We’ve already gone through the analysis of the Ryan, Romney, and Obama budgets and find them all lacking. They are all basically political documents rather than practical plans to create more jobs and reduce the deficit.
As I wonder why, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is because of the way that politics is practiced in this country.
Mitt Romney said basically the same thing the other day when he complained that he can no longer have a casual conversation with the media. That’s because everything that he says can be fodder for today’s brand of “gotcha” politics. That is true not only of Romney but of Obama too. It is very difficult for them to be themselves, warts and all. Instead they have to be a caricature of themselves constructed by their respective political consultants, pollsters, and focus groups. They have a message created by these people that includes an image designed best to communicate the message. Those caricatures end up being prisons for both candidates.
We can sense both candidates struggling to express their humanity behind the masks that their campaigns create for them. That makes us uneasy because we can tell that neither candidate is telling us the truth. Those less in touch with reality express this in conspiracy theories and fanatical searches for the big lie that would expose either Obama or Romney as a fraud. The fact is that the big lie is that they are both telling us somebody else’s story and claiming that it is their own. The truth that this reveals is that both candidates are willing to become a different person in order to win (or retain) the Presidency.
The sad thing is that I think that Obama at least, could more easily win re-election being the person that I think he really is.
He has been told by his campaign staff that he can’t run on this record, because of the narratives that the Republicans are already attempting to pin on him – socialist, irresponsible spender, weak leader, etc.
He is the first President in history to pass significant healthcare reform. The provisions that are already in place prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions and allow families to include their children up to age 26 on their policies. Those two provisions alone have likely benefited every family in the country.
He should be standing up and taking credit for it in every speech and asking for a show of hands of those who have a young adult on their insurance, have someone with a pre-existing condition in their family, or have a close relative or friend taking advantage of one of these two benefits.
Instead this program has been attacked as socialized medicine.
He should be standing up to this claim by pointing out that the CURRENT system is the real socialized medicine. That’s because anybody without insurance can go to any emergency room anywhere in the country, receive treatment, and hand the bill to all of us who are insured in the form of increased rates. It’s that practice that Obamacare ends. Obama is, in fact, a champion for private insurance; and yet he has allowed himself to be painted as a healthcare socialist.
Obama did save the domestic auto industry and that industry is leading us out of recession because of their robust hiring rebound. What he fails to mention in this stump speech is that, in the process, he also required this “new” auto industry to adopt the most aggressive fuel efficiency standards in history. Auto fleets will have to average 57.5 MPG by 2025. That’s up from the 27.5 MPG requirement today. This will not only drive innovation which creates new markets and new jobs, but also cut our fuel consumption dramatically over the next decade.
High energy prices have driven a wave of new domestic drilling using new technology. New sources of supply coupled with aggressive conservation campaigns promise to turn us from a net importer to a net exporter of energy. You simply can’t understate the profound impact on domestic and global politics when the United States is no longer dependent on imported oil.
Instead of telling the country how different life will be when this country again becomes energy independent, he has to defend himself against claims that gas prices are too high. The goal of energy independence is not to bring down gas prices, but to bring down oil-based dictatorships that use their wealth to threaten our country and warp our foreign policy.
Finally Obama has allowed himself to be boxed in by those who are intent to revise the history of our current debt crisis. Rather than paint the Bush administration as the “deficit exploder”, he suffers that claim while Bush is portrayed as the “tax cutter”. In fact much of the spending that did occur in his first year in office was the result of Bush policies he inherited, and his own budgets cut discretionary spending more than any President since Eisenhower.
What Obama hasn’t done, however, is adopt a bold plan to both revive the economy and reduce the deficit. That plan was on the table during the last credit limit crisis, but fell apart when neither party could find a majority of members willing to do what was best for the country. That was the point when Obama should have stopped playing the Washington inside politics game and gone directly to the American people.
What he should have promoted was Simpson Bowles to reduce the deficit combined with a short term investment in infrastructure to get us over the hump on job growth. You have to have both in order to explain to the American people why popular programs like Medicare and Social Security have to be cut. If there isn’t also some promise of job growth, it is just austerity with no near term promise of a better tomorrow in return for increased pain today.
It was a “you bet your life” or at least your presidency moment. He would have been the first to tell the American people what every rational politician in Washington already knows – you can’t continue to have low taxes, high unemployment, big defense budgets, and generous benefit programs. He would have hung it all out there for the American people to either accept or reject. If they rejected it, they would also be rejecting his bid for a second term. He would have created enemies on both the right and the left. But he also would be betting on the basic fairness and common sense of moderates of both parties and independents.
Instead he let that moment pass, and retreated to the comfort and certainty of partisan politics.
He very well may be able to win a second term with this more conservative strategy.
We’ll see whether or not he, or perhaps Romney, will end up having another opportunity to lead the country in the way that it is begging to be lead over the next four years.