As the Aug. 2 debt-ceiling deadline looms, we should applaud House Speaker John Boehner for standing firm and not being rolled over by those in the White House and their media campaign.
Boehner has not yielded to demands for new taxes and reducing spending cuts. Nor has he acquiesced to demands that the president be given carte blanche to raise the debt ceiling in the future.
Ever since the GOP took control of the House, the president’s approach has been, at worst, one of willful opposition to new ideas and, at best, simple indifference to fixing the nation’s problems. Obama and his spin machine now say they need a debt ceiling agreed to through the next election. Giving him this may not be wise. The debt ceiling has served as a mighty lever to bring Obama to the table.
Make no mistake about it — Obama is not Bill Clinton. Obama doesn’t believe in compromise. When Clinton was faced with a new Republican Congress in 1995, he did a 180-degree turn on many of his agenda items. He embraced Republican ideas like massive welfare reform and even slashed capital gains taxes. The system of give and take and compromise worked and propelled the nation into economic prosperity.
Compare that to today: The president seems to want it his way or no way.
Perhaps politics is playing a big role here. Obama is trying to placate his liberal base, which is angry with him. He won the last election by promising radical changes in foreign policy, especially when it came to U.S. policy toward Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran. He defeated Hillary Clinton largely on these issues.
Frankly, since coming to office, Obama has gravitated to the center on foreign policy and has done a fairly good job in that arena. He has kept seasoned veterans in key positions and his recent moves of Gen. David Petraeus to the CIA, and Leon Panetta, former CIA director, to the Defense Department, were brilliant.
No longer able to play the foreign policy card as he did during the campaign, the president has been focusing on those “evil House Republicans” to keep the liberals happy.
One hot-button issue for his base is taxes. The president wants to prove to his liberal base he’s going to go after the wealthy and make them pay.
The problem is that the economy cannot handle new taxes. Speaker Boehner is to be commended for arguing three simple points: 1. The debt ceiling should not be raised to allow the president a free ride until after the 2012 election. 2. There should be no additional “revenues” or tax increases. 3. There needs to be serious spending cuts.
For the most part these spending cuts are not immediate cuts to the federal budget, but are cuts to the rate of growth of government, a sensible approach taken by both Ronald Reagan and Clinton that dramatically improved the country’s finances during the 1980s and ’90s.
Nevertheless, Obama is dead set on new taxes. The Democrats have claimed that such tax increases could be made by closing corporate loopholes and making the tax system more fair for everyone.
At first glance, it seems like a positive idea. But the net effect of this effort, advocated in the Gang of Six’s plan, is to raise taxes over by an additional $1 trillion in new taxes. This tax money will be taken from the private sector and moved into government accounts.
Such a move would be counterproductive. First, new taxes will only help stall the economic recovery. Second, the economy desperately needs new stimulus, not new taxes.
Obama and his advisers must know this. His 2009 stimulus plan was not well planned out and only did half the job. True, it kept the economy from falling off the cliff. At the same time his stimulus, focused on keeping government employees at work, never gave the economy the appropriate lift that it needed.
Republicans favor tax cuts, and I believe they would likely do a deal for more of them.
If Obama did deal — let’s say for a one-year holiday suspension of the FICA tax for all workers and small businesses, it would mean more than $600 billion in additional stimulus immediately put into the economy over the next 12 months.
This would not only re-energize the entire U.S. economy, it would finally signal a move by Obama to the center in a powerful way, helping to pave the way for his re-election.
Can Obama be so bold? As the debt crisis has demonstrated, the president is preoccupied by his party’s liberal base. The truth is they have nowhere to go in the next election.
Instead, Obama should follow Boehner’s path, a pragmatic approach, one that keeps the United States solvent for now and for years to come.
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