Jul 26 2011

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Pablum From White House

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No Profiles in Courage Today

Over a period of 13 days in October 1962, President John F. Kennedy managed the most dangerous and volatile national security crisis in American history, indeed, in world history.

In approaching the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy had to navigate between the unacceptable and the unthinkable.

In response to the crisis, Kennedy addressed the nation on October 22nd, notifying Americans about Soviet missiles in Cuba, and the Administration’s comprehensive response.

The address was one of the most consequential in modern presidential history; all the more powerful because it took only three minutes to deliver.

Fast forward 49 years.

With eight days left to go, President Obama is a player in one of the most dangerous and volatile economic crises in American history, with significant risk to the global economy. And like President Kennedy, President Obama is left to weigh the unacceptable against the unimaginable.

But that is where the comparisons end.

Last night was no “Profiles in Courage.’

Instead of rising to the occasion crying out for leadership, the President retreated to the safe ground blame and worn-out rhetorical devices. Not so much leading, as hectoring.

For instance, the President just can’t seem to give up on George W. Bush as his favorite foil for economic folly, even though Obama has racked up more debt in three years than Bush did in eight.

And in scolding Bush for wasting budget surpluses on tax cuts, two wars and a prescription drug benefit,  POTUS has yet to explain why the Treasury took in 30% more in revenues in 2007 than 2001, how Obama himself spent more money in the Stimulus in one day that the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan combined over the previous eight years, or how his own health care law requires gimmicks to hide deficits.

This unsupported rhetoric is source of increased skepticism in the President’s credibility.

And it gets no better as POTUS utilizese his favorite rhetorical device; the false choice.

“…how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask corporate jet owner or the oil companies to give up their tax breaks that other companies don’t get.  How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries.”

Excellent political copy, but truly irrelevant to the actual choices we have to make.

Indeed, in assembling his false choice rhetoric, it is telling that nothing of what the President posits would actually have more than a symbolic impact on the deficit in any event. It is simply a tool to create class resentment and anger.

The real choices here are stark.

How can we ask today’s workers to toil in support of retirees when those entitlements will be bankrupt when it is there turn to retire? How can we ask grade school children to assume the monstrous debt of a generation incapable of restraint and addicted to immediate gratification?  How is it “fair” or progressive to ask the top 2% of Americans, who already pay 40% of the income taxes, to pay more, when the bottom 50% pays nothing?

This is what the nation conversation should be about, not class warfare.

But we get neither a serious discussion about the debt nor the sacrifices required to force America to live within her means again.

The President was right about the Frosh-87 – the founding members of the new Ignoramus Caucus – who are wedded to making perfect the enemy of the good. The President said that this course is reckless and irresponsible, and he is spot on.

But the President is culpable. The drivers of our future debt are not corporate planes or hedge fund tax rates, no matter how attractive those examples are in painting a picture.

They are Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security and the $1 trillion in tax expenditures that benefit middle and upper middle class Americans. It is a tax code that penalizes small businesses, is riddled with loopholes and burdens fewer Americans with paying for the rest.

Why did Willy Sutton rob banks?

Because that was where the money was.  And so it is with entitlements and the tax code.

In his unseriousness, the President does a disservice to the American people that mirrors the ignorance of certain House Republicans that threaten default.

When faced with calamity in 1962, Kennedy had a plan.

In 2011, President Obama has a campaign commercial.



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