Friday, May 15, 2009

But why did Obama say that?

Everybody is quoting the remarks President Obama made yesterday in New Mexico, in which he called deficit spending "unsustainable":
"We can't keep on just borrowing from China . . We have to pay interest on that debt, and that means we are mortgaging our children’s future with more and more debt. . . . It will have a dampening effect on our economy."
Which sounds like he read my blog yesterday. Given the $789 billion stimulus that Obama pushed through Congress in February, and given that his first annual budget plan is $1.8 trillion in the red, this "debt is bad" speech provokes a lot of eye-rolling from conservatives. Instapundit is flabbergasted, for example, and Professor Jacobson sees this as an expedition into "economic bizarro land."

The question that intrigues me, however, is why Obama suddenly decided to start talking like a fiscal hawk. Did his speechwriters just decide to recycle phrases from last year's campaign speeches, when Obama routinely excoriated the Bush administration for its deficit spending? Or is this some new rhetorical gambit?

Jules Crittenden says he's actually "encouraged" to hear Obama acknowledge the negative economic impact of deficit spending. Don't get encouraged too fast, Jules.

My guess is that this "debt is bad" line is not about cutting spending. It's about raising taxes.

That is to say, if we assume that this speech about "unsustainable" debt signals a new theme that will become part of the administration's economic policy, Obama can only be laying the groundwork for massive tax hikes:
  • A. We can't keep borrowing money, because that will "have a dampening effect on our economy";
  • B. However, we can't cut entitlement spending, because that would hurt poor people and old people who are dependent on federal aid;
  • Ergo . . .
  • C. We must raise taxes on "the rich," who "aren't paying their fair share."
And if any critic dares to point out that raising taxes will also "have a dampening effect," Obama will be prepared to accuse them of fiscal irresponsibility. This is essentially a repeat of what Walter Mondale did in his 1984 presidential campaign, when he promised to raise taxes, trying to cast the tax-cutting Reagan as a reckless spendthrift.

We'll see if Obama has any more luck with this argument than Mondale did.


  1. He is trying to use the deficit crisis to justify his plan for health-care "savings" through a giant new entitlement program and health-care rationing. It is twisted in the extreme.

    David Brooks is begging to be fisked today.

  2. But the President promised he wouldn't raise taxes..

    If you can't believe a promise from a democrat then what's this world coming too?

    (do I really need to add a sarc tag?)

  3. "We can't keep on just borrowing from China . . We have to pay interest on that debt, and that means we are mortgaging our children’s future with more and more debt. . . . It will have a dampening effect on our economy."
    no shit, sherlock

  4. He was able to say it he because he has the self-deception common to most very scary people (and nearly all politicians).

    Cognitive dissonance is too soft - the guy's like a sun and a black hole all at once.

  5. Frankly, I think people are giving him too much credit: I think he sees (probably via internal polling) that people are at the end of their rope with the debt/spending/etc. and this is just part of a dog and pony show to triangulate around an issue he created, i.e. he's attempting to set up a defense for the shitstorm that is coming down the pike.

  6. My bet is that next year he cuts his budget defecit in half. That way he can be lauded with praise for being fiscally conservative while the MSM conveniently ignores that the "cut" budget will still be double that of 2008.

    He's just taking the "I'm going to cut $100 million" gag to the next level.

  7. Don't be fooled. Everything--EVERYTHING--this man says has a double meaning, which is to say, it's not what he says but what he DOES that counts.

    This is government Alinsky style. He's already duped 52% of the electorate, and hes gunning for the other 48%.

    Of course going on about fiscal responsibility while proposing billion dollar bailouts, billion dollar spending and deficits as far as the eye can see, is a complete contradiction.

    But the only thing the media wants to ask is how he takes his burgers.

    We're about to get creamed in taxes.

    Wake up people.

  8. John G. is on the right track.

    NEVER expect or look for consistency between what Obama says and what he does. Those are two very different and unrelated things. He says what he believes will be popular, he then does what he thinks will serve him. There is no connection. There need be no connection.

    If the one thing, say a popular promise or patriotic affirmation, somehow serves the other, then so much the better. But, that is only coincidence. He has realized that it is no longer necessary for words to align with actions. So few people actually understand complete paragraphs that he need only utter pleasant and prudent sounding phrases to explain away thuggish power plays.

    The important thing with him is to continue saying popular things and continue grabbing power by any means possible.

  9. Now, as with the previous two years, Barak Obama is showing just how powerful he is in steering public debate. If you've noticed, he and his minions are very rarely off message, i.e. "95% of Americans will get a tax cut". The Republicans have not been able to sustain a single political offensive because Obama is very craftily using his political and oratorical skills, along with his willing accomplices in the MSM, to change the subject in order to maintain control over the national discussion.

    Another major problem is that a substantial number of Obama's critics significantly UNDERESTIMATE him. Obama understands the power of his rhetoric, and masterfully chooses his words. Once Obama's opposition gets a bearing on him, Obama orchestrates, exclusively by proxy, a diversion by which he personally never engages his detractors. This tactic cleverly never illuminates Obama as the protagonist. The MSM also 'Teflon coats' Obama which disrupts rival political attacks in which these attacks do not stick and eventually slide off him harmlessly. Obama is dubiously cunning, and lucky. A frustrating combination for his adversaries.

    As we can plainly in this instance, Obama masterfully uses his 'bully pulpit' to co-op this position from his advesaries, Fiscal Conservatism. With this strategy, Obama attempts to woo the constituents of these same adversaries into thinking that he holds their values. However, at a later point in time, Obama will bend this definition to suit his agenda. In fact this subversion of his political opponent's positions is proving to be Obama's most powerful weapons. It is amazing for me to watch; Obama actually has the audacity to embrace his opponent's positions, co-op them as his own, then boldly imply these are his ideas. Simply Brilliant! Not honorable, but diabolically brilliant.