"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Obama’s Debt Speech: “Overtly Partisan,” “Dishonest,” “A Battle Cry To His Base” Centered On A Call For Tax Hikes

April 15th, 2011 by MarkTwain · No Comments

President Obama’s speech on the debt and his budget plans Wednesday was disappointing on many levels, and press reactions reflected that. Reports called out the president for again presenting no details and passing the heavy lifting to others. Both The Washington Post and Politico highlighted the excessively partisan tone of the speech, while The Wall Street Journal and Charles Krauthammer blasted it as “dishonest” and full of “distortions.” And from a policy perspective, President Obama spent a lot of time talking about tax increases, which Politico deemed “a battle cry to his base.”

Much like his February budget plan, which editorial boards derided for “punting” on the serious debt problems facing the country, The Washington Post wrote of the speech, “even as he joined the battle, Obama immediately volleyed the substantive work of debt reduction back to Capitol Hill . . . .” And Politico noted, “Obama – none too eager to walk the tax plank alone ahead of a re-election year — intentionally left the details blank.” As The Post described, “Even as he savaged the GOP proposal, Obama was less than specific about his own. He did not say exactly how he would reform how corporations are taxed, what he would do to achieve a simpler tax system or which defense programs he would cut. On Social Security, he not only didn’t announce a proposal but would not say whether one was likely to be included in the final legislation.”

And while the speech was light on details, it was heavy on partisan attacks and finger-pointing. In The Washington Post’s description, “Obama announced his framework for deficit reduction in a speech that at times employed the highly partisan words he used on the campaign trail.” Politico didn’t dress it up: “President Barack Obama extended a fiscal olive branch to Republicans on Wednesday. Then he beat them up with it. Obama’s long-anticipated speech on the deficit at George Washington University was one of the oddest rhetorical hybrids of his presidency – a serious stab at reforming entitlements cloaked in a 2012 campaign speech that was one of the most overtly partisan broadsides he’s ever delivered from a podium with a presidential seal.”

The Wall Street Journal editors blasted Obama’s speech for “its blistering partisanship and multiple distortions,” declaring it “dishonest even by modern political standards.” Charles Krauthammer was unsparing in his criticism: “I’ve rarely heard a speech by a president so shallow, so hyper-partisan and so intellectually dishonest . . . .” He pointed out Obama “didn’t even get to his own alternative until more than halfway through the speech. and when he did, he threw out numbers suspended in mid-air with nothing under them with all kinds of goals and guidelines and triggers that mean nothing.”

As for the substance of the speech, Politico wrote, “The centerpiece was a battle cry to his base, a call for $1 trillion in new taxes on the rich . . . in lieu of the deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and now identified with the GOP.” The Wall Street Journal reported, “Mr. Obama’s plan includes a number of tax increases. He would eliminate the Bush-era tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year and eliminate a number of tax breaks, which he didn’t detail.” And in an editorial today, the WSJ identified “three significant tax increases—via higher top brackets, the tax hikes in ObamaCare and fewer tax deductions.”

Yet the president may find that even Democrats aren’t quite receptive to new tax increases. Forty Senate Democrats recently voted to extend the Bush tax cuts that Obama, after signing the extension, now says he wants to let expire again. A number of Democrat senators have recently said they aren’t on board with tax increases. According to KVNO News in Omaha, “In his weekly conference call with reporters, Senator Ben Nelson said he never supported Obama’s first proposal to roll back the cuts. And he still doesn’t believe now is the time to do it. ‘I’ve not changed my mind on that,’ Nelson said. ‘I look at any kind of talk about tax increases as being a distraction away from the essential job of reducing the growth in spending.’”

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