Obama’s vision for America: double-counting our way to a better future
posted at 11:30 am on September 7, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
Last night, Barack Obama took his last best shot at persuading the people of America that he deserves another four years to get it right. A number of those people probably tuned the speech out after this callout 54 words in: “Joe Biden, thank you for being the best vice president I could ever hope for.” And he wasn’t joking.
Then again, there is much to be read into that statement. Picking the loose-tongued, gaffe-a-minute Biden as his running mate was one of Obama’s earliest official acts, predating his election. It should have provided fair warning about the choices he would make.
And yet in spite of the choices he did make—choices that have saddled our children and their children with imponderable debt, choices that have driven the nation closer to, not further from, the brink of ruin—he thinks he’s the better bet come Nov. 6.
To make that case, last night he offered “specifics.” These were presented, mind you, as goals, not promises. For a man who has taken an “incomplete” for his first term in office, he’s setting his sights awfully low in preparation for his makeup exam.
So what are some of his goals? They include putting 100,000 new math and science teachers to work. Another 600,000 workers in the natural gas industry will find themselves drawing a paycheck under an Obama second term. How he intends to do this is anybody’s guess. Suffice it to say that the vagueness of the boast is ironic coming from a man who scoffed at his opponent’s plan to add 12 million jobs on the basis that it was short on specifics.
One goal that Obama did flesh out was his plan to cut our deficit by $4 trillion. If it sounds familiar, it’s because he said it before. In 2008, he promised that if elected he’d halve the deficit. We all know how that turned out.
But it was the devil in the details of this rehashed pledge that merits a closer look. Here is what he said:
I’ll use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work—rebuilding roads and bridges, schools, and runways. After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home. [Emphasis added]
This, too, is old hat and not just the promise but the methodology. Notice the highlighted words in the quote. Now read what the Associated Press wrote in its “fact check” of the speech:
The idea of taking war savings to pay for other programs is budgetary sleight of hand, given that the wars were paid for with increased debt. Obama can essentially ‘pay down our debt,’ as he said, by borrowing less now that war is ending. But he still must borrow to do the ‘extra nation-building’ he envisions.
It is the same accounting trick that he used to try to justify looting Medicare to pay for Obamacare, then claim that the same $716 was being spent to shore up the Medicare trust fund. It’s double-counting.
He even had the temerity to refer to his chicanery in his speech, if indirectly and as if it was a good thing: “We will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care, not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more.” Technically, the claim is partly true. Seniors won’t pay more over the long haul. They will, however, see the range of services available to them shrink dramatically, and so will the number of physicians who continue to see Medicare patients in the face of declining reimbursements.
His speech ended with some of his patented high-blown oratory:
America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is harder—but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer—but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on earth.
Words like these may have dazzled those willing to be duped by them four years ago. But at least some of those people have awakened and seen the light. They now see this kind of stale, empty rhetoric for what it is.
The horizon is distant. But under Obama it has dimmed into a flat line that barely distinguishes the earth from the sky. That long journey is best taken with Obama as one of us lowly pilgrims, not as our leader.
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