Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Talk is cheap

Rick North, a Portland acquaintance, has written an insightful analysis of President Obama's budget deficit speech last week.

Here is what North wrote:

I was glued to my TV Wednesday morning when President Obama made his speech on the budget deficit. Trying to counter the rising tide of discontent among his fellow Democrats who are outraged by the Republicans and dismayed by his constant caving in to them, Obama gave one of his trademark compelling speeches. Love him or hate him, he’s made for the podium.

I was encouraged with what he said and how he came across. As others have suggested, I think this speech was a defining moment in his presidency. But I was disturbed by a number of things he didn’t say – a continuation of missed opportunities.

Here’s my take on some of his major points:

Thumbs Up
· He articulated that the budget was a moral document, not just a bunch of numbers disconnected from real people.
· He clarified the difference in vision between the Republicans (government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich) and Democrats (defense of the legitimacy of government (beyond waging war) and compassion for the poor, sick, elderly, students, unemployed).
· He didn’t budge on privatization of Social Security.
· And privatization of Medicare? Forget it.
· Dismantling of Medicaid and sending it to the states in block grants (in other words, cutting the hell out of it)? No way.
· He pledged to eliminate the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy.

Thumbs Down · The 800-pound gorilla in the budget room is the enormous military budget. Obama only made general references to cutting waste but never touched closing unnecessary bases and weapons systems and getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The military is 60 percent of our discretionary budget.
· He didn’t touch taxing capital gains at the same rate as regular income.
· He said that for every dollar of income raised, there would be two dollars of cuts – this should be reversed.

· He didn’t come out strongly about loopholes that allow companies like Exxon/Mobil and General Electric to pay no taxes.
· He never said a word about a tax on the Wall Street’s stock transactions – these are the guys that got us into this financial mess and they should be held responsible to get us out. But as I said in my last update, Obama is hoping to get big bucks from them for the 2012 campaign and I don’t think he has the guts to challenge them.

Even when beautifully delivered, talk is cheap. Obama has, on numerous occasions, made promises he didn’t keep – remember his pledge to restore habeas corpus.

As much as I agree with Rick's assessment, I would add to his "thumbs down" section the President's failure to link human rights and "free trade" (which comes with costs that never make it "free." Think of lost American jobs, exploited workers, environmental crimes). He also neglected to point out the inconsistency between "The American Dream" and our unsustainable consumer economy. He said zero about maintaining and raising the estate tax.

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