Remember when the Bowles-Simpson commission came out with its much-ballyhooed report on how to decrease the deficit? Remember when President Obama rejected that plan? Well, now that he’s up for re-election, the press is trying to explain that he’s ready to embrace it, despite all evidence to the contrary.
President Obama once ripped the Paul Ryan deficit plan, stating “It’s not going to happen as long as I’m president.” There’s only one problem: as long as he is president, the national debt will continue to skyrocket. Since the day Obama took office, the federal government has added $4.8 trillion in new debt.
And yet the media continues to cover for him. Today’s New York Times makes the case that Obama has become a secret deficit hawk. After rejecting Bowles-Simpson, Jackie Calmes reports, starting with a famous speech in April 2011:
Mr. Obama has come to adopt most of the major tenets supported by a majority of the commission’s members, though his proposals do not go as far. He has called for cutting deficits more than $4 trillion over 10 years by shaving all spending, including for the military, Medicare and Social Security; overhauling the tax code to raise revenues and lower rates; and writing rules to lock in savings.
Sadly, Calmes ignores the fact that Obama has made no such proposal in writing. His April 2011 may have stated those goals, but Miss America also routinely states a goal to achieve world peace. That doesn’t mean that she has a plan. As the director of the Congressional Budget Office, Doug Elmendorf, stated, “We don’t estimate speeches,” he said. “We need much more specificity than was provided in that speech.”
But Calmes wasn’t done covering for the president–as she did last year, in worrying that the debate over the debt ceiling–and Republicans’ “far to the right” demands–might interfere with the rest of Obama’s agenda.
She stated today that Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner “nearly clinched a ‘grand bargain’ reducing deficits up to $3 trillion over 10 years, but the deal fell apart over taxing the wealthy.”
Maybe, maybe not. We have no idea what Obama actually said during those meetings, since they were behind closed doors – as most of his major negotiations have been, in violation of his campaign pledge to put crucial negotiations on CSPAN. And though Calmes says Americans are desperate to raise taxes on the wealthy, the polls simply don’t support her – a recent AP-GfK poll showed that Americans would rather “cut spending than boost taxes to balance the federal budget” by a full 25% margin. Another poll out today showed that 75% of Americans want the rich taxed less.
Despite the Times tut-tutting reassurance that Obama understands deficits, the American people disagree. One NYT/CBS poll showed 59% of Americans disapproving his action on the deficit; a recent Gallup poll had him down 63% to 32% on that score.
But, says the Times, Obama still has a plan. And he’s bringing in Erskine Bowles – yes, a Democrat hack – to back his play.
Three weeks ago Mr. Obama met with Erskine B. Bowles, a former chief of staff to Mr. Clinton who was a co-chairman of the commission along with former Senator Alan K. Simpson, a Republican … On a quiet Friday in a room off the Oval Office, Mr. Bowles and Mr. Obama chewed over cheeseburgers and their differences. “The president wanted to make sure that we understood that he had had a strategy to take the framework of what we’d negotiated” on the commission, Mr. Bowles said, “and to use that as a vehicle to negotiate a deal.”
So once again, Obama supposedly has a plan. But it’s a super-double-secret plan that nobody knows about, since Obama didn’t propose it in his last legally mandated budget submission. And he sure hasn’t shown a deficit-cutting side while in office – sure, the deficit was $1.3 trillion for 2009 when he came into office, but there were more than 8 months to go in the fiscal year, and Obama did nothing. And we’re now on the fourth straight year of trillion-plus-dollar deficits, despite his promise upon entering office to cut the deficit in half by the end of his term.
So, his actions don’t mirror the Times’ words. But that doesn’t stop the Times from quoting economic advisor Jacob Lew, who said that the Administration was “very much supportive of the direction of Bowles-Simpson.” But Obama didn’t want to embrace the proposals because he was afraid it would have been “explosive” for Republicans – unlike his new proposal to raise taxes by nearly $2 trillion, apparently. And it wasn’t “explosive” to attack the Ryan plan as a scheme forcing “up to 50 million Americans … to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit,” including kids with autism or Down’s syndrome.
To finish the article, the Times naturally quoted Bowles – never Simpson, a Republican – as stating about Obama, “To see his commitment gave me real hope.”
It will take more than hope to get this deficit cut. It will take real change. But Obama, as we’ve found out, is long on hope and short on change that will help the country.