Commentary Magazine


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Not a Single Dime? Not a Chance.

The most dramatic part of President Obama’s State of the Union speech was his impassioned appeal for more gun control. Shamelessly invoking gun victims, including the children of Newtown, Connecticut, the president demanded that each of his proposals for new restrictions should be given an up or down vote in Congress even though none would do much to end gun violence. That earned him a standing ovation from Democrats even if many moderate members of his party from red states have no intention of ever putting themselves in a position where they might have to vote on such measures.

But while the “deserve a vote” rhetoric about gun control got the most applause the centerpiece of his address was a laundry list of government programs that he wants implemented that amounts to a second stimulus in all but name. For the most part this was just another straight-forward demand for a liberal vision in which government could and must afford to do just about everything from pre-K education to green jobs to easing the way for more home ownership. But by claiming that this staggering wish list wouldn’t “add a single dime to the deficit” he may have created a one-man credibility gap that even his impressive speaking ability and personal charm can’t close. You have to believe in the Tooth Fairy to buy the idea that this much new bureaucracy and involvement in the private sector won’t wind up costing a lot more money that we don’t have.

Obama’s roster of programs he wants implemented is long. Some of it involves ideas many Republicans will support like immigration reform. But much of it resolves around liberal ideological talking points like climate change which he hopes to solve by spending more on the kind of green jobs that gave the country scandals like the Solyndra boondoggle. He also threatened to take unilateral executive action on global warming if Congress didn’t act which means the Environmental Protection Agency will be given new unaccountable powers to crush economic growth around the country as well as driving up the cost of gas and just about everything else.

Other liberal patent nostrums like a minimum wage increase — a proposal that will kill jobs and hurt the very people the president claims to want to help — were also plugged. But perhaps the most curious item was his demand that the government ease the way for more home ownership. Given that the 2008 fiscal crisis was caused in large measure by government intervention in the market that made it easier for people who couldn’t afford to buy a home to get mortgages, going down that road again shows just how clueless this administration remains.

As for the immediate problem of avoiding the sequestration spending cuts, the president was disingenuous as well as unrealistic. The devastating sequestration cuts was the White House’s idea for resolving the 2011 debt ceiling standoff but the president is now pretending that it is all the fault of the Republicans. But as with everything else, ideology rules when it comes to a deficit plan that merely recycled his old rhetoric. The president considers his proposal balanced but that is a misnomer since he still refuses to contemplate genuine reform of entitlements and continues to pretend that taxing the rich will solve the deficit.

The president gave relatively short shrift to foreign policy even though it is entirely possible that the confrontation with Iran and the aftermath of the pullout from Afghanistan will provide the biggest crises of his second term. It is doubtful that those listening in Tehran were impressed by his calls for more diplomacy to forestall their nuclear threat. On the other hand, the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which he claims to have defeated, were probably cheered by his talk of accelerated pullouts from Afghanistan. The Benghazi debacle that gives the lie to the administration’s claim of victory over Islamist terror never got a mention.

But the bottom line of this speech is a claim that America can have a new raft of big government proposals without further sinking the nation into debt. It may be that whopper which will remembered long after his liberal shopping list is filed in the dustbin of history.