Mon, 09 Feb 2009 22:52:33 +0000 – By John R. Lott, Jr."Freedomnomics" author/Senior Research Scientist, University of Maryland
As the final push for the 778 page, $827 billionstimulus package faces votes today and tomorrow in the Senate, President Obama is hammering his opponents and pushing hard for the bill. On Friday, Obama pointedlyreminded Republicans that he won the November election and had the right to get his policies enacted. But the stimulus bill bears little resemblance to his campaign promises. It bears little resemblance his many promises he made just a month ago.
If Obama claims a mandate, shouldn't it be related to what he campaigned on?
[caption id="attachment_6988" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="President Barack Obama speaks during a town hall style meeting about the economic stimulus package, Monday, Feb. 9, 2009, at Concord Community High School in Elkhart, Ind. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)"][/caption]
At the very end of the presidential campaign Obama "proposeda $175 billion plan with tax-rebate checks for consumers as well as spending on school repairs, roads and bridges, aid to states, and tax credits for job creation."
The current bill is not only spending 4.7 times what he promised in November, but gone are the tax-rebate checks and tax credits for job creation. The new additional programs have nothing to do with roads and bridges. Yet, a package that Obama never hinted at a couple of months ago is now considered sacrosanct. The Associated Press describedObama's position on the stimulus plan this way: "Stopping just short of a take-it-or-leave-it stand, Obama has mocked the notion that a stimulus bill shouldn't include huge spending."
Take an emphatic promisethat Obama made just a month ago, well after the heat of the presidential campaign had passed: "We are going to ban all earmarks -- the process by which individual members insert pet projects without review." That wasn't a new promise. During the third presidential debate on October 15, 2008 Obama bluntly promised: "they need to be eliminated."
But now take Obama's testy defense of those same earmarks last Friday. Obama reportedly"also defended earmarks as inevitable in such a package."
During the third presidential debate Obama promised to rein in the budget deficit. When moderator Bob Schieffer askedObama what he was going to do about the deficit Obama promisedto cut the it: "But there is no doubt that we've been living beyond our means and we're going to have to make some adjustments. Now, what I've done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut."
Or take the second presidential debate on October 7, 2008. Obama noted that eliminating earmarks was "important," but even more important"I want to go line by line through every item in the federal budget and eliminate programs that don't work and make sure that those that do work, work better and cheaper." This was his constant theme during the presidential debates to cut government.
So how do you go from campaigning to cut government spending and ban earmarks before the election on November 4 to start talkingabout a $500 to $700 billion stimulus plan in mid-November. What changed?
What exactly did he learn immediately after the election about the economy that caused him to go from a budget cutter to proposing the biggest increase in spending ever? Prior to the election, Obama was already regularly claiming that the economy was in the worst financial crisis since the depression. Do you cut spending when you are in the worst financial crisis since the depression, but massively increase it if you can claim that things have gotten a little worse?
Now Obama is saying that we will be facing trillion dollar deficits "for years to come." There was no hint of these policies on November 4, 2008.
Some economic logic is required here. Some explanation for these changes within weeks is needed. When will someone in the press ask Obama to explain what his economic view of the world is that made him support positions right before the election that he then reversed right after he won.
I don't know of any economic theory that explains Obama's different policy positions. The most likely explanation is a simple one: Obama told voters what they wanted to hear during the campaign, not what he planned to do. Obama's short Senate record tells us that he really was the most liberal member of the senate.
While the stimulus bill is going to increase federal government spending by over $800 billion, there is one place that Obama has so far announced a cut -- defense spending. A10 percent cutmight be fine, but during the presidential campaign defense spending was one area where he promisedto "increase" spending.
Disappointingly, no one is asking Obama to explain any of these changes. Possibly everyone has gotten so distracted or tired trying to catalogue Obama's broken ethics promises that they are missing the littered field of broken campaign promises.
If Obama merely waited until after the election to make his policy views known, he can't claim a mandate for his "new" policies. What should be questioned is Obama's truthfulness to the American people.
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