Why did Obama only enumerate George W. Bush’s big spending as responsible for the out-of-control $14 trillion-plus debt, while not mentioning his own contribution of $5 trillion? Why is there a debt limit standoff now, rather than, say, in 2009 or 2010? Why did this latest $1.6 trillion Obama budget prompt the current crisis? Why did not Obama earlier start debt limit talks the moment that his own hand-picked Simpson-Bowles commission presented their findings? Why did Obama just recently submit, and have rejected, a budget that would have scheduled even larger deficits of the sort he is now warning against (“Armageddon”)?
Why is voting against the debt limit reckless now, but in 2006 Obama lectured us thusly:
“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”
(He then failed even to vote on the issue in 2007 and 2008 when the limit was raised again. So Obama has an even weaker case than the weak case of the congressional Republicans who approved the Bush deficits, given that if Obama was right at the time to vote “no,” then $6 trillion later, with a ruined, rather than robust, economy, he could now be really right to vote again “no,” when he has the political power not to raise the debt ceiling.)
Why is Obama talking of new tax increases when he ruled that out in December 2010: taxes then bad, now seven months later good? Why does the president claim 80% of the people want taxes when polls prove no such thing?
Failure, Failure Everywhere
In 2009, newly arrived Obama was convinced of redistributive Keynesian postmodern economics, a sort of updated fable that borrowed money would spawn more money, or at least would not have to be paid back, or could be excused along the lines: “If a Republican Bush borrowed nearly $5 trillion in eight years, then, dammit, why cannot a liberal Democrat be allowed to borrow more than $5 trillion in three?” And if Reagan gave us “starve the beast” (cutting taxes would cut revenue that would force smaller government), Obama could console himself with “gorge the beast” (growing government in extraordinary fashion would force higher taxes that in turn would redistribute income from those who “didn’t need it” to those who work for or receive from the government and who most certainly did need it).
The architects of his economic policies — Austan Goolsbee, Peter Orszag, Christina Romer, Larry Summers — did not even last three years. All now are either back in tenured academia, making millions in the revolving door that Obama once blasted, or writing op-eds why following their former advice is leading to insolvency, or all three combined. None are making the argument any more that we need more of their stimuli or ObamaCare will save us billions and create “400,000 new jobs.”
Their borrowing did not stop unemployment from plateauing at 9.1% or prevent the housing market from getting worse, or growth from stalling, or gas from soaring, or the beginnings of a new inflation. In the meantime, the model of Obamism (e.g., Greece, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Ireland) in Europe of high taxes, redistributive government, astronomical debt, and unsustainable pensions has crashed. So Obamism did not work, and now is the politically opportune time, before the 2012 election, to follow the famed Obama reinvention stratagem: Cite straw men and extremists on both sides, and put St. Obama plop in the middle as the sober, great dragon slayer, who blames both his contemporaries and his predecessor. Hard to do, I know, when you wasted $5 trillion, but do it nonetheless he has. In the word of Obama, wasted borrowed money is “stimulus,” not so shovel ready jobs are “investments,” and hiking taxes on someone else is “revenue enhancement.”