It must be an election year! How do I know, because politicians of both parties are spouting talking points about the need for fiscal responsibility even while they do the opposite. These same politicians have set up themselves and the rest of us for what is being called the ‘fiscal cliff’ at the beginning of 2013.
The fiscal cliff is the consequence political evasion, ill-considered gimmicks and cynicism. Because the cost of enacting the ‘Bush tax cuts’ on a permanent basis was seen as politically unacceptable without also cutting spending by like amounts—also seen as unacceptable, Congress did neither. Instead Congress jumped into the pot of cold water and turned on the heat by adopting the Bush tax cuts, giving them an expiration date, never expecting the water to boil on their watch thus engaging in the age old sport of driving up the deficit while complaining about all the spending. This was not the finest hour for Republican leadership not because they got the policy wrong but because they bungled the execution and accountability. Had Republicans made the Bush tax permanent there would be no tax cliff. Had they adjusted spending to match revenue the deficit would be substantially smaller today even counting the first round of stimulus spending. And ten year later Republicans in Congress are still on shaky grounds preaching about fiscal responsibility.
The other part of the fiscal cliff is made possible by another politically correct but imminently silly gimmick called sequestration. This scheme allowed for the extension of the Nation’s debt ceiling sufficient to pay the bills but ordered automatic cuts in spending divided equally between defense and non-defense programs. The Democrats agreed to this because they had no choice if they wanted to get the President’s debt ceiling measure approved in a divided Congress. The Republicans agreed to it because it exacted a pound of flesh from the President’s backside because he needed something and decided to take the beating to get it. Longer term, the Republicans believed they would win the next election and (avoid having their frog boil) by undoing sequestration for at least defense programs to avoid the cliff even if they sacrificed a few nondefense programs to claim they were cutting the fat out of the budget.
President Obama and the Congressional Democrats made the consequences of the tax cliff manifestly worse than the Republicans by driving up government spending, programs, staffing levels and industrial policy grants to favored players. In typical Washington fashion any discussion of slowing down the INCREASE in Federal spending as a percentage of GDP is labeled as a ‘cut’ and YouTube videos of Paul Ryan pushing grandma over the cliff in her wheelchair suddenly appear.
“A Pox on Both Your Houses!”
That is the American public’s reaction to these stunts. But here we are—careening down the 2012 election highway way above the speed limit heading toward the cliff.
In 2008, we voted for Barack Obama because we wanted to believe in his message of hope and change. We wanted to be part of a historic presidency that celebrated to the world everything we cherished in the American dream. We wanted to demonstrate that America was still the world’s leader and superpower. We wanted to again reinvent America to face our economic problems squarely and to be that beacon of hope and change that a desperate world in 2008 desperately needed.
But President Obama has disappointed us instead by playing bait and switch, divided us by endless class warfare, apologized abroad for America’s vision of freedom and world leadership, and undermined our sense of optimism and American exceptionalism that drives Americans to confront challenges with a ‘yes we can’ spirit. The challenge for President Obama in the 2012 election is America still longs for the 2008 hope and change historic Presidency he promised. But President Obama abandoned hope and change—and us—after the 2008 election. We do not like this ‘new normal’ and we don’t want four more years of what he’s given us. The President has lost the benefit of our doubt and he has very little time left to try to change our minds.
The Republicans are set to nominate Mitt Romney. He has the business experience a recovering America desperately needs. He has the executive management and leadership experience the President lacked and we’re now paying for our ‘hiring mistake. We are persuaded that Mitt Romney will be a good manager of America’s programs, services and finances. The problem for Mitt Romney is so far he has been unable to ‘close the sale’ with us because while we need a good manager for America’s economic recovery—we still want a hope and change leader to restore America’s potential, self-confidence and global leadership.
Having been baited and switched once before on hope and change we are reluctant to sign up for another ‘squishy promise’ even one of competence and business savvy. To close the sale Mitt must be more than the un-Obama. He must inspire us more. He must reveal his strategy in more detail so we can KNOW this time what is in the bill before we vote for it.
We want to hold our President accountable to deliver what he promises to deliver.
There are worse fates than a competent, but boring President. But we have waited so long for hope and change and we don’t want to settle for less.
The polls tell us the campaign is a dead heat. I believe the polls are REALLY telling us that Americans still want to believe in the 2008 hope and change Obama. But Obama must persuade us that he still believes in hope and change. We’re listening! But if the 2012 Obama keeps giving us more of the same class warfare, hyper partisan, left of center rhetoric with continuing bad performance results, Americans are more likely than not to vote for competent but boring Mitt than take a chance of four more years of Obama under-performance.
The heat has been turned up under the Congressional frog with the tax cliff. But like it or not the President and now Mitt Romney are also in the same pot as the Congressional frog. Whoever proposes the most rational and achievable political strategy to avoid the fiscal cliff, rescue the nation and jump start our economic recovery will win our votes. A deal that avoids the tax cliff BEFORE the election is what we expect, but if we don’t get one there will be plenty of frog legs on the menu.
- Democrats seek leverage as fiscal cliff looms (cnsnews.com)
- Lawmakers signal deep ‘fiscal cliff’ deadlock in Congress (mercurynews.com)
- Mitt Romney’s Tax Plan Reveals His Core Vulnerability (tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com)
- America Held Hostage (snspost.com)
- Voters Must See Candidate Plans for Avoiding Fiscal Cliff – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
The phrase made famous by Bill Clinton’s political campaign has a habit of creeping back into the conversation. It happened again when the former President made two statements to the press that appeared to undermine the sitting President. Clinton first said that he thought the US was now back in recession given the falling economic data. And then to add injury to the insult, they said he thought the ‘Bush era tax cuts’ should all be extended ‘for a little while’.
The views are contrary to President Obama’s so they seem almost deliberately off-message if the goal is to help the president in his struggle to be re-elected. Yet, just as the phrase rang true in the 1992 campaign against George Bush the elder, they have the added advantage of being the truth twenty years later in this 2012 campaign.
To be fair to the President’s lament too often repeated—-‘we inherited this mess’ we will all concede that digging out of the hole created by the great recession has not been easy. But the President’s policies and the hard left partisan way he won them and is implementing them have not helped make things better faster. So now he is being tormented and the gum of a gummed up economy is sticking to his shoes.
There are many ironies in this evolution of events:
- How’s that Hopey Changey Thing Working out? The President we voted for in 2008 because as historic a figure as he was, we also wanted to believe badly in the ‘Hope and Change’ he championed. It was the right message at the right time from the right person. But after the election hope and change turned into a nasty ‘I won’ persona that was NOT what we voted for.
- The World Still Wants the US to Lead. The world’s leaders may not have liked George W Bush but they did not doubt his resolve. Four years later America’s resolve seems in retreat conveniently responding to our war weariness. But we have watched this movie before and it didn’t turn out well. A weaker America makes for a more dangerous world where the bad boys in every neighborhood take advantage of the vacuum to occupy the turf. The same is true in global economics, a weak America can lead to pneumonia elsewhere. It is tough to lead from the bottom of the debt hole we have dug for ourselves, but lead we must especially if first Europe, now China and maybe America is slipping back into recession.
- We Still Want Hope and Change! Having put away his hope and change super-cape, it is tough for the president to argue now he had it on all the time. We are not THAT stupid. So while we once believed, and we still want to believe—-we no longer truly believe that the guy who brought us to the hope and change dance will dance with us if we renew his lease for another four years. The President has squandered his best opportunity.
And then there is this irony.
George W. Bush whom the president has spent the last four years blaming and vilifying has kept his mouth shut and taken the President’s abuse true to his word not to speak ill of his successor. Meanwhile the former President of the president’s own party appears by his side, expresses support for him even while periodically stabbing him in the back with his statements to remind him who the big dog in the Democrat party is.
- Where’s George W Bush? How a two-term president became the quiet man of US politics (telegraph.co.uk)