Negotiating the Fiscal Cliff

Less than one month from now, unless Congress does something substantive, taxes will rise for everyone. If that occurs, the economy will suffer another major hit. Economists are worried that history will repeat itself: during the Great Depression, FDR’s policies never really worked, and at the start of his second term, the country fell into a recession within the Depression. Currently, we have a president in FDR’s mold—only worse—whose policies haven’t worked, and now we’re poised to have a recession that has never gone away suddenly get worse.

President Obama says the problem is not enough revenue. I beg to differ. Here’s the proper perspective on the real problem:

You see, there really aren’t enough rich people to make up the difference. You could confiscate all their wealth and not make a serious dent in our fiscal black hole. The problem is spending. Beneath that spending problem is the ideology that constitutional limitations mean nothing.

Of course, Obama talks a good talk. If you listen to him, he’s a real deficit hawk. Is that why he’s added nearly $6 trillion to the national debt? The claim that he’s fiscally responsible is balderdash on its face, but there seems to be no end to the number of people who will fall for his line. He sounds so reasonable when he promises a “balanced” approach to our financial woes. Maybe people would understand him better if they could see a visual representation of what he means:

He and his party are all about bringing everything to the table for the negotiations. But again, their understanding of what that means differs from how the Republicans view it:

Treasury Secretary Geithner last week revealed what the Democrats are bringing to the table: $1.6 trillion in new revenue from tax hikes; a “promise” of $400 billion in savings in entitlement programs, but talks on that will be put off until next year; another stimulus bill, this one in the range of $50 billion; no limit on the debt ceiling—in other words, we can add debt upon debt without ever saying “enough.”

This is a plan? Where’s the compromise? This reminds me of a recurring image I have from my younger years, found in the comics pages of the newspaper:

Here’s another vivid illustration of what the current negotiations look like:

Obama thinks he can get away with this intransigence because he just won reelection, and he’s well practiced in blaming others for any impasse. Conversely, Republicans are not too good at getting out their message that the president and Democrats are the ones holding up the talks. Republicans fear being demagogued to death and having the American people think they’re the ones responsible for pushing us over the cliff.

The big thing Obama has going for him is that he’s not really concerned about the cliff; his ideology comes first: punish the wealthy and carve out more territory for the government to take over.

Obama is already blaming Republicans for wanting to raise taxes on the middle class. He says the only thing stopping the rise is the GOP’s insistence that the wealthy not pay more. In fact, Republicans are already proposing closing loopholes that would add to the taxes the wealthy will pay. And they are the ones who want everyone to keep their lower tax rates. Yet they are being cast as the evil party that wants to take more of your money. This would make an excellent situation comedy.

What should Republicans do? First, get a spine. Second, since they control the House, go ahead and call the president’s bluff. Pass their own bill that will show the American people they favor giving everyone lower tax rates while dealing seriously with the spending mania, particularly with entitlements. Third, learn how to communicate their policies so it will be clear to all but the most deluded Obamaites that the Republican approach is the only way out of our mess.

Put Obama on the defensive for a change. Take control of the message. Time is short.

Tax Rates: Reagan vs. Obama

Now that we’re talking about taxing the rich more and face the specter of all the Bush tax cuts being eliminated, I thought I’d look up some figures from the 1980s to see what happened when Ronald Reagan lowered the tax rates. How did this affect revenue? An article from the Cato Institute provides the numbers. The author of the article, Richard Rahn, notes that most of the Reagan tax cuts were applied to those in the middle- and lower-income brackets, which is something that may surprise some readers who are used to being told Republicans only give tax breaks to the rich.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), total tax revenues in the 1980s did fall as a portion of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but the reason that percentage went down is because the economy grew at an astounding rate. In real terms, it grew 34.3% from 1982 to 1989, “much faster than the 24.3% rate expected even by economists within the Reagan administration. Thus, by the time President Reagan left office, the economy was generating more tax revenue at a maximum 28% rate than many on the left forecast it to generate at a maximum 70% rate.”

In other words, there is a point at which higher tax rates are counterproductive. More revenue can be obtained with moderate rates than with high ones. Rahn concludes, “The Reagan tax-rate reductions did, in fact, pay for themselves—but it took about seven years.”

When Obama says he will only increase taxes on the rich, he’s talking about those who make more than $200,000 per year. Yet many small businesses fall in that category, and they are the ones who create most of the new jobs and fund new investment. In effect, the president will be declaring war on small businesses, and in the process putting more people in the unemployment lines.

In my opinion, that might be what he wants to do. The more people who are dependent on the government for their sustenance, the more loyalty he will generate for himself and his administration. His ideology is Marxist at its core, and he doesn’t really care to create prosperity via the private sector. He would rather see it shrink and watch the government grow more powerful.

Some may protest: surely he wouldn’t want us to follow the same path as other bankrupt nations, would he? I’m not so sure. An ideologue is an ideologue—it’s what motivates him.

We see the same thing happening in some states. California is a prime example. Gov. Jerry Brown is leading the state into increased spending and higher taxes while the state veers toward insolvency. Fortunately, the damage within a state can be contained, and people have the option to go elsewhere, to states that still grasp the basics of how free enterprise works.

So don’t be fooled by the rhetoric of “fairness.” In the end, if Obama and the Democrats get their way, we all will be worse off.

Free Stuff

Mitt Romney, when asked what went wrong on his march to the White House, remarked that Obama promised more free stuff to the voters. That remark brought criticism from some Republicans who believe that if the message is framed properly, conservatism can win over many of those voters. I think they’re both right. Yes, the right candidate who can communicate the conservative message can still win a national election. Yet, at the same time, Romney was correct in pointing out that Obama promised things that conscientious Republicans cannot promise, and that a slim majority of the electorate was won over by those promises, false as they are.

Michael Ramirez, one of our most astute political cartoonists, captured this unwholesome attitude expertly in a couple of his recent cartoons:

All these promises come at a time when nearly every politician of whatever party recognizes we are facing what has been termed a “fiscal cliff.” On January 1, if nothing is done to prevent it, tax rates will go up, driving the economy deeper into the doldrums. The only genuine way to fix the problem long-term is with spending cuts—no amount of added revenue from the taxpayers’ pockets can overcome the staggering debt we now have. Yet Obama and his party are still acting like they’re having a party:

What his supporters fail to realize is that it’s not the “rich” who are going to bail us out; in fact, the burden is going to fall on everyone. If Obama were totally honest about where he’s taking us, this is what he would say:

How many of his voters were led astray by the media? It’s hard to say. But the chorus in favor of the president’s reelection coming from the mainstream media was overwhelming. It had to have some effect. Only one lone voice stood out from the pack:

If we don’t experience a near-collapse as a society in the next four years, it will be only by the grace of God.

Forward into the Abyss

I feel like being “light” today after all the seriousness of last week. However, even in lightness, serious points can be made. I’ve always found the best way to do this is to rely on those who make it their livelihood—the political cartoonists. As you can imagine, the election gave rise to a flurry of new cartoons. Here are some of the best that have surfaced since last Tuesday, beginning with those that use the Obama slogan as their centerpiece:

In case you have trouble reading that sign in the distance, let me help you: it says “Dead End.” But wasn’t Obama’s reelection supposed to be part of the ongoing “success” of his first term? Isn’t the world supposed to be a better place just because he is in it?

If the pain of the last four years hasn’t been sufficient to educate some people, what is it going to take? Is Obama going to continue to blame George Bush for the next four years as well? I predict, if he gets his way, we’ll be in even worse shape by 2016. Both he and his adherents need to awaken to reality and start taking responsibility for the economic, social, and foreign policy disasters we are facing:

So Obama has his chance to make good this time. But what assurance do we have that he will do his homework and fully engage?

He’s already, less than a week after his reelection, shutting down even more public land to energy drilling. How is this helping?

Yet with the media constantly on his side, will his faithful followers ever figure out that he’s an ideological radical, and incompetent to boot? Not if the media keeps doing its outstanding job of distracting the people from his follies and failures:

Will his ineptitude and radicalism catch up with him eventually? Will the American electorate awaken from its stupor? Our job is to work and pray for that enlightenment. Only by God’s grace and mercy will we survive the next four years intact as a country.

The Second Debate

I’m writing this just a few minutes after the end of the second presidential debate. The spinners are at work, doing their job, saying the things they already planned to say regardless of the outcome. It’s such a useless exercise to bring any representatives of the candidates to the interview table after debates because they are scripted ahead of time. It doesn’t matter what actually happened in the debate; they will say what they were going to say anyway.

There are two ways people decide who wins debates: one is to focus on style, the other on substance. Substance, of course, should be the determiner, but pundits and the media types are fixated on style. So, many of them will say Obama won simply because he wasn’t comatose, as he was in the first debate. He was more aggressive. That’s true. He was. But from my perspective, his aggressiveness was primarily a cover for lack of substance. I also think his natural haughtiness was on display. He clearly despises Mitt Romney, and it shows. I’m not sure he helped his own likeability score with some of his testiness.

On the issues, he attempted to turn nearly everything into class warfare or a war on women. He kept referring to Planned Parenthood and how awful it would be to defund it. That’s because he’s the most pro-abortion president in American history. Frankly, I continue to be amazed—although why, I’m not sure—how both Obama and Biden can fabricate “facts” without any embarrassment. There’s also no shame over the continuing blame game directed at Bush. Obama’s partisans will feel like he did well, but those who understand his worldview and the policies that have emanated from it, will know better. It was style over substance.

What about Romney? He was almost as good as in the first debate, but not quite. He absolutely nailed Obama’s failed economic record. He was eloquent on the need to free the market and get government out of the way. As usual, he had a laser-like focus on creating jobs and prosperity. Yet he had to do so while dealing with some rather stupid questions directed to him while Obama got mostly softballs. These “undecided” voters sounded suspiciously like Democrats.

Romney also had a moderator problem at a critical moment. He was challenging Obama’s reluctance to call the Libya attack an act of terrorism. He noted that the president wouldn’t even call it that the day after in his Rose Garden statement. At that point, Candy Crowley, the moderator, jumped in and did her own personal fact-check on Romney, saying that Obama did indeed call it an act of terrorism in his statement. First, that is not the proper role of the moderator. She definitely took Obama’s side and threw Romney off his stride. Commentators, both during the debate on the internet, and afterwards on television, fact-checked the fact-checker. It turns out Romney was correct; Obama mentioned acts of terror, but did not apply it to the Libya attack directly. In fact [since facts are what we are supposed to be most concerned about], for weeks after September 11, he continued to blame the so-called film about Muhammad and described it as a spontaneous demonstration. He even held to that view in his UN speech.

Hopefully, the audience recognized the impropriety and heard the correction later.

All Obama has ever done in these debates and on the campaign trail is ask the voters to give him another four years to do the things he didn’t do the first four years. As Romney warned the audience last night, four more years of Obama would be a repeat of the last four years.

Another cartoonist illustrated the same point in a different way:

So are we going to be sheeple once again? We’ll see how this debate affects the polls, but always check the numbers behind the numbers when those polls appear. My prediction is that either there will be no shift as a result of this debate or that the Romney numbers will continue to climb slowly.

The final debate, next Monday, will be on foreign policy. If Romney’s smart, he’ll be unrelenting on Libya, on Obama’s dismal record in support of Israel, and on how Obama’s grandiose promises of changing the attitude of other nations toward America have utterly failed.

Puncturing the Obama Balloon

One of the most satisfying things about last week’s presidential debate is that, for many people, this was the first time the air was let out of the Obama balloon. Ever since he entered the national political scene, his credentials have been mostly air, but he and his operatives have been adept at concealing the painful fact that he’s the emperor who has no clothes. Despite all the hype over the past four years about his oratorical skills, he came crashing down as utterly frail and human. Personally, I’ve never been impressed by his oratory, and we know he often stumbles without his teleprompter. The debate was a welcome dash of reality:

I’ve written a lot about Obama’s ideology, which I believe is the core of the problem, but there’s also the issue of his basic competence to hold the highest office in the land. He was so sure of himself when he took over; just his presence was going to wipe away all fear, and his masterful command of policy was going to make everything right. Again, the reality has been somewhat different:

Yet with no genuine accomplishments in his term, except for the forcible takeover of the American healthcare system, he chose to run again. He thinks he deserves more time. Another one of those painfully obvious facts by now is that what he really does best is campaigning. The job he’s campaigning for is of secondary importance to him. Even as the world slips closer to the brink of catastrophe, he is not going to be found dealing with the problem directly; he has more pressing issues on the table:

Less than one month from now, we have an opportunity to correct the mistake we made four years ago.

A Mature Electoral Decision This Time?

Yesterday was the day of shock. Top-ranking Democrats seemed to wander the nation unsure what to say or do in the wake of the Disaster in Denver. About the best the Obama campaign could do was to sponsor an ad that accused Romney of being mean. Well, what would you expect? They couldn’t exactly defend their candidate’s performance, so they dragged out the old canard of blaming the other guy. They’ve practiced it repeatedly the last four years with respect to George W. Bush, so why not use it again? Once you’re in the habit . . .

What they don’t want to admit is that they were trounced not just because of style or ability to debate, but that they had nothing substantially that they could legitimately defend when it came to the economy, and that was the primary subject of the debate. They already had a losing hand going in; the only suspense was if they could bluster and mislead cleverly enough to obscure the reality. It didn’t work.

Obama’s dismal appearance on that stage resurrected in the minds of some cartoonists the Clint Eastwood ploy at the Republican Convention:

This one had a slightly different take:

Obama was the student, Romney the instructor.

Even the media arm of the Obama campaign—otherwise known as MSNBC, NBC, CNN, ABC, CBS,the New York Times, etc.—has had a tough time trying to swallow what took place. They seem off-balance. If only they would revert to genuine journalism, but that’s a rather fanciful dream:

I actually think the media organizations, in their desire to protect the One, did him a real disservice the past four years. He has never been challenged with any regularity throughout his 2008 campaign or his presidency by a media seeking truth. They’ve coddled him, which is something he has been used to throughout his life. As a result, when faced with genuine questioning of his policies and his truthfulness, he has had no practice in thinking how to respond. When you lead a sheltered existence, it comes back to hurt you in the end.

So now we’re told the Obama team is retooling in preparation for the next debate. They’re revising their strategy. We’ll have to wait and see how that works out. Some conservatives have warned to expect the full Chicago treatment from now on. What October surprise will they attempt? Even if they can’t come up with one of those, they have the old tried and true advantage:

The real question is whether the electorate will once again be swayed by the goodies. Or will we make a mature decision instead?