Opinion: Memo to Obama -- Economic Recovery Needs Leadership, not Salesmanship

Another week, another speech from President Obama detailing how he plans to fix the economy. Last week, it was a jobs plan; this week, it’s a deficit reduction plan.

Taken together, the president’s recent proposals amount to more of the same failed ideas he’s been trying to sell since he took office—higher taxes and bigger government.

On September 19, the president laid out how he planned to reduce the deficit through a package of tax hikes and budget savings—mostly tax hikes. This followed the president’s September 8 speech to Congress in which he proposed his jobs plan to get the economy moving again. 

Both occasions failed to move the needle when it came to convincing the American public that this president understands what is needed to foster jobs growth and economic recovery.

This week’s deficit reduction proposal, misleadingly presented as a “balanced” package of tax hikes and budget savings, is a case in point. The White House announcement of the plan heralded “net savings of more than $3 trillion over the next decade.” 

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But a closer look at the proposal reveals that it includes previously planned savings put in place by the Budget Control Act already passed by Congress and enacted, and from already planned troop reductions in Iraq and Afghanistan

Nothing new there.

What is new in the president’s plan? The largest part of this new proposal consists of a tax increase of more than $1.5 trillion. On the other side of the ledger? Some $580 billion in budget savings. 

That’s hardly a “balanced” proposal.

Worse yet, the president’s proposal would leave Social Security untouched, even though it’s clear that the retirement program is going bankrupt and is one of the principal drivers of the runaway growth of the federal budget, which will make it harder to invest in our nation’s future needs. 

(The president’s proposal is marginally better on Medicare and Medicaid, making worthwhile reductions in spending, but failing to contend with the long-term solvency issues that bedevil both programs.)

Meanwhile, the vital signs that we look toward to assess the health of economy continue to show a patient in critical condition. National unemployment still hovers over 9 percent nationally—and over 11 percent for the Hispanic population. Unemployment is showing no sign of abating. The national debt recently topped $14.7 trillion, while the federal budget deficit for 2011 clocks in at $1.3 trillion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office—and both are still growing rapidly.

Business leaders, bogged down in excessive regulation and uncertain of what the future holds, are holding off on investment and additional hiring, further dampening any chance of recovery.

Against this dark backdrop, have President Obama and his team come forth with workable solutions to rein in the growth of government and kick-start economic growth? 

The answer is no. 

Instead of presenting effective solutions to our economic woes, they’ve opted to position the president for re-election with a set of proposals aimed at energizing his partisan base.

On Thursday night, the Republican presidential hopefuls will take to the stage for a debate in Florida, the latest in a series of policy showdowns. Here’s hoping these candidates are prepared to offer a compelling critique of the president’s failed economic strategy, along with solid ideas for how they would get this great nation growing again by encouraging business investment and getting government spending under control. 

The American people deserve to hear from Republicans just what they plan to do to set this ship back on course.

Meanwhile, the president has spent the last few weeks on yet another campaign tour through politically important swing states in an attempt to sell his economic plans to a doubtful public. It’s time he dropped the salesmanship and tried leadership.

Mario H. Lopez is the President of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, an advocacy organization dedicated to promoting limited government, individual liberty, and free enterprise.

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