Sep 20 2011

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Tax America – A Plan Without a Purpose

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It's Not Just Balance, But Purpose...

As President Obama’s approval ratings continue to plummet, his performance in yesterday’s press conference may offer at least one tantalizing clue as to why.

The President reminds men of their first wives.

But you don’t need to be a divorcee – man or woman – to know the type.

Bitter, resentful, jealous and grudging. Wedded to a narrative of past exploitation. Vindictive and greedy, obsessed with perceptions of fairness and fueled by certainties of victimization.

It is never attractive.

Particularly for the President of the United States.

But that is what we got yesterday with the President’s fourth attempt (and counting) at a deficit reduction package this year.

The good news for Americans is that the plan is not going anywhere.

And that’s not because of Republican opposition. The plan isn’t going anywhere at least in part because of concern among Democrats.

Consider Senator Jon Tester (D-MT).  Yesterday, he said that the President’s plan was, “not something I would have written.”  

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), decided it would take him a full day to digest the President’s remarks before issuing a statement (sometime today), while Bill Nelson (D-FL) was practicing his best “see no evil/hear no evil” when he stated he wasn’t even certain what the President was proposing.

Even old reliable, John Kerry (D-MA), punted, praising he President’s objectives without endorsing his prescriptions.

For all of his caterwauling, the sad truth is that President can’t even marshal his own Party.

Which should be a reality check for the White House and Team Obama in Chicago.

Despite all the hype of a focused and feisty President re-entering the public square to defend common sense and the middle class, the President’s plan is in fact a monument to timid mediocrity rooted in a profound lack of seriousness.

Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), had it right yesterday, stating, “Veto threats, a massive tax hike, phantom savings, and punting on entitlement  reform is not a recipe for economic or job growth—or even meaningful deficit  reduction,” McConnell said.

Indeed, President Obama’s plan is punitive without purpose; punishing wealth creators in the name of “fairness,” without even a superficial attempt at reforming the drivers of budgetary red ink.

The plan seems unnervingly ignorant of the central role that private wealth and investment play in economic growth and expansion, which fuels rising federal revenues – a critical component of any national debate on deficit reduction.

Consider that in 2007 – with the Bush tax cuts in placethe budget deficit was $163 billion – for the entire year. In 2010, the budget deficit was $1.5 trillion, nearly ten times bigger. The lagging economy – and the lack of robust revenues they produce, is a large part of the problem.

Looking more broadly, since the debt ceiling debate, the President has attempted to project a resolve on deficits and the national debt that is simply not borne out in the details of his plans.

For example, how can any long-term deficit reduction plan be considered credible without changes to entitlements?

When the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been significantly downsized, how can any credible deficit reduction plan include a ten-year, trillion dollars in additional spending on those wars that will never happen as a “cut”?

It is foolish pretense.

In addition, the President said yesterday that his plan was not “class warfare, but math.”  But here again he missed the mark.

And this is more than the sum of the familiar, if tortured rhetorical strawmen that President Obama rolls out on a regular basis; the false choice between say, having Social Security or Warren Buffett’s tax cut.

Based on his plan, the President seems genuinely confused on the most basic issue at stake today; the proper role of government in our society and its utility in creating prosperity.

President Obama states that he wants to catalyze economic growth and reduce the deficit, but his solutions all but ensure the opposite – by willfully hobbling entrepreneurs, maintaining uncertainty through aggressive and arbitrary regulation and temporary, targeted stimulus measures, and willfully ignoring the coming crisis in entitlements.

The meta-text here is that if we all somehow do worse, it will perversely be for our collective better.

How is that defensible?

Remember Joe the Plumber from 2008?

In a rare, unscripted moment, Joe got candidate Obama to admit that his plan to raise taxes was a tool to “spread the wealth around.”  Team Obama tut-tutted and the Mainstream Media immediately targeted poor Joe and his background as the main story – to undermine his credibility –  instead of Obama’s remarks.

Three years later, it seems that Joe was the only one asking hard questions, to our collective detriment, today.

As we prepare for 2012, it is worth remembering the wise words of  another son of Illinois.

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

Let’s hope the American people remember.

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