While President Obama was travelling through Hawaii saying Americans had been “a little bit lazy,” he was taking a similarly lackadaisical stance toward the impending failure of the Deficit Supercommittee. Could it be any clearer that presidential politics has trumped good policy yet again?
The Supercommittee should have been a priority for our President. After all, the only reason it existed in the first place was his willingness to put party before principle. Let’s not forget that Obama and Speaker Boehner reached a tentative agreement that would have cut $3 trillion over the next decade. Everything was done except to dot the I’s and cross the T’s.
But then Obama caved at the first whiff of pushback from Congressional Democrats who were furious that the deal included reforms to Medicare and Social Security and “only” $800 billion in new revenues. Rather than stand up to the leftist-most elements of his party, Obama yanked his offer and demanded that Boehner offer another $400 billion in tax hikes.
It was a bridge too far.
As a result, Congress cobbled together a compromise that allowed them to punt once again on the question of how to control our deficit. But there are only so many times you stall, delay, and procrastinate before the deadline hits and your carriage turns into a pumpkin, or in this case, our nation turns into Greece.
The Supercommittee should have been decision time. And even then it would have only been a small decision, a mere precursor to the larger, more difficult choices that must be made to truly “solve” our impending crisis. After all, $1.2 trillion over 10 years is less than one-tenth of the $13 trillion in deficits that the CBO expects Washington to rack up over the next decade.
But Obama made the political decision to do nothing.
“Budget deals get done because presidents prod, plead, cajole, demand and threaten,” wrote Michael Gerson in yesterday’s Washington Post. “It is the executive, not the legislature that gives the budget process energy and direction. The supercommittee failed primarily because President Obama gave a shrug.”
America’s deficit deserves more than a shrug. It needs a guiding hand. And yet, President Obama appears to care little for what our deficit needs and a lot about what his presidential campaign needs.
Rather than endure another politically-bruising round of negotiations, the President, decided to keep his fingerprints off the Supercommittee altogether. He surely knows that his approval ratings are upside-down, never a good place to be in an election; but he also knows that Congress’ approval rating is rock bottom. Just how unpopular. A Huffington Post column title from last week explains it all: “Congress Approval Rating Lower Than Porn, Polygamy, BP Oil Spill, and ‘U.S. Going Communist.” Suffice it to say that everyone hates Congress.
So Obama has made the decision to run against Congress. To stay as far away as possible and blame them for everything that has gone wrong in the last three years. That’s not leadership. It’s abdication. And it’s giving up.
But if Americans are smart they will see through Obama’s latest political ploy. As Gerson smartly points out, “He is attempting to run against the failures of the political process he is supposed to lead. He wants to campaign against the brokenness of a system he was hired to repair. His critique is a confession of ineffectiveness.”
Ineffective is not something that Americans, and especially young adults, can afford. Time is growing perilously short for Washington to wean itself from its spending addiction and get a handle on its budget deficit. Accomplishing those feats will take a president willing to put aside popularity politics and make a decision to save Washington from itself. Obama has shown he is not that kind of leader, it’s incumbent upon us to find someone who is in 2012.