Jewish World Review April 30, 2012/ 8 Iyar, 5772
Why does Obama want a second term?
By Robert Robb
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Does Barack Obama really want to be re-elected president?
I am being only partly facetious in asking.
At a personal level, it is clear that Obama does want to be re-elected -- really, really badly.
He is campaigning vigorously. And he is campaigning aggressively.
Gone is the Obama of the New Politics, the post-partisan politician. In is Obama the bare-knuckled partisan brawler.
Republicans aren't people with different ideas who need to be worked with to achieve consensus. According to Obama the stump-speaker, Republicans are snakes in the grass that will bite you if you aren't rich.
So, Obama really wants to keep the job. But to do what?
When Obama first ran in 2008, he had an ambitious and comprehensive agenda. He wanted to stimulate the economy with government spending and substantially increase the regulation of financial markets. He wanted to enact universal health care and midwife a transition to a green-energy economy.
In foreign policy, he wanted to unwind the war in Iraq and win the war in Afghanistan. He wanted to make American leadership in the world welcomed by subtler diplomacy, more understanding of other countries and cultures and being a better world citizen.
So, what does Obama want to do if given a second term?
He wants to increase taxes on the rich and oil companies. Let's assume that gets done, that every tax increase Obama has proposed gets enacted. The federal government will still have an annual deficit of nearly $1 trillion and accumulated debt in excess of 100 percent of GDP. What does Obama propose to do about that?
On foreign policy, what's Obama's second-term agenda other than a reversion to George H.W. Bush's approach of just handling things as they land in the in-box? In the first term, he has hinted at an agenda of sharp reductions in nuclear weapons. Shouldn't the American people be given some clue as to what he has in mind before voting in November?
There was a revealing moment this week, when the Social Security and Medicare trustees issued their sobering annual report, making clear the pressing need for reform. Social Security benefits are already exceeding payroll taxes dedicated to pay for them. Medicare hospitalization payouts have exceeded dedicated payroll taxes since 2008. The general treasury paid over $400 billion for the two programs last year, and the cost will rapidly increase as the ratio of workers to retirees continues to shrink.
So, what was the Obama administration's response to this report? It attacked Mitt Romney.
Romney, you see, has actually proposed to do something about Social Security and Medicare's finances. He proposes to increase the Social Security retirement age and reduce inflation increases for more affluent beneficiaries. He proposes a premium-support system for Medicare, with subsidies a function of income.
Obama has proposed nothing on Social Security. His health-care bill claims huge savings through reducing Medicare reimbursements to providers. Here's what the trustees' report says about that: "(S)ustaining these payment reductions indefinitely will require unprecedented efficiency-enhancing innovations in health-care payment and delivery systems that are by no means certain."
The majority of the trustees are Obama appointees. And even they are saying that the only thing he has proposed on Medicare is a fantasy.
The question, why do you want to be president, is considered a threshold test for new aspirants. Ted Kennedy famously fumbled it and seriously damaged his prospects in 1980.
It is rarely asked of an incumbent seeking re-election because the answer is usually self-evident. In Obama's case, it isn't.
Someone should ask him the question. The answer would be interesting.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
© 2012, The Arizona Republic