Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Is it still lying when the President does it?

The President was at Florida Atlantic University yesterday, talking about the economy. And he was lying through his teeth, in what may have been the most dishonest speech of his Presidency. His remarks in full. I'm going to address a great deal of the content, in order to demonstrate just how bad, how intentionally misleading the speech was.

He begins:
Now, we've gone through the three toughest years in our lifetimes, economically -- worst financial crisis, worst economic crisis. Our economy is now recovering but it's not yet where it needs to be.
I'll give him those "three toughest years." But of course, he leaves off the other "worst" here: the worst recovery, not only in our lifetimes but in U.S. History. I can't really blame him, though. It's hardly a point to make for someone seeking reelection.

Next, Obama sets up a false dichotomy, which he will return to again and again:
There's a debate going on in this country right now: Could we succeed as a nation where a shrinking number of people are doing really, really well, but a growing number are struggling to get by? Or are we better off when everybody gets a fair shot -- (applause) -- and everybody does a fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules?
No such debate is taking place. No one is arguing for the first, at all. In fact, everyone--on both ideological "sides"--is arguing for the second. The issue, the point of contention, is how is such realized? Becasue--as I previously noted--the current reality is that a larger and larger percentage of the population is not doing a "fair share," at all. But I don't want to spend too much time ripping each comment, so let's continue.

Obama continues with his false dichotomy:
That’s what the debate in America is about right now. This is not just another run-of-the-mill gabfest in Washington. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class and everybody who's aspiring to get into the middle class. And we’ve got two very different visions of our future. And the choice between them could not be clearer.
Obviously, the choice could not be clearer when one vision is a strawman, a phony argument not actually being offered by anyone but built specifically so it can be easily criticized. The divergence in the real opposing visions involves the role of government: how big should it be, can it actually solve problems on a grand scale, how responsible should its stewards be (in terms of debt), etc. And even though--so far--Obama is offering up only a phony competing vision to his, he knows what the truth is, as his next set of remarks demonstrate:
Now keep in mind, I start from the belief that government cannot and should not try to solve every single problem that we've got. Government is not the answer to everything. My first job in Chicago, when I wasn't much older than most of you, was working with a group of Catholic churches on the South Side of Chicago in low-income neighborhoods to try to figure out how could we improve the schools, and how could we strengthen neighborhoods and strengthen families. And I saw that the work that some of these churches did did more good for people in their communities than any government program could.  
In those same communities, I saw that no education policy, no matter how well crafted it is, no matter how well funded it is, can take the place of a parent’s love and attention. And I also believe that since government is funded by you that it has an obligation to be efficient and effective. And that's why we’ve eliminated dozens of programs that weren’t working, announced hundreds of regulatory reforms to save businesses and taxpayers billions of dollars. We’ve put annual domestic spending on a path to become the smallest share of our economy since Eisenhower was in the White House, which is before I was born much less you being born.
See it? He's attempting to negate the real counter to his ideological position--that of an expansive,  controlling central government with the authority to remake society as it sees fit--by subsuming the arguments of his opponents into his ideas. And in doing so, he goes beyond being merely misleading and begins to lie.

First, as my previous post demonstrates, government is not funded by "you," meaning everyone in the audience, by the citizenry at large. In fact, it is funded predominantly by only a small percentage of the population. In 2009, 25% of the population accounted for over 87% of all income tax revenues. And that's a trend that has been steadily growing. In 1980, the  bottom 50% of income earners accounted for 7% of all income tax revenues. By 2008, that same group accounted for less than 3% of all tax revenues.

Second, the Obama Administration is the world heavyweight champion of increased regulatory costs. There's no way around this. Even CNN had to admit the truth. And many of these new regulations have been adopted by fiat, like those at the EPA.

Finally, annual domestic spending is on no such path, as ABC News notes. Moreover, the President is playing games, as he's talking only about non-defense discretionary spending, which excludes entitlement spending, completely. He's attempting to paint a picture of fiscal responsibility, to suggest that he's controlling expenses, even as things like Obamacare are poised to drive the nation deeper and deeper into debt over the long term. It's so dishonest, it's not even funny.

After some pandering, Obama returns--once again--to his false dichotomy. First, he gives the phony version of his opponents' point of view:
And yet, we keep on having the same argument with folks who don’t seem to understand how it is that America got built. And let me just say, the folks that we have political arguments with, they’re Americans who love their country. Democrats, Republicans, independents, everybody -- we all love this country. But there is a fundamental difference in how we think we move this country forward. 
These folks, they keep telling us that if we just weaken regulations that keep our air or our water clean or protect our consumers, if we would just convert these investments that we’re making through our government in education and research and health care -- if we just turned those into tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, then somehow the economy is going to grow stronger. That’s the theory.
It's actually some pretty nasty rhetoric. His opponents want dirty air and water, along with more money for the wealthy, and that's the sum total of their position according to the President.

He then lays all of the blame for the recession on his opponents:
And here’s the news: We tried this for eight years before I took office. We tried it. It’s not like we didn’t try it. At the beginning of the last decade, the wealthiest Americans got two huge tax cuts -- 2001, 2003. Meanwhile, insurance companies, financial institutions -- they were all allowed to write their own rules, or find their way around rules. We were told the same thing we’re being told now -- this is going to lead to faster job growth. This is going to lead to greater prosperity for everybody. 
Guess what -- it didn’t. Yes, the rich got much richer. Corporations made big profits. But we also had the slowest job growth in half a century. The typical American family actually saw their incomes fall by about 6 percent even though the economy was growing, because more and more of that growth was just going to a few, and the average middle-class American wasn't seeing it in their paychecks. Health care premiums skyrocketed. Financial institutions started almost collapsed. You remember that?
Now for better or worse, the truth is that Bush's approach did work, to an extent. The President conveniently forgets the turmoil caused by 9-11, which came just as the economy was weakening. Yet, recession was staved off. But at the same time, it's also just as true that--domestically--Bush played the role of the liberal. From the NCLB Act to a Medicare prescription drug benefit program, Bush and Congress kept spending, even as the economy walked a tightrope. There's plenty to criticize, with regard to the Bush administration and the economy, but the simplistic version Obama is giving is crap.

But...having made the case--in his mind--that his opponents' vision has been tried and shown to be wanting, Obama says the following:
Sometimes you can learn from failure. That’s part of the data that teaches you stuff, that expands our knowledge. But you don’t then just keep on doing the same thing over and over again.  
You go back to the drawing board. You try something different. But that’s not what's been happening with these folks in Washington.
Wait a minute, what did he just say? What's been happening in Washington is not "something different"? The Bailout was not "something different"? The Stimulus Act was not "something different"? Obamacare was not "something different"?

Obama appears to be seeking a Mulligan for his first term in office. Remember, he had--until 2010--a Democrat-controlled Congress. His initiatives were rammed through, wholesale. And the results? Again, the worst recovery in the history of the nation. And there's the truth of it: Obama can't run on his own record, when it comes to the economy, because his record sucks. Yet, after complaining about doing the same thing over and over again, after talking about doubling down on failed policies (later in the speech), Obama is poised to do exactly that. He has nothing new to offer. And he's trying to apply criticisms to his opponents that rightfully should be applied to him and his policies.

Four years in, and what does he have to show for it? A beer summit, 93 rounds of golf, and an unconstitutional mandate.

Cheers, all.

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