Friday, November 12, 2010

Twisted Thinking

Washington Post syndicated columnist Dana Milbank believes President Obama should heed the draft proposal of the co-chairmen of The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. He cites vague statements of Republican Representatives Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Dave Camp of Michigan, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and concludes "In those statements are the contours of a deal Obama could strike with Republican lawmakers such as Ryan, the incoming House budget chairman."

What would that bold, joint statement of Ryan, Camp, and Hensarling be?

This is a provocative proposal, and while we have concerns with some of their specifics, we commend the co-chairs for advancing the debate. We will continue to work toward solutions that help spur economic growth and restrain the explosive growth of government spending.

That means nothing. But for a Republican Party which has argued, incomprehensibly, that only tax cuts are consistent with economic growth, it might mean: No tax increases. On anyone. For any reason. Ever.

Courageously, Coburn remarked "If we do the cuts, I'll go for it. We may have to go for some revenues at some point."

We may have to. At some point. Perhaps when hell freezes over. Maybe then.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce commented "any solution will require commitment and sacrifice on both the spending and revenue fronts." Presumably, the Chamber would support the proposed cuts in Social Security and Medicare, student loans, and the Veterans Administration medical system, as well as revenue increases by raising fees for entering national parks and eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction. Coupled with its aggressive promotion of the offshoring of American jobs, it is an effective program to squash the middle class.

But for Milbank, "the possible results" of cooperation with the Chamber and other political enemies "must be tempting: a balanced budget, a shrinking federal debt, a long-overdue rewrite of the tax code, improving Medicare and Social Security solvency in the long run, and easing health-care costs." First, however, Obama might want to clear that with the Chamber's chief lobbyist, who has vowed to block the agenda of the President, who "is going to have to operate differently." Or with its President, who confidently warns the White House "they are in the second inning" of their battles with its organization.

But if Milbank is right, "The political benefits could be equally enormous: taking over the main issue of the Tea Party and building a good relationship with business." Still, Bloomberg News reports, "the Standard & Poor's Index has risen more than 43 percent since Obama was inaugurated in January 2009 and corporate profits have rebounded almost to the pre-recession peak reached in 2006." And the response from the sector he "could build a good relationship with" if he were just a little more centrist?

Investors are evenly split over their overall impression of the president, though 62 percent of those in the U.S. view him negatively. Worldwide, 63 percent of all respondents say his policies are detrimental to the U.S. investment climate.....

The president gets little credit from investors for measures he oversaw to rescue the economy, including the continuation of a bailout of the financial industry begun under President George W. Bush, an expansion of the help for U.S. auto companies and the enactment of an $814 billion stimulus package. Only 1 of 6 investors says the Obama administration’s policies have been primarily responsible for the performance of the stock market or economy.

Milbank also criticizes congressional leaders because

Democrats in the House are set to keep the same three leaders - Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn - who led them to their historic wipeout. This is the preschool-soccer theory of accountability: Nobody keeps score and everybody gets a trophy. The fallen House speaker seems to speak for a number of her colleagues when she says she has "no regrets" about the past two years.

It is easy to criticize the leadership of Congress, traditionally a very unpopular branch of government. But if the Democratic Party really were to effect the removal from his position their leader most responsible for this "historic wipeout," Joseph Biden soon would be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

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