet. Union officials believed the President’s proposal would take ‘billions out of the economy’.

Union officials said the higher employee contributions — which would not result in additional benefits — amounted to a tax on families earning less than $250,000, which Obama has said he would not support.

Brian DeWyngaert, chief of staff for the American Federation of Government Employees, said the move would also take billions of dollars out of the economy.

The further mystery is: ‘if taking money from government employees takes ‘billions out of the economy’ then why doesn’t taking money from other people amount to the same thing? What special amulet do federal employees wear that makes taking from them bad? The President has an answer. Math, yes math. When money comes from people “who’ve done extraordinarily well”, it doesn’t take money out of the economy.

“This is not class warfare, it’s math. The money’s going to have to come from some place,” the president said, speaking to reporters. “If we’re not willing to ask those who’ve done extraordinarily well to help America close the deficit, the logic, the math says everybody else has to do a whole lot more.”

That argument is so infirm it is embarrassing.  So embarrassing perhaps it explains why Felicia Sommez of the Washington Post’s Post Politics  writes that some ‘moderate Democrats are lukewarm’ in their response to the President’s proposal. “We’ll see when it gets here,” Tester said of the Obama plan. “It’s not something I would’ve written.”

Tester, who faces a tough reelection bid in 2012, said that he was particularly concerned about the effect the deficit plan would have on rural Americans. “Everybody’s going to have to feel some pain; I just want to make sure rural America doesn’t feel more than the rest,” he said. …

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), another Democrat facing a tough race, also declined to weigh in on Obama’s plan Monday evening; he said that he needed to examine it and would have a statement Tuesday. And Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is running for reelection in 2012, said that he is not certain what Obama is proposing…

The problem is that these Democrats can add.  And they’ve figured that supporting the President’s package will subtract from their votes and make it unlikely to be re-elected.  This implies according to Powerline’s Steven Hayward,  there not enough Democrats willing to commit hara-kiri in order to give Obama an iffy shot in 2012. “It is already crystal clear that Obama’s jobs bill Stimulus II can’t even pass the Democratic Senate, let alone the House … the political mistake Obama has made is thinking that Democratic Senators whose own poll numbers are collapsing … will want to be his advance guard and vote for a suicidal measure on his behalf.”

Much more seriously for the President, politicians from both parties, anxious to remain in office, may have decided to go on without him. CNN reports that a bipartisan committee was crafting its own plan. Robert Costa at the National Review says he has reliable information that Obama is within an ace of being ignored by everyone, including members of his own party.

Speaking with a number of Senate Republicans today, in background conversations, it’s clear that President Obama’s debt-reduction plan is not being taken seriously. To show their dissatisfaction, many are hoping to bring it to the floor soon, in order to vote it down — with the help of Democrats. One key thing to watch, many say, is how many Democrats break with the president in coming days.

“The problem we have here is a very weak executive,” one GOP senator says. “The Democrats smell that more than us, they talk about it constantly. [Republicans] are together on this, but I don’t think they are.”

Because the Republicans stand to gain from the President’s blunders, they are less motivated by the prospect of an imminent political hanging than the Democrats. But the panic on the Democratic side must be astonishing to behold. Yet it is not wholly unexpected. Readers of this site will remember I’ve argued that the President’s weakness has been obvious for some time. It became manifest when the Press didn’t even show up to hear the President deliver his ‘historic’ jobs address before a joint session of Congress.

Yet the tragedy also consists in this. The joke is ultimately on America. The standup comedy routine in front of Congress is ultimately a judgment of the political process that put it there; and i f only 26 of 90 members of the press showed up to take their seats in the gallery, there’s no hiding the fact that most of them signed up to hear the script in 2008 — before they got the punchline. Now there is nothing to do but wait it out; America will limp on to November 2012 essentially without a functioning Presidency, and the international ship of state will tack rudderless as it enters upon dangerous seas.

What is truly alarming about indications that Democrats are prepared to abandon Obama and make a separate peace with the Republicans is it suggests that even the top Blue leadership cannot reach the President. It cannot wiggle past the cordon sanitaire. They cannot convince him, as someone convinced LBJ, not to run. No one can propose to him, as someone did to Nixon, that the time had come to go. In his own mind the President is still bound for Mount Rushmore. He remembers himself as the Messiah of 2008 even as he has become the tragic figure of 2011. He will hang on, growing ever more desperate and ever more pathetic, and there won’t be a darned thing anyone can do to save him from himself.

Obama 2012 campaign song.

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