Lost in the midst of the fiscal cliff drama are President Obama’s outrageous offers. A cursory review of his plans reveals he is fundamentally unserious about addressing our nation’s coming fiscal crisis. This should come as no surprise, of course. Throughout his presidency and even during his reelection campaign, President Obama spurned serious solution in favor of big-government gimmicks.
President Obama’s initial offer was, as Heritage said, “totally misguided.” The package consisted of “at least $4 of tax increases to $1 of spending cuts.” Funny, I don’t think Americans in swing states saw Obama for America running ads touting a $1.6 trillion tax increase. Nor did the Obama campaign announce they’d ask for carte blanche authority to increase the nation’s debt limit. They saved all of that for AFTER they were guaranteed another four years.
Since that initial offer, the Obama administration mostly played coy, only recently moving off their post-election positions. While it may represent a move in the “right direction,” as Speaker Boehner’s office said, it certainly doesn’t amount to a “major concession,” which is how it was spun in the media. USA Today described it this way:
A new proposal handed to House Speaker John Boehner on Monday drops Obama’s long-held insistence that taxes rise on individuals earning more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000. He is now offering a new threshold of $400,000 and lowering his 10-year tax revenue goals from the $1.6 trillion he had argued for a few weeks ago.
Obama also abandoned his demand for permanent borrowing authority. Instead, he is now asking for a new debt limit that would last two years, putting its renewal beyond the politics of a 2014 midterm election.
Simply dropping untenable policy positions is not laudable. It may signal that the President wants to strike a deal, as opposed to hop off the ledge, but it’s not as though his solution would do anything to solve our nation’s long term fiscal problems. As Heritage’s Patrick Knudsen reminds us, the sort of deal proposed by President Obama has never resulted in more than paper savings:
Furthermore, history shows that broad bipartisan compromises between the White House and Congress have typically just yielded higher taxes, while the promised spending restraint (except in national defense) and deficit reduction have failed to materialize.
Of course, we know from President Obama’s budgets, he is not committed to deficit reduction. His FY2013 budget increases spending from “today’s $3.8 trillion to $5.8 trillion in 2022.” Heritage continues:
Throughout the decade, outlays hold stubbornly above 22 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), more than twice the New Deal’s share of the economy in its peak years. In constant dollars, outlays are more than three times the peak of World War II.
The President is proposing to increase spending immediately in 2012; he proposes a spending boost in FY 2012 to get the economy going. The President’s budget delivers a fourth consecutive annual deficit exceeding $1 trillion, and then makes it worse with another round of not-so-shovel-ready construction projects and government “investments” totaling $178 billion. Among these are the typical road, bridge, and school construction—then they go alarmingly beyond the usual “infrastructure” arguments to fund teachers’ pay.
Obama’s future deficit reduction comes mainly from Budget Control Act cuts already in place, $848 billion in discredited phantom “savings” from the wind-down of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, taking credit for reductions in 2011 appropriations, and roughly $1.8 trillion in unnecessary tax increases for those earning more than $250,000 and for the oil and gas industries.
Yet even with the hefty tax increases and illusory savings, the President’s deficits over the next decade only fall below $575 billion once (in 2018) and climb back to $704 billion (in 2022)—again, only assuming the tax increases and mystical savings cited above.
So what is President Obama’s end game? Perhaps it is to split the Republican Party down the middle by convincing some in the GOP they must raise taxes. Heritage’s JD Foster explains any move to decouple the 2001- and 2003-era tax rates would “constitute a clear path toward surrender on conservative principles.” That is what President Obama wants – he wants Republicans and conservatives to abandon the principles that earned them a majority in 2010.
And even as President Obama attempts to destroy the opposition party, he is committed to advancing his big-government spending agenda. In the latest proposal, the AP noted President Obama’s consistent calls for a “fresh economic stimulus measures.” And even though every plan he proposed has had the same theme – spend now, save later – White House spokesman Jay Carney chastised Republicans’ Plan B proposal saying it “does little to address our fiscal challenges with zero spending cuts.” This coming from the same folks who “will not play [the] game” of cutting spending while increasing the debt ceiling.
Oh, did I mention their policies would lead to 1.1 million fewer private-sector jobs?
To be absolutely clear, the Obama administration is fundamentally unserious. Congressional Republicans must avoid the pitfalls of negotiating with a man who is committed to the destruction of his political opposition. Heritage explains the right things to do on the fiscal cliff have been ruled unacceptable by President Obama:
So the two sides should reject both of these bad choices, take a breather, and pass a simple extension of all current policy—all tax policy, all spending policy without sequestration cuts—until the end of March.
Why March? Because that is when the legislation funding the government expires, and it is near the time when the government will exhaust its capacity to circumvent the existing debt limit. This strategy means we avoid the cliff and the harm that would come from it. It also means Washington kicks the can again. But it keeps the pressure on to negotiate in good faith and to come up with a resolution, because some legislation will have to pass by the end of March to keep the government in operation.
Policymakers have intentionally and with careful forethought put us in this terrible position by creating the fiscal cliff themselves. Kicking the can a few months down the road is not a good solution. But, sadly, it is better than the only available alternatives.
Republicans in Congress cannot succumb to Obama’s outrageousness.