Thursday, April 14, 2011

Obama's Failed Opportunity to Move to the Center on Spending

Wednesday's speech was a "hyperpartisan" campaign address. Not serious policy to deal with spending and debt!

Remember how Obama was billed as the man who would move beyond partisanship and do what is right for the American people. Little more than a year ago, he went to Baltimore to speak to the GOP retreat and lectured them on bipartisanship:
Bipartisanship -- not for its own sake but to solve problems -- that's what our constituents, the American people, need from us right now. All of us then have a choice to make. We have to choose whether we're going to be politicians first or partners for progress; whether we're going to put success at the polls ahead of the lasting success we can achieve together for America.
...
I would just say that we have to think about tone. It's not just on your side, by the way -- it's on our side, as well. This is part of what's happened in our politics, where we demonize the other side so much that when it comes to actually getting things done, it becomes tough to do.
On Wednesday, Obama gave a speech in which he outlined his latest plan (Obama 2.0) on how to deal with the federal budget. It was a golden opportunity for Obama to rise above partisan politics and triangulate to the center and show the American people he takes fiscal matters seriously and is willing to work for real solutions. Instead, we got another major dose of the same old attack politics that have done so much to polarize the political debate and prevent progress.

In his speech, Obama describes the Paul Ryan plan this way:
I believe it paints a vision of our future that is deeply pessimistic. It’s a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can’t afford to fix them. If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can’t afford to send them.
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It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors. It says that 10 years from now, if you’re a 65-year-old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy the insurance that’s available in the open marketplace, well, tough luck -– you’re on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.

It’s a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. Who are these 50 million Americans? Many are somebody’s grandparents -- may be one of yours -- who wouldn’t be able to afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome. Some of these kids with disabilities are -- the disabilities are so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.

And worst of all, this is a vision that says even though Americans can’t afford to invest in education at current levels, or clean energy, even though we can’t afford to maintain our commitment on Medicare and Medicaid, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about that.
So much for the lecture about demonizing your opponents. Obama's scaremongering and class warfare rhetoric set a new low. And his solution to our fiscal problems is the same old soak the rich plan that Democrats trot out every few months rather than deal with the real problem which is spending.

One good thing to come from Obama's remarks is that his high profile attack on Paul Ryan's plan, The Path to Prosperity, raised Ryan to the same status of Obama in the discussion. So, it is fitting we turn to Paul Ryan's response to Obama:
“When the President reached out to ask us to attend his speech, we were expecting an olive branch. Instead, his speech was excessively partisan, dramatically inaccurate, and hopelessly inadequate to address our fiscal crisis. What we heard today was not fiscal leadership from our commander-in-chief; we heard a political broadside from our campaigner-in-chief.

“Last year, in the absence of a serious budget, the President created a Fiscal Commission. He then ignored its recommendations and omitted any of its major proposals from his budget, and now he wants to delegate leadership to yet another commission to solve a problem he refuses to confront.

“We need leadership, not a doubling down on the politics of the past. By failing to seriously confront the most predictable economic crisis in our history, this President’s policies are committing our children to a diminished future. We are looking for bipartisan solutions, not partisan rhetoric. When the President is ready to get serious about confronting this challenge, we'll be here.”
On the House Budget Committee web site, Ryan goes point by point through the weaknesses of Obama's proposal.

Reaction by conservative media was equally harsh. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal called it "The Presidential Divider. Obama's toxic speech and even worse plan for deficits and debt." Charles Krauthammer, called the speech "a disgrace" and summed up Obama effort this way:
"I rarely heard a speech by a president so shallow, so hyper-partisan and so intellectually dishonest, outside the last couple of weeks of a presidential election where you are allowed to call your opponent anything short of a traitor."
To those who were worried that Obama might make a feint to the center to help his re-election bid, have no fear. Obama is fully locked into liberal attack mode and that campaign is a loser!

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