Jewish World Review August 8, 2011 / 8 Menachem-Av, 5771
It's up to voters now: To achieve real spending restraint, Obama must go
By Jack Kelly
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | A cynical American businessman, traveling abroad, was asked by perplexed foreigners to explain how our political system works.
"In America we have a Stupid Party (the Republicans) and an Evil Party (the Democrats)," the businessman is alleged to have said. "Usually, they are at each other's throats. But every now and then they get together in a bipartisan fashion and pass something that's both stupid and evil."
A lot of people on both ends of the political spectrum feel that way about the last-minute compromise on a bill to raise the ceiling on the national debt.
For conservatives, there isn't much in the deal to love:
Even if all the reductions in spending in it were real, they aren't nearly enough to stave off fiscal catastrophe. The bond rating agencies say the deficit must be reduced by $4 trillion over the next 10 years for the United States to keep its AAA credit rating. The most this deal will cut is $2.4 trillion, and that's iffy.
Most of the spending cuts aren't real. Almost nothing will be cut in the next fiscal year. The chief difference between the out years of a budget projection and a fairy tale is there is a moral to a fairy tale.
Most of the few spending cuts which are real are in defense.
So it isn't surprising that 66 Republicans in the House and 19 in the Senate voted against the deal and that many who voted for it did so while holding their noses.
If Republicans were disappointed, many Democrats were apoplectic.
Black Caucus chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo, famously described the deal as a "Satan sandwich." It throws Progressives "under the bus," said Rep. Raul Grivalja, D-Ariz, chairman of the House Progressive Caucus. It's "immoral, grotesque, unfair," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called it "a catastrophe on multiple levels."
The hysterical reaction of so many liberals highlights a paradox for conservatives. In substance, the debt ceiling compromise stinks. But it's not nearly as bad a deal as we had any right to expect. A Democrat is president, Democrats control the Senate and much of the news media regurgitate their talking points. They held most of the high cards.
Yet, wrote Atlantic correspondent and former Jimmy Carter speechwriter James Fallows, "Republicans, with control of only one house of Congress, succeeded on virtually every point that mattered to them,"
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. said, "The president tried to use the debt ceiling negotiations to secure the first of many tax increases that his party needs for its legacy of unfunded promises. He failed. Instead, Republicans won the policy debate by securing the first of many spending restraints we need to avoid a debt-driven economic calamity."
"[House Speaker John] Boehner has out-negotiated Obama at every turn," said Glenn Beaton of the Huffington Post.
"The president got rolled," a senior Democratic congressional staffer told The Washington Post.
"There are limits to what can be accomplished by those controlling only half of Congress, but the tea party has demonstrated that the limits are elastic under the pressure of disciplined and durable passion," wrote conservative columnist George Will.
Those conservatives who accuse Mr. Boehner of "betrayal" don't understand that taking the House gave the GOP only enough power to block Democratic plans for more spending, not enough to roll it back.
Most in the tea party appreciate what Mr. Boehner did with the resources available to him. A Pew poll published Tuesday indicated that 54 percent of tea party supporters now have a more favorable opinion of the speaker.
Americans like the idea of bipartisanship, but the practice of it in negotiating the debt-ceiling bill leaves most dissatisfied -- even though a majority of Republicans and Democrats voted for it.
That's because the conflict of visions is so stark. Democrats want to increase spending and issue more regulations. Republicans want to cut spending and slash red tape.
Only the voters can resolve this conflict of visions. Our fiscal house will not be put in order as long as Barack Obama is president and Democrats control the Senate.
Republicans will make the case for fiscal responsibility and limited government. Polls indicate most Americans will be receptive.
If Democrats were honest, they'd be forthright about their intentions. But since they read the same polls Republicans do, they'll fudge their positions and call Republicans names.
And then the voters will choose.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration.
© 2009, Jack Kelly