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Obama’s Debt Speech Still Under Fire For “Demagoguery” That “Went Too Far”‏

April 18th, 2011 by sclemons · No Comments

Following his widely criticized speech on the debt last week, The Washington Post reports today, “President Obama will hit the road this week and forcibly deliver his message that a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes on the rich is necessary to rein in the nation’s rocketing debt — a high-stakes effort to rally public support ahead of a series of contentious budget battles in Congress.” Yet if the message he’s looking to deliver is based on his speech, the president may run into more trouble, as more criticisms arise.

The Wall Street Journal editorializes today, “A dominant theme of President Obama’s budget speech last Wednesday was that our fiscal problems would vanish if only the wealthiest Americans were asked ‘to pay a little more.’ Since he’s asking, imagine that instead of proposing to raise the top income tax rate well north of 40%, the President decided to go all the way to 100%. Let’s stipulate that this is a thought experiment, because Democrats don’t need any more ideas. But it’s still a useful experiment because it exposes the fiscal futility of raising rates on the top 2%, or even the top 5% or 10%, of taxpayers to close the deficit. The mathematical reality is that in the absence of entitlement reform on the Paul Ryan model, Washington will need to soak the middle class—because that’s where the big money is.”

The WSJ editors note, “This is politically risky, however, so Mr. Obama’s game has always been to pretend not to increase taxes for middle class voters while looking for sneaky ways to do it. His first budget in 2009 included a “climate revenues” section from the indirect carbon tax of cap and trade, which of course would be passed down to all consumers. Such Democratic luminaries as Nancy Pelosi have often chattered about a European-style value-added tax, or VAT, which from a liberal perspective has the virtue of applying to every level of production or service and therefore is largely hidden from the people who pay it.”

They conclude, “Mr. Obama’s speech was disgraceful for its demagoguery but also because it contained nothing remotely commensurate to the scale of the problem. If the President had come out for a large tax on the middle class, like a VAT, then at least the country could have debated the choice of paying for the government we have or modernizing it a la Mr. Ryan so it is affordable. Instead the President will continue targeting the middle class for tax increases to pay for an entitlement state on autopilot, while claiming he only wants to tax the rich.”

Meanwhile, FactCheck.org has examined the portion of the speech where President Obama attacked House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan and found that he “went too far.” In their summary of the problems with Obama’s speech, FactCheck.org writes:

  • “Obama claimed the Republicans’ ‘Path to Prosperity’ plan would cause ‘up to 50 million Americans … to lose their health insurance.’ But that worst-case figure is based in part on speculation and assumptions.
  • He said the GOP plan would replace Medicare with ‘a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry.’ That’s an exaggeration. Nothing would change for those 55 and older. Those younger would get federal subsidies to buy private insurance from a Medicare exchange set up by the government.
  • He said ‘poor children,’ ‘children with autism’ and ‘kids with disabilities’ would be left ‘to fend for themselves.’ That, too, is an exaggeration. The GOP says states would have ‘freedom and flexibility to tailor a Medicaid program that fits the needs of their unique populations.’ It doesn’t bar states from covering those children.
  • He falsely claimed that making the Bush tax cuts permanent would give away ‘$1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire.’ That figure — which is actually $807 billion over 10 years — refers to tax cuts for individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples earning more than $250,000, not just millionaires and billionaires.
  • He said the tax burden on the wealthy is the lowest it has been in 50 years. But the most recent nonpartisan congressional analysis showed that the average federal tax rate for high-income taxpayers was lower in 1986.”

FactCheck.org further notes, “Obama also repeated a deceptive talking point about his health care law, saying: ‘Already, the reforms we passed in the health care law will reduce our deficit by $1 trillion.’ As we wrote earlier this year, that’s a rough calculation based on a 20-year projection from CBO, a projection it says is uncertain. . . . In March testimony before Congress, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said: ‘CBO does not generally provide cost estimates beyond the 10-year projection period,’ and noted that the ‘impact, however, becomes more and more uncertain the farther into the future one projects.’”

As Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) said in the Weekly Republican Address Saturday, “[U]nfortunately, in his speech this week on the deficit, President Obama took us three steps backwards. Instead of describing the threat and bringing both sides together, the president attacked those who have a different vision of the government. . . . By pretending that Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security are sound financially when they are not, the president is jeopardizing the benefits for the very Americans he says he wants to protect. . . . As someone who has spent most of my 63 years outside of politics, I know there isn’t a problem we can’t solve if we do it together. But the only way we can solve them is to put our political careers on the line and stop engaging in petty political attacks.”

Related:

Rasmussen Reports: Election 2012: Obama Between 42% and 49% Against All Republicans Tested

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