Posted on | July 30, 2011 | 35 Comments
“President Snippy Pants,” as William Teach calls him, evidently believes what America needs is more lectures from him:
While accusing the House GOP of wasting time by, y’know, passing legislation, our Lecturer-in-Chief uses his weekly address to issue yet another iteration of Democrat Party talking points:
Republicans in the House of Representatives just spent precious days trying to pass a plan that a majority of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate had already said they wouldn’t vote for. It’s a plan that wouldn’t solve our fiscal problems, but would force us to re-live this crisis in just a few short months. It would hold our economy captive to Washington politics once again. If anything, the past few weeks have demonstrated that’s unacceptable.
Any solution to avoid default must be bipartisan. It must have the support of both parties that were sent here to represent the American people — not just one faction of one party. . . .
Now all of us — including Republicans in the House of Representatives — need to demonstrate the same kind of responsibility that the American people show every day. The time for putting party first is over.
One hesitates to spend “precious days” (or even precious minutes) fisking this, as the hypocritical falseness of Obama’s rhetoric really ought to be self-evident.
Let us first have done with Obama’s bogus insinuation that he represents the credible voice of “responsibility.” He hasn’t put forward any detailed plan of his own. Instead of providing a budget, he gave a speech — April 13 at George Washington University — in which he dishonestly used the phrase “my budget,” and rolled out the focus-group-tested phrase “balanced approach” (i.e., code for “tax increases”).
In his GWU speech, the president recycled the old-and-busted partisan talking-point that ObamaCare “will reduce our deficit by $1 trillion” (laughably false), and then infamously asserted that his “balanced approach” would “achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over twelve years.”
I say he “infamously” made this assertion, because it stands as a historic milestone in the annals of deceptive political rhetoric.
The first thing to notice is that Obama employed the Large Number Trick, whereby politicians throw out a sum of millions, billions or trillions knowing full well that the average listener will be so awed — “Four trillion dollars! Wow!” — that rational thought ceases. But when our current annual deficit is $1.4 trillion, and the president projects that out over 12 years ($16.8 trillion by simple multiplication), a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation shows he’s actually proposing about a 24% reduction in the deficit, so that the 2024 budget deficit would still be $1.07 trillion.
Beyond the president’s deft use of the Large Number Trick in his April 13 GWU speech, there is the obvious problem of a “plan” (or an “approach” which Obama dares to call “my budget”) that presumes to know the state of economic and political affairs in 2024.
This is what we might call the Future Projection Trick: Make your budget calculations based on some distant point in the future and propose draconian cuts in the latter years of that multi-year span. This permits you to claim to have saved taxpayers a lot of money while not actually cutting much of anything in the near term. And of course, those projected future draconian cuts never actually happen, because future congressmen and future presidents don’t consider themselves bound by their predecessors’ promises.
Even if Obama gets re-elected next year, the 2017 budget would be the last over which he had any influence, so his future-projected deficit cuts in 2018, 2019, et cetera, are even more utterly worthless than every other promise he’s ever made.
Yet the final and most important thing about Obama’s “budget” (or “plan,” or “approach,” or whatever you want to call what he outlined April 13 in his only explicit attempt to address the debt-ceiling issue) is that it was so lacking in specificity that it couldn’t be scored by the Congressional Budget Office.
Here once again we see Obama employing a rhetorical trick — the Virtue of Vagueness — in a phony attempt to claim that he is serious about the budget problem. He employs the “bully pulpit” to present himself as responsible (he used “responsibility” or “responsibilities” 10 times in his April 13 speech), the spokesman for an America that “is generous and compassionate,” and yet utterly fails to provide the kind of numbers that will permit a green-eyeshade accounting of whether he has actually done what he wants listeners to believe he has done, i.e., reduce the deficit.
While I’m not sure whether an “approach” is supposed to be subject to an accountant’s scrutiny, an actual budget must be. (My “approach” to making money from this blog is to rattle the tip jar and try to hustle up some lucrative Amazon sales, but this Underpants Gnome business model would never pass muster with the CBO.) What Obama avoided through his Virtue of Vagueness Trick was having to say, for example, what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration budget would be in 2014, or how much would be spent to fund the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in 2015.
Obama’s “approach” is arithmetically nebulous for the very reason that he doesn’t want to have to explain or defend any actual budget reductions. An actual budget must be specific as to the amount of funding allotted to each department, each division, each agency, each program, and this Obama was unwilling or unable to do, so his big “bully pulpit” proposal on April 13 wasn’t something for which the accountants and economists at the CBO could produce a score.
How much money would Obama’s approach save? We don’t know!
And this, I suggest, can only be a matter of cold political calculation.
From the very outset of the debate over the debt-ceiling, Obama was playing a game: Make the House Republicans spell out in a CBO-scored budget proposal exactly what they were planning to cut. Then claim that, by doing so, they were rejecting the “balanced approach” of the “generous and compassionate” president.
The House GOP’s legislation would, by necessity, include specific numbers for agency budget reductions, which could then be employed as campaign attack-ad fodder next year, frightening the ignorant “swing voters” and gullible “soccer moms” with scary-talk about greedy Republicans who want to slash funds for the Bureau of Generosity and eliminate altogether the Department of Compassion.
The president’s not-so-secret-weapon in this political attack strategy is, of course, Harry Reid’s Democrat majority in the Senate which predictably rejected anything that John Boehner could actually push through the House. Thus, Obama’s partisan attack machine not only gets the specific budget numbers with which to smear Republicans as heartless villains in next year’s campaign, but also affords the president an opportunity to claim — as he did today — that this entire ginned-up crisis is due to the ideological fanaticism and partisan opportunism of those dangerous right-wing GOP extremists.
As usual with Obama, the truth is the exact opposite of whatever he says. He is the one seeking partisan advantage and being irresponsible. It is not the House Republicans but the Senate Democrats who have acted the part of ideologues and obstructionists. And the only question now is whether President Snippy Pants will get away with this transparent trickery.
Obama predictably relies on deceptive sophistry to advance his self-serving agenda. His address today is entitled “Compromise on Behalf of the American People,” which more honestly could be called “Compromise on Behalf of My Re-Election Campaign.” And he might very well get away with it unless Republicans unite and speak with one voice to explain to voters exactly what the president is doing.
Call him out on his phony political gamesmanship, his dishonest partisan rhetoric and his unspeakable hypocrisy in claiming to be “responsible” while abdicating his own responsibility.
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What You Can Do
If you agree with the logic of the foregoing argument, why don’t you copy it in an e-mail and send it to your Republican representative, senator, governor or state GOP chairman? You can also e-mail it to your favorite local or national talk radio host, or Republican presidential candidates (who certainly ought to be speaking out on the current budget debate). Also, by using the “share” button at the bottom of the post, you can share it via Twitter or post it to Facebook. Thanks in advance for your help in spreading the word. — RSM