American Elephants


The Budget Battle Begins. A Cynical Opening Play. by The Elephant's Child

Over at Chicago Boyz, Lexington Green lays out what he believes Obama’s Budget Battle strategy to be. Obama’s strategy  is deeply irresponsible and intended not to save the country, but to get Obama reelected.

Obama has sent a budget to Congress. It makes no effort whatsoever to either cut or control spending.  He is not, as some people claim “failing to lead.”  He is setting up a confrontation, and he plans to win.

Obama is betting that he can force the GOP to make their proposed cuts, which he can blame them for, which he can truthfully say he does not support. Then he can attack the Republicans for making the cuts. He will appeal to the people who are suffering from the cuts, and strip away GOP support. They will be angry and mobilized.

Obama then plans to force the GOP into a funding crisis just as Clinton did. Obama plans to destroy the GOP reform wave of 2011 just as Clinton destroyed the GOP reform effort in 1995.

Obama’s team attempted to use the Tucson massacre in the same fashion that Clinton used the Oklahoma City bombings, to discredit the GOP. Obama is acutely aware of the Clinton playbook. This is another re-run.

If Obama wins, then the GOP / Tea Party effort is over and the Democrats have won the whole ball game. Obama gets reelected, the GOP is finished as a political party, and we have a mess for some number of years while a new party forms. But odds are it will be too late by then. A majority of people will be dependent on the Government.

It is that serious. Obama’s brazen, no-cuts budget proposal is not a sign of weakness.

It is a bold chess move that demands a strong response.

Other than a few gimmicks and a few cynical “cuts” like slashing the heating oil subsidy for grannies in the Northeast (that aren’t going to happen) it is simply the same budget he submitted last year with an increase in spending for his useless green fantasies tucked in.   He has decided to go for a showdown— probably at the advice of the Center for American Progress — because it worked for Clinton, and he thinks it will work for him.  Bipartisanship is simply not part of the president’s policies.

Obama believes deeply in what he calls his “gift” — his ability to sway public opinion with his rhetoric. A compliant media will help to shape the public mood, and nobody understands all this economics stuff anyway.

Obama’s strategy is shown most clearly by his complete ignoring of the work of his own Fiscal Commission, which did serious work and recommended $4 trillion in needed cuts over ten years.  The  fact that he did not take their recommendations seriously is telling.

Obama is betting that Republican reforms will scare people.  He has often demonstrated his lack of respect for either the knowledge or education levels of the American people.  He is betting that people will be unable to follow the arguments in the budget battle, be  bewildered by the big numbers, and easy to influence with his speeches about how Republican reforms will harm them and damage the nation.  Swaying public opinion is right up his alley.

It is a transparent effort, and deeply cynical.  But this is not the timid Congress of 1995.  These new members of Congress were elected to go forth and do battle.  The people who elected them believe in free enterprise and American exceptionalism, and they will be heard.


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“He is betting that people will be unable to follow the arguments in the budget battle, be bewildered by the big numbers, and easy to influence with his speeches about how Republican reforms will harm them and damage the nation.”

Unfortunately, I think he is right. I have noticed this kind of phenomenon among the neighbors of my parents, who live in a middle class to upper middle class suburb. These people are typically college educated, some even with PhDs. But on matters of public policy, they are as dumb as bunnies.

I recall several years ago (during the early Bush Jr. years) participating in a community litter-cleaning event with these people. Congress had just passed, and Bush had signed into law, a whopping Farm Bill, one that had increased spending by many billions a year. Out of curiosity, I queried my parents neighbors about what they thought of that. Their reactions showed they had no clue as to what the money was being spent on, and many thought it was important “to support our farmers because of 9/11, you know.” (Go figure!)

I have also gotten the distinct impression over the years that while most people have a gut feeling for the difference between thousands of dollars and millions of dollars, the difference between millions and billions of dollars is harder to grasp. So while many people will agree that some program that sounds silly (often one supporting important basic research that they don’t understand) and costs a few millions of dollars a year deserves the ax, other programs that really are economically damaging and wasteful (like the ethanol tax credit) and cost billions of dollars a year are able to continue, thanks in no small part to the ability of the recipient industries to fund slick propaganda campaigns supporting their subsidies.

I don’t have an answer, at least for the short term. But when I contrast the vapidness of U.S. talk radio with what is available to — and listened by — people in Britain, it comes as no surprise to me that the average citizen in Britain seems to understand the issues at stake in debates over public policy than does the average American.

These are all merely personal impressions, of course.

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