When the president said the unemployed couldn’t wait 14 more months for help and we had to do something right away, I believed him. When administration officials called around saying that the possibility of a double-dip recession was horrifyingly real and that it would be irresponsible not to come up with a package that could pass right away, I believed them.
I liked Obama’s payroll tax cut ideas and urged Republicans to play
along. But of course I’m a sap. When the president unveiled the second
half of his stimulus it became clear that this package has nothing to do
with helping people right away or averting a double dip. This is a
campaign marker, not a jobs bill.
It recycles ideas that couldn’t get passed even when Democrats
controlled Congress. In his remarks Monday the president didn’t try to
win Republicans to even some parts of his measures. He repeated the
populist cries that fire up liberals but are designed to enrage
moderates and conservatives.
He claimed we can afford future Medicare costs if we raise taxes on the
rich. He repeated the old half-truth about millionaires not paying as
much in taxes as their secretaries. (In reality, the top 10 percent of
earners pay nearly 70 percent of all income taxes, according to the
I.R.S. People in the richest 1 percent pay 31 percent of their income to
the federal government while the average worker pays less than 14
percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.)
This wasn’t a speech to get something done. This was the sort of speech
that sounded better when Ted Kennedy was delivering it. The result is
that we will get neither short-term stimulus nor long-term debt
reduction anytime soon, and I’m a sap for thinking it was possible.
Yes, I’m a sap. I believed Obama when he said he wanted to move beyond
the stale ideological debates that have paralyzed this country. I always
believe that Obama is on the verge of breaking out of the conventional
categories and embracing one of the many bipartisan reform packages that
are floating around.
But remember, I’m a sap. The White House has clearly decided that in a
town of intransigent Republicans and mean ideologues, it has to be mean
and intransigent too. The president was stung by the liberal charge that
he was outmaneuvered during the debt-ceiling fight. So the White House
has moved away from the Reasonable Man approach or the centrist Clinton
approach. (Continues here)