Obama on the of­fen­sive: Dem­a­goguery, no fixes

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Pres­i­dent Obama went on the po­lit­i­cal of­fen­sive late last month by re­viv­ing the old class­war­fare en­mity he hopes will ex­cite the lib­eral base of his party while ac­cus­ing Repub­li­cans of play­ing pol­i­tics with our nation’s eco­nomic fu­ture.

But who was re­ally play­ing pol­i­tics in Wash­ing­ton? The Repub­li­cans who be­lieve we have to get deadly se­ri­ous about a na­tional debt ap­proach­ing $15 tril­lion and cut spend­ing? Or Mr. Obama, who thinks now is the time to start bash­ing Amer­i­can cor­po­ra­tions, own­ers of pri­vate jets, mu­tual hedge funds, the oil in­dus­try and just about any­one who hap­pens to be wealthy?

First of all, let’s get sev­eral things straight here, if only to put the pres­i­dent’s des­per­ate elec­tion-cy­cle out­bursts into some kind of po­lit­i­cal con­text:

A re­cent Gallup Poll said Mr. Obama’s job-ap­proval score had dropped to 43 per­cent, with nearly 50 per­cent say­ing they dis­ap­proved of his per­for­mance. Sev­eral polls showed that about 6 in 10 dis­ap­prove of his han­dling of the econ­omy and 75 per­cent of Amer­i­cans think the coun­try is still in a re­ces­sion.

He has lost the sup­port of in­de­pen­dents who helped elect him, and many Democrats aren’t as en­thused about him as they once were. The party’s base is dispir­ited. There are re­ports that his once-mighty fundrais­ing prow­ess is now a strug­gle among the big-money peo­ple who backed him in 2008 and whom he will need again if he is to raise the $1 bil­lion his ad­vis­ers say it will take to win a sec­ond term.

As he nears the half­way mark in the third year of his pres­i­dency, the U.S. econ­omy re­mains — choose your own de­scrip­tion: ane­mic, weak, frag­ile, medi­ocre. The Fed­eral Re­serve says this econ­omy is not grow­ing at the rate it had hoped, slow­ing down to a crip­pling 1.9 per­cent, the eco­nomic equiv­a­lent of vir­tu­ally stand­ing still.

Fed Chair­man Ben S. Bernanke, like Her­bert Hoover, keeps say­ing stronger growth is just around the cor­ner, but now he sounds less cer­tain of that.

This snail’s-pace growth trans­lates into a bleak, re­ces­sion­like jobs en­vi­ron­ment (just 54,000 jobs cre­ated in May) that has pushed un­em­ploy­ment up to more than 9 per­cent nation- ally and into the dou­ble-digit range in states both large and small. The Con­fer­ence Board Con­sumer Re­search Cen­ter re­ported last month that its con­sumer con­fi­dence in­dex fell to a seven-month low of 58.5 in June, down from 61.7 in May, a 6-point drop. A score of 90 is con­sid­ered healthy, but the in­dex hasn’t been in that range since 2007 un­der Ge­orge W. Bush. In other words, things aren’t go­ing well for Mr. Obama, and he knows it. But he thinks he can shift the blame to the House Repub­li­cans, ig­nor­ing the fact that the Se­nate is con­trolled by Democrats and that his big-spend­ing poli­cies and failed stim­u­lus scheme are re­spon­si­ble for the coun­try’s lethar­gic econ­omy and shrink­ing job mar­ket.

So, with the econ­omy head­ing south, his pres­i­dency turn­ing sour and his re-elec­tion prospects in doubt, he is play­ing the only po­lit­i­cal hand he has left: class war­fare.

He is in­sist­ing that any deficit-cut­ting deal on rais­ing the debt-limit law must come with higher taxes on busi­nesses, in­vestors and all up­per­in­come Amer­i­cans, poli­cies the Repub­li­cans think will only fur- ther weaken an econ­omy that is strug­gling to get back on its feet. Bear in mind, this isn’t an eco­nomic ar­gu­ment to spur jobcre­at­ing pri­vate in­vest­ment, cap­i­tal for­ma­tion and the level of risk-tak­ing that is at the core of a grow­ing econ­omy. It’s a po­lit­i­cal at­tack on the Repub­li­cans, pure and sim­ple.

“He ac­cused Repub­li­cans — no fewer than six times — of fa­vor­ing cor­po­rate jet own­ers over av­er­age folks in the party’s re­fusal to con­sider tax in­creases as part of a deficit deal,” the Wash­ing­ton Post no­tably pointed out on its front page on June 30.

Com­pany jets are a tax-de­ductible busi­ness ex­pense just like any other cost of do­ing busi­ness, but deny­ing cor­po­ra­tions that tax ben­e­fit will not make a dent in the gov­ern­ment’s mas­sive pub­lic debt.

This isn’t in­tel­li­gent growth eco­nom­ics. It is dem­a­goguery of the worst kind, charg­ing that any tax break that ben­e­fits big busi­ness — among the nation’s largest em­ploy­ers — is bad for av­er­age, mid­dle-class Amer­i­cans, 14 mil­lion of whom are look­ing for jobs.

Mr. Obama’s bud­get-cut­ting com­mis­sion last year called for end­ing a num­ber of loop­holes and tax breaks in the tax-rev­enue code in or­der to broaden the tax base and bring down the cor­po­rate tax rates that are the sec­ond-high­est in the in­dus­tri­al­ized world. But he isn’t call­ing for any per­ma­nent re­duc­tion in busi­ness tax rates to boost eco­nomic ex­pan­sion and higher em­ploy­ment. He’s flog­ging a po­lit­i­cally di­vi­sive class-war is­sue in a last-ditch at­tempt to res­cue his fal­ter­ing pres­i­dency.

Even more hyp­o­crit­i­cal, he is crit­i­ciz­ing House Repub­li­cans for tak­ing too many re­cesses when the coun­try is look­ing for ac­tion to get Amer­ica mov­ing again, some­thing no one can dis­agree with. But the Demo­cratic Se­nate took last week off, some­thing he did not men­tion, and he’s been on the fundrais­ing cir­cuit vir­tu­ally non­stop to build his bankroll for the 2012 elec­tion.

Mean­time, the econ­omy is sput­ter­ing, mil­lions of Amer­i­cans are job­less, poverty and home­less­ness are ris­ing, and the pres­i­dent is play­ing pol­i­tics.

Don­ald Lam­bro is a syn­di­cated colum­nist and for­mer chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.