Commentary Magazine


Obama: Teaching Americans the Opposite of Self-Restraint

David Brooks has written an intelligent column based, in large part, on a fantastic essay Irving Kristol wrote in 1974, “Republican Virtue versus Servile Institutions.” (I wrote about the Kristol essay here.)

Within Brooks’s column, though, is this odd paragraph:

Over the past months, there has been some progress in getting Americans to accept the need for self-restraint. With their various budget approaches, the Simpson-Bowles commission, Paul Ryan and President Obama have sent the message that politics can no longer be about satisfying voters’ immediate needs. The public hasn’t bought it yet, but progress is being made.

I say “odd” not because David mentions the Simpson-Bowles commission or Paul Ryan, both of whom deserve the credit Brooks accords to them. But what exactly has President Obama done to send the message that politics can no longer be about satisfying voters’ immediate needs? After all, he has spent money we don’t have in order to avoid reforming an entitlement programs we must reform—and he’s avoided asking the middle class to pay for his record spending binge.

In addition, the president gave a dishonest, hyper-partisan speech responding to the Ryan budget after having proposed a completely irresponsible budget of his own. Obama has also added to the dishonesty of the debate by pretending that raising taxes on the wealthy will generate the revenues we need.

Jennifer Rubin zeroes in on this point in her blog, insisting:

Democrats are perpetuating a fundamental untruth: If we tax only the rich more, we can keep entitlement programs just the way they are. But of course, the numbers don’t work that way. In rebutting the president’s speech Ryan . . . was asked whether Obama’s plan could keep the debt stable without raising taxes on the middle class. He answered. . . . “It’s literally inconceivable. . . . It’s mathematically impossible, if you agree with [Obama’s proposed] spending, to not tax everybody.

So Mr. Obama has (a) contributed to record deficits and debt; (b) enacted into law a deeply flawed, open-ended health care entitlement program; (c) slandered serious proposals that are attempting to deal with our entitlement crisis; (d) refused to offer a serious proposal of his own; and (e) perpetrated a myth about how much revenue taxing the rich will generate.

Remind me again why Obama deserves praise for helping Americans accept the need for self-restraint? What he had done, in fact, is precisely the opposite.