Friday last saw another bravura performance by the Campaigner-in-Chief, haranguing a friendly group of auto workers in Missouri.
My favorite line? “They’re not focused on you. They’re focused on playing political games …”
This from a man who has not stopped playing political games from the first hour of his presidency. The delicious contraposition of statement and fact was evidently lost on the crowd of Demobots, who cheered and applauded.
It wasn’t the only presidential non sequitur in the past few days, and it certainly won’t be the last as we approach a number of important financial markers, including the Oct. 1 deadline for a federal budget and our mid-October appointment with an increase in the federal debt ceiling. Yes, although we raised the ceiling by $900 billion in September, 2011 and an additional $1.2 trillion in January of 2012, we need to do it again.
The reason is simple: this president thinks a near $700 billion federal deficit — larger by half than any under his predecessor — is reason to boast. He has singlehandedly raised the debt of the United States more than 45 percent in five years and he isn’t done yet, not by a long shot. He thinks the American people want it, and his grasp of economics is so weak that he thinks it’ll come without cost.
The adults in the room know better, which is why Republicans in the House of Representatives — after some trepidation that they would be called granny-killers for trying to inject a note of sanity into this process — produced a budget with modest cuts in a few programs. And pointedly defunded the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” now the subject of concern and disapproval by a large majority of Americans. For this act of prudence, they have been labelled extremists, intransigent, obsessed with politics (deeply amusing, considering the source), inflexible and a bevy of other uncomplimentary terms. Presumably, “granny-killers” is waiting in the wings.
It’s all bunk. Someone ought to remind the president that the congress doesn’t work for him, that disagreement on important national policies isn’t obstructionist, and that if he wants “compromise,” he ought to consider doing some of it himself, rather than continuing his “my way or the highway” tantrumizing. That act is wearing thin.
Let’s take a small example from the proposed Republican budget: the reimposition of a time limit on food stamp payments to able-bodied individuals with no dependents who are neither working nor seeking work. This was originally a creation of Bill Clinton, but now Democrats see it as the equivalent of stabbing starving people in the eye. Why subsidizing the indolent is wise policy is unclear until one makes a political calculation unchanged since the days of ancient Rome: the more citizens one turns into petitioners, the more support there is for the party willing to provide them benefits at others’ expense.
President Obama has proven more than willing to do exactly that, and he has had a fertile field to cultivate: his presidency has seen poverty grow by leaps and bounds, particularly among those who are unmarried, have children and are not well-educated. In 2012, according to the Census Bureau, these represented the fastest-growing segment of the impoverished for the fourth straight year. They are 41.5 percent of the total, and easy pickings for a smooth-talking demagogue.
Then there’s Obamacare, that completely avoidable train-wreck to our health care system. Now that the Democrats voted for it to find out what’s in it, we all know: no, you may not be able to keep your health plan, even if you like it. No, you may not be able to keep your doctor, either. No, costs will not go down. That was all a pretty lie.
What does it tell you when everyone with political connections is desperately trying to be exempted from the law’s requirements? If it’s really so good, there should be no exceptions. Not for Congress. Not for Federal Bureaucrats. Not for big businesses, the AFL-CIO, Tuff Shed, or the Mounds View school system. Not for anyone.
Don’t hold your breath.
To avert this impending catastrophe, Congressional Republicans have wielded the only weapon they have: the budget. They have done so in the interest of the 55-60 percent of Americans who disapprove of Obamacare — including a majority of Democrats. They are opposed by an increasingly isolated, out-of-touch and angry president, who doesn’t seem to understand that “politics” is a game others can play as well. True, this is a difficult concept for someone whose reaction to anyone who disagrees with him has always been hate. But he should work to master it. Unless he prefers to be obstructionist, inflexible, extremist…
We’ll soon see.