As I and many others expected, Obama today gave a speech about nothing much at all — if you don’t count attacking the only viable debt-reduction plan out there. He didn’t endorse the Simpson-Bowles plan. He did not propose a Social Security fix. He did not provide an alternative to top-down rationing of Medicare. One wonders how the White House thinks this helps the president.
It was rather embarrassing in what it did offer: negotiations with Joe Biden, more defense cuts and taxes on the rich. How utterly trite.
You knew he was going nowhere by the fist half of his speech which was a condescending review of how we spilled so much ink:
But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed. We increased spending dramatically for two wars and an expensive prescription-drug program — but we didn’t pay for any of this new spending. Instead, we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts — tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country; tax cuts that will force us to borrow an average of $500 billion every year over the next decade.
He left out the part in which he spent trillions in his first two years. He mostly wants us to know it’s not his fault:
When I took office, our projected deficit was more than $1 trillion. On top of that, we faced a terrible financial crisis and a recession that, like most recessions, led us to temporarily borrow even more. In this case, we took a series of emergency steps that saved millions of jobs, kept credit flowing, and provided working families extra money in their pockets. It was the right thing to do, but these steps were expensive, and added to our deficits in the short term.
He then rolled out a specific, positive plan for reining in the drivers of our debt. No, not at all. He then launched into an attack on Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan, accusing him of things he didn’t propose. (“It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy insurance, tough luck — you’re on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.”) No, there is no voucher and the poor will still have heavily subsidized Medicare. He says 50 million Americans will lose health care. I have no idea where that comes from. Obama seems not to care about accuracy, even on basic points.
His own “plan” is, well, not a plan at all:
I’m proposing a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 12 years. It’s an approach that borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission I appointed last year, and builds on the roughly $1 trillion in deficit reduction I already proposed in my 2012 budget. It’s an approach that puts every kind of spending on the table, but one that protects the middle class, our promise to seniors, and our investments in the future.
How does he get there? “The first step in our approach is to keep annual domestic spending low by building on the savings that both parties agreed to last week — a step that will save us about $750 billion over 12 years. We will make the tough cuts necessary to achieve these savings, including in programs I care about, but I will not sacrifice the core investments we need to grow and create jobs.”
I told you, don’t expect anything specific.
Next he comes up — shocker! — with an idea to slash the defense budget further. No word how we fight three wars with less.
On health care he (again — no surprise to me), offers more of the same:
Already, the reforms we passed in the health-care law will reduce our deficit by $1 trillion. My approach would build on these reforms. We will reduce wasteful subsidies and erroneous payments. We will cut spending on prescription drugs by using Medicare’s purchasing power to drive greater efficiency and speed generic brands of medicine onto the market. We will work with governors of both parties to demand more efficiency and accountability from Medicaid. We will change the way we pay for health care — not by procedure or the number of days spent in a hospital, but with new incentives for doctors and hospitals to prevent injuries and improve results. And we will slow the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services seniors need.
In other words, if you think the ObamaCare “savings” are real we’ll have more. And we’ll be boosting the Medicare board that is designed to slash care. It is called rationing. At least we won’t hear more whining about cutting care to old people. (Well, we will, but remember who’s idea the rationing board is.)
And then he’s going to raise taxes:
My budget calls for limiting itemized deductions for the wealthiest 2% of Americans — a reform that would reduce the deficit by $320 billion over 10 years. But to reduce the deficit, I believe we should go further. That’s why I’m calling on Congress to reform our individual tax code so that it is fair and simple — so that the amount of taxes you pay isn’t determined by what kind of accountant you can afford. I believe reform should protect the middle class, promote economic growth and build on the Fiscal Commission’s model of reducing tax expenditures so that there is enough savings to both lower rates and lower the deficit. And as I called for in the State of the Union, we should reform our corporate tax code as well, to make our businesses and our economy more competitive.
What is that reform? Who knows.
And after more sweet words about not much of anything he was done.
I feel some vindication in predicting he’d offer nothing helpful. But I do wonder: How does undermining the left’s “we don’t need to cut” mantra and offering no real plan to achieve debt reduction (to please conservatives and independents) help him in 2012?