Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Food For Thought

I liked President Obama's words at his press conference more than I like what I understand to be his budget. At this point, having not read the whole thing, what I know is what I've read in various commentaries. My conclusion is like the line in the Woody Allen movie: the food is terrible and the portions are too small.

The first problem is that I'm still persuaded by economists I respect that this is the wrong time in the recovery to be cutting spending. Stiglitz, Krugman, Reich and others say pretty much the same thing. And it would seem that history backs them up, as the Depression was followed by recession when FDR moved too soon in that direction. So I understand.

The next is that a budget claiming to address deficits but which ignores defense spending and entitlement reform is hard to take seriously, at least as advertised. During the press conference, on the other hand, Obama said what I believe; namely, that any cuts must be assessed in terms of harm they'd do both to the needy and to the recovery. He also indicated the top-end Bush tax cuts aren't sustainable, but, having agreed to extension, they're not addressed in the budget. Maybe he figures anything is better than the scald and burn of teabaggers.

I think he knows what constitutes the right things and the right time, so I'm disappointed that he seems to have punted on both. Maybe he's concluded that he'll never get anything he proposes, and his only option will be the veto pen if the teabag budget is as crazy and dangerous as it threatens to be. But I think he'd be in the stronger longer position were he to state and defend, clearly and simply, what needs to be done, and when, straight up, no towing of the cow; and let the Rs make their case for why he's wrong. They claim he is, continuously and loudly. They have yet to propose workable alternatives.

In the long run, whether we can solve our fiscal problems will depend, I think, on how pervasive is teabaggerism. It gets all the attention and it certainly has plenty of votes. But are the sane ones completely and forever outnumbered? Rush Limbaugh has once again claimed that the people in the White House literally hate America. Only a few conservatives recoil from such talk. Nearly half of Republicans believe Obama is not a US citizen. Of those, 83% love Sarah Palin.

So, who has the budget ball? The crazy paranoid haters seem to be the ones for now. The only way out is for people to speak up; and that ought to start with the president. It wouldn't hurt, either, if there were more Rs willing to say this, and fewer going with crap like this.

We need smarter Republicans and a bolder president. The former, clearly, isn't going to happen, at least before it's too late; the latter, I'm pretty sure, is still possible, and it's our only hope. He has the intelligence and the knowledge. He just needs to trust himself -- and, more importantly, US -- a little more.


  1. So why don't YOU be a big man and give your Social Security back to Uncle Sam???
    Or to Charity, I mean your a published author, Surgeon, live in a State with no Income Tax, not like your eatin "Old Roy" with your fine Chianti..
    Or send NPR a check(You know you don't), just think of it as a really overpriced premium HBO with no porn...


  2. Seems to me this piece gets to the heart. We've known forever that Medicare is the big issue. Maybe we should focus first on trying to control healthcare costs. Oh wait.

  3. Good article, Chuck. Thanks. Many have mentioned (including me) the irony of the R's response to Obama's attempt to control Medicare costs -- the first willing to take it on. They, of course, demagogued it shrilly and cynically as killing grandma and death panels. Their political dishonesty knows no bounds.


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