Published April 16, 2011
President Obama is in full campaign mode, now promising to Fix Our Budget Deficits!
Unfortunately, Mr. Obama as cost-cutter is about as believable as Buffy as Vampire-slayer; meanwhile, the need to rally his liberal base is paramount. Consequently, he has offered up juicy sound bites about hitting up “millionaires and billionaires” and a promise -- not to raise taxes, which might not play well on prime time -- but rather to cut “tax expenditures.”
In other words, we are now being treated to more Obama gobbledegook, from the same press office that came up with “kinetic military action” and “man-caused disasters”. And – this is a president that ran on transparency!
The president’s budget speech should, however, be welcomed by Republicans. President Obama unwittingly gave the GOP a rallying cry for the 2012 campaign. In (finally) putting forth his proposal to narrow our country’s long-term budget deficits, Mr. Obama all but acknowledged that Medicare and Medicaid – which Obama has called the “single biggest contributors to our long-term deficit” -- remain open sores, oozing red ink into the foreseeable future.
Stop a minute for this to sink in. After all the disruptive skirmishing and chicanery that finally paved the way for Obamacare, we now find that we are again going to the mattresses --- over healthcare costs. Does no one else find this a complete and perfect indictment of the cynically titled Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that Mr. Obama sold the nation? In effect, the president makes clear that his gigantic healthcare bill, that divided the country when it needed healing, did not fix the problem. Republicans should fasten onto this virtual admission like limpets.
Remember the promises? “We agree on reforms that will finally reduce the costs of health care….This plan will strengthen Medicare and extend the life of that program. And because it gets rid of the waste and inefficiencies in our health care system, this will be the largest deficit reduction plan in over a decade.” Moreover, Mr. Obama touted the cost-saving nature of the bill: “whatever ideas exist in terms of bending the cost curve and starting to reduce costs…those elements are in this bill.” Most important, the president emphasized that the bill “has to be budget neutral, it’s got to be deficit neutral…”
It turns out that ObamaCare did not bend the cost curve, was not budget neutral and in fact added to the country’s swollen government healthcare budget. Is anyone surprised?
What is surprising is that President Obama is now ramping up to make the debate over healthcare a cornerstone of his reelection campaign. This is unexpected because so far ObamaCare has not won the president many friends, except from his liberal base. Democrats continue to say the fault is in the messaging – that it was not “sold” properly. Rubbish!
President Obama, who early in his tenure was extremely popular, spent months and months criss-crossing the country, giving dozens of speeches that extolled its virtues. Nonetheless, Americans remain neutral at best on ObamaCare. They would surely be even more negative except that the large taxes incorporated into the bill have not begun to kick in—those were cleverly designed to become effective only after Mr. Obama ran for re-election.
Republicans need to broadcast what the debate over Obama’s health care bill cost the nation. At a time when confidence was shattered by the financial crisis, when businesses were terrified by plummeting demand and needed reassurance, we had instead a president focused on his legacy.
Over the protests of business managers big and small, the president insisted on changing the cost of hiring workers, and flipping upside down existing insurance programs offered to employees. Even as millions of Americans lost their jobs, the president was consumed with the historic nature of his quest.
Economist and former senator Phil Gramm makes the real cost of ObamaCare clear. He compares our current recovery to those that followed the other ten recessions that have occurred since World War II. He says that if this bounce-back had kept pace with those of other cycles, GDP would be significantly higher than it is today, and nearly 12 million more Americans would have jobs. As he acknowledges, Obama supporters will argue that this case was unusual because of the depth of the downturn. Mr. Gramm points out that historically “the bigger the bust, the bigger the boom” that follows. The numbers don’t lie. In past recessions, three years after the downturn, real GDP had increased 7.6% beyond the pre-recession level. Today, GDP is only 0.1% higher.
That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the real cost of Obamacare. Of course, it is not just the health bill that so unsettled the country, and most importantly the country’s employers. Attempts to change labor rules facilitating union organizing, ramped up antitrust and labor prosecutions, extensive new environmental regulations, the monstrously complex financial bill – they all played a role in setting back our recovery. But Obamacare got the ball rolling.
As we head into the 2012 campaign, Republicans should ask voters, why should you give President Obama another shot at fixing the double disasters of Medicare and Medicaid? Hasn’t he damaged our country enough?