President Obama has dismissed criticism of his economic policy in the past as “political” and has said “that’s what right now we don’t have time to do.” The President does not have “time” to listen to conservative criticism of his economic policies. Fair enough, apparently Washington doesn’t change overnight. But does the President have time to address criticism from some of his strongest supporters?
Stuart Taylor, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, Managing Editor at Newsweek, contributor to National Journal and a self-identified “Obama-admiring centrist” joined the chorus of Obama supporters begging the President to take a second look at what he is doing to the economy.
Having praised President Obama’s job performance in two recent columns, it is with regret that I now worry that he may be deepening what looks more and more like a depression and may engineer so much spending, debt, and government control of the economy as to leave most Americans permanently less prosperous and less free.
Obama’s proposals for many hundreds of billions in additional spending on universal health care, universal postsecondary education, a massive overhaul of the energy economy, and other liberal programs seem grandiose and unaffordable.
With little in the way of offsetting savings likely to materialize, the Obama agenda would probably generate trillion-dollar deficits with no end in sight, or send middle-class taxes soaring to record levels, or both. All this from a man who told the nation last week that he doesn’t “believe in bigger government” and who promised tax cuts for 95 percent of Americans.
This is not to deny that the liberal wish list in Obama’s staggering $3.6 trillion budget would be wonderful if we had limitless resources. But in the real world, it could put vast areas of the economy under permanent government mismanagement, kill millions of jobs, drive investors and employers overseas, and bankrupt the nation.
Meanwhile, liberal Democrats in Congress are racing to gratify their interest groups in a slew of ways likely to do much more harm than good: pushing a union-backed “card-check” bill that would bypass secret-ballot elections on unionization and facilitate intimidation of reluctant workers; slipping into the stimulus package a formula to reimburse states that increase welfare dependency among single mothers and reduce their incentives to work; defunding a program that now pays for the parents of some 1,700 poor kids to choose private schools over crumbling D.C. public schools; fencing out would-be immigrants with much-needed skills.
Next we have Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s Mad Money, co-founder and Chairman of TheStreet.com and self-described “fierce environmentalist” who “embraces every part of Obama’s agenda.”
Look at the incredible decline in the stock market, in all indices, since the inauguration of the president, with the drop accelerating when the budget plan came to light because of the massive fear and indecision the document sowed: Raising taxes on the eve of what could be a second Great Depression, destroying the profits in healthcare companies (one of the few areas still robust in the economy), tinkering with the mortgage deduction at a time when U.S. house price depreciation is behind much of the world’s morass and certainly the devastation affecting our banks, and pushing an aggressive cap and trade program that could raise the price of energy for millions of people.
But Obama has undeniably made things worse by creating an atmosphere of fear and panic rather than an atmosphere of calm and hope. He’s done it by pushing a huge amount of change at a very perilous moment, by seeking to demonize the entire banking system and by raising taxes for those making more than $250,000 at the exact time when we need them to spend and build new businesses, and by revoking deductions for funds to charity and that help eliminate the excess supply of homes.
So I will fight the fight against that agenda. I will stand up for what I believe and for what I have always believed: Every person has a right to be rich in this country and I want to help them get there. And when they get there, if times are good, we can have them give back or pay higher taxes. Until they get there, I don’t want them shackled or scared or paralyzed. That’s what I see now.
Considering that many of his current economic advisors argued against these economic policies before they were on the President’s payroll, maybe the President should take the time to listen to his supporters. But if his liberal colleagues on Capitol Hill are as committed to this reckless course of action as he is, it is understandable that he may hesitate. On Wednesday, Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), whom the President had on his “top three” list for Vice Presidential candidates, published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that said:
Voters rightly demanded change in November’s election, but this approach to spending represents business as usual in Washington, not the voters’ mandate.
The omnibus debate is not merely a battle over last year’s unfinished business, but the first indication of how we will shape our fiscal future. Spending should be held in check before taxes are raised, even on the wealthy. Most people are willing to do their duty by paying taxes, but they want to know that their money is going toward important priorities and won’t be wasted.
But what ultimately matters are not meetings or words, but actions. Those who vote for the omnibus this week — after standing with the president and pledging to slice our deficit in half last week — jeopardize their credibility.
The wheels are coming off the wagon, and the President has a long road ahead. The honeymoon appears to be over.