The Long Retreat of Liberalism
Though President Obama has run rings about the Republican Party in the debt-ceiling debate, that party can yet emerge victorious, if it will stick to its guns.
Clearly, the Republican strategy was not thought through, when the party chose the debt ceiling as the legislative terrain on which to fight its fiscal war.
The president had wanted a clean debt-ceiling increase, but he seized the GOP challenge with alacrity. He invited House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor down to the White House and reportedly offered $3 trillion in spending cuts for $1 trillion in fresh revenue, in a historic "big deal" to cut the deficit.
However, the cuts the president offered were, while attractive, gauzy. But the revenues -- closing "loopholes" and ending "tax breaks for the rich" -- were hard and specific. Had Boehner accepted the deal, he would not have survived as speaker. Fully 235 GOP House members signed a pledge in 2010 not to vote for any tax increase.
Thus, every day Boehner and Cantor departed the White House, having refused to accept "the deal of the century," the message that went out to the nation was that Republican intransigence, a refusal to compromise, was blocking historic deficit reduction.
Using the White House bully pulpit, Obama portrayed himself as bending over backward to do a fair deal and being forced, if the GOP continued to balk, to stop mailing out Social Security checks.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke warned of a U.S. default on its debts if there were no deal. Moody's and Standard & Poor's warned that the United States was imperiling its AAA credit rating. The big media painted the GOP as a party led by reasonable men who were hostage to fanatics being pandered to by Cantor.
Why did Boehner refuse the Obama temptation?
Had he accepted the deal, his party in the House would have split asunder. Half would have voted "no." To force its passage, Boehner would have had to collude with Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, against scores in his own caucus, to get Democratic votes.
Though House Republicans have been mussed up in the last two weeks, the White House "negotiations" now appear at an end, and a liberated Republican House is about to pass its own deficit-reduction plan.
"Cut, cap and balance" calls for cuts in federal spending to 20 percent of gross domestic product, a cap on federal programs and the enactment of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, which would crush federal spending to 18 percent of the economy from today's 25.
While this may clear the House, it stands little chance in the Senate. But it puts the party on the offensive. It will eat up the clock. It will put the GOP on record as to where it stands and provide the Tea Party Caucus a chance to vote its convictions.
But if the GOP House plan dies in the Senate, how does the GOP win? Again, by simply standing its ground on taxes, and waiting.
This weekend, Democrats and Republicans, Congress and the White House agreed the debt ceiling will be raised, and Obama accepted the reality that he will not be getting any new revenue.
This means that, at the end of this process, Obama will sign a debt-ceiling increase that involves $2 trillion or $1.5 trillion or $1 trillion in spending cuts, with no new taxes and no new revenues.
And that is a victory for whom, and a defeat for whom?
Republicans may have been beaten up for most of July, but come August, Democrats will be asking Barack Obama what exactly he and they got for agreeing to serious cuts in social spending, while the Republican right compromised on nothing and gave up nothing.
Obama won the public relations battle, but the Republicans, if they hold firm on no revenue enhancement and no new taxes, are fated to win the war. And not just this one.
For, from Greece to Ireland to Portugal to Italy, from California to Wisconsin to New Jersey to New York, the crisis of the West is a crisis of liberalism.
Deficits and debts that threaten to wipe out bondholders and banks, destroy currencies, bring down governments and bankrupt nations are everywhere forcing reductions in government payrolls and rollbacks in government programs.
Across the West, the public sector is under siege.
And parties of the left, be they liberal, socialist or Marxist, depend on the public sector increasing its employees, increasing its beneficiaries, increasing its share of the national wealth.
That is what they do. That is how they grow. And that is how they reach and retain power.
Bottom line. Parties of the left are on this earth to grow the government. But the West has entered a period where its economic survival and the prevention of financial collapse mandate constant and deep cuts in the size and sweep of government.
For the left, this is going to be a long decade.
America's Financial Restoration vs. Obama's Ideology
There is an overarching reason we can't move toward a balanced budget, which underscores why we face ongoing stalemates over debt ceilings and continuing resolutions: President Obama doesn't want to balance the budget.
I don't say this out of extremism or to be gratuitously controversial or even provocative. It's just that his words and actions lead to the inescapable conclusion that he is unwilling to curb his appetite for big government. In the absence of any such restraint, our alarming budget trajectory cannot be reversed. The debt ceiling may be the last clear chance before the 2012 elections to force meaningful budgetary reforms.
Obama's recalcitrance is rooted in his ideology. He has been working all his adult life toward the moment that he could transform America into a fairer place. He's not about to allow an existential threat to the nation get in the way of his obsession.
Perhaps he wishes he'd acceded to the presidency when our debt picture was less calamitous. Then he might have more leeway to work his despotic magic. Then again, probably not; without the mainly Democratic-caused housing crisis falling into his lap just in the nick of time, he might not have been elected, much less positioned to make the ludicrous demand that we spend nearly $1 trillion more to "stimulate" ourselves out of debt. Alinskyite revolutionaries feed on crises, real and perceived.
Obama fundamentally rejects the American ideals of economic liberty and equality of opportunity. He's determined to use government to redistribute and equalize incomes (and wealth, truth be told), and neither the Constitution nor catastrophic debt consequences will deter him.
He doesn't even appear worried about the debt itself, only the hassle he's getting from Republicans who are getting in the way of his spending and tax hikes. When most Americans are worried sick over our nation's finances, Obama is lecturing us about people who "keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income that (they) don't need," as if the chief executive were the grand arbiter of income distribution. The Heritage Foundation reports that Obama is "creating a new 'poverty' measure that deliberately severs all connection between 'poverty' and actual deprivation." His "goal is to measure income 'inequality,' not poverty -- giving the President public relations ammunition for his 'spread-the-wealth' agenda." Just so ... just so.
There's more. Obama is fond of invoking false consensuses in support of his policies, but there truly is widespread agreement that raising taxes during very tough economic times would impede recovery. Obama himself gave voice to that very axiom in 2009, saying, "The last thing you want to do is to raise taxes in the middle of a recession, because that would just suck up, take more demand out of the economy."
But now, perhaps realizing he might not get another chance to coerce the Congress into hiking taxes (as a matter of "fairness"), he's holding the debt ceiling hostage to his demands.
Worst of all is Obama's resistance to entitlement reforms. At a time when everyone acknowledges that our current entitlement programs are unsustainable, Obama refuses to offer a specific plan to reform them and adamantly opposes credible Republican plans to do so.
Also, Obama rarely speaks with any urgency about spending cuts; his emphasis is always that we can't unduly cut programs for "folks" who rely on them, flagrantly turning on its head the JFK maxim, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
While Republicans are pleading with Obama to join them on Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to cut spending and reform entitlements, Obama is clinging to his demand for the high-speed rail boondoggle. When health care costs are soaring and revised scoring of Obamacare reveals just how prohibitively costly it will be, Obama holds on to it like a life raft and pushes the rest of us off. It will destroy access, quality and cost, but he will not betray his ideology.
Just as his party abrogated its duty to propose a congressional budget for 800 days, Obama refuses to provide specifics for cutting spending and just tells us what he won't do. You can read the transcripts from his most recent two pressers and find no specifics.
As recently as 2010, Obama's budget more than doubled the national debt and pushed the fiscal year 2011 deficit to a record high of $1.6 trillion with record spending, which exceeded $3.8 trillion. His FY 2012 budget again called for doubling the national debt in five years and tripling it in 10 years -- again without even addressing entitlements.
It's simple, really. We have to have structural entitlement reform, major spending cuts and no tax increase-retardants on economic growth to reverse our current course toward national bankruptcy, but Obama steadfastly remains on the wrong side of all these solutions.
Don't Forget Welfare Reform
With everyone in Washington consumed by whether and how to increase our nation’s debt ceiling, the necessity for welfare reform seems oddly absent from the negotiations.
Although the historic welfare reforms of 1996 succeeded in moving people from welfare to work, it most certainly did not “end welfare as we know. it” Amazingly, these reforms – which liberals stridently opposed – only restructured one of the more than 70 federal means-tested welfare programs run by our federal government.
That’s right, there are more than 70 separate welfare programs scattered across 13 government agencies. The Heritage Foundation ran the numbers and found these programs cost taxpayers nearly $900 billion per year. Even in this debate, that is some serious spending.
And, of course, Washington’s problem is spending. Instead of raising revenue through gimmicky fees, higher tax rates and targeted tax hikes, lawmakers should focus on growing our economy and job creation. Reforming the entire welfare system by helping to move people from welfare to work is one way to do that.
If our economy were doing better, and people were more able to find good, well-paying jobs and achieve the American dream, then they would be entering into a tax bracket and paying taxes. The recent decline in revenue is not a result of tax rates, but rather a result of anemic economic growth and a lack of job creation.
Currently, the bottom 50% of income earners pay just 3% of total income tax revenues. If we enacted policies and reforms that helped the lowest income bracket gain wealth, then our tax revenues will increase. As Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said “we don’t need new taxes, we need new taxpayers.”
Unfortunately, thanks to over 70 different federal welfare programs, the number of people on welfare (be it food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, etc.) has been steadily growing, and has ballooned under President Obama. According to the Heritage Foundation:
For every $10 President Bush spent on welfare in 2008, President Obama expects to spend about $13. Far from encouraging self-reliance, the welfare state’s unrestrained growth spurt will force millions more into dependency on government.
Briefly, let’s jump back to 1996 and how these reforms actually worked. What actually happened in ’96 was the replacement of Aid to Families with Dependent Children with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Instead of sending blank checks to welfare beneficiaries, for the first time ever, welfare checks were linked to work.
No longer were recipients simply depending on the government to support them. Suddenly they had to go out and find work or at least prove that they were devoting 20 to 30 hours a week towards preparing for a job.
Just 12 years later, 2.8 million Americans, about 60% of the overall caseload, left welfare and found jobs. Imagine that!
Unfortunately, only one of the more than 70 welfare programs was reformed. Today, the success of TANF has halted. Much of it was the recession, but much of it was the massive expansion of the welfare state. Today, one in seven Americans are on food stamps, and while some are new recipients who had never applied for the program before, more than half of those on food stamps have received aid for eight and a half years or longer.
Where is the incentive to leave the program?
As with most government programs which don’t show results, Congress’s answer was to throw more money at the problem, instead of reforming the programs so that they work better. If we apply the 1996 TANF reforms to the other 70 or so welfare programs, then we could achieve real reform and help the 40 million people who currently receive government aid.
Fortunately, some solid conservatives recognize the need and are laying out a way forward.
Congressmen Jim Jordan (R-OH), Tim Scott (R–SC), and Scott Garrett (R–NJ) have introduced the Welfare Reform Act of 2011, H.R.1167. The bill expands on the success of TANF by applying the same work-oriented policy to the other federal welfare programs. A growing coalition of Senate Republicans are preparing to introduce companion legislation.
If Congress wants to do something really meaningful for the country, especially for those who are most in need, then restructuring welfare is the way to go. Not only will shifting welfare recipients from government dependents to self-sufficient taxpayers bring in new revenue and decrease the need for wasteful government spending, it will also empower them to achieve the American dream.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)