In his book, The Battle: How the Fight between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future, Arthur C. Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, contended, as his subtitle suggests, that the essential argument, perhaps the defining one, in American politics today, is between those who favor an ever-more intrusive government, regulating our economy and those who want an ever more vigorous private sector, trusting to individual initiative to build our country.
In the 2008 campaign — and still today — Barack Obama essentially punted on the question. On the one hand, he promised a government solution to our health care woes. On the other, he faulted the (then-)incumbent administration for its profligacy. We’ve “been living beyond our means,” he said in the third debate, “and we’re going to have to make some adjustments.” Yet, as president he has refused to make any, refused to offer that “net spending cut” he had been proposing “throughout this campaign”.
Simply put, he did not, in the campaign, clearly make the case for the ever bigger government he has offered since taking office in January 2009. Indeed, in 2008, he made clear he wasn’t going to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000:
Back in August, Obama blamed the policies he “inherited from his predecessor’s administration for the soaring debt“, namely, “two wars . . . tax cuts” and “a prescription drug program . . . we didn’t pay for”. And despite all these things W didn’t pay for, Obama pushed through an $800 billion recovery plan and increased spending without relenting on his promise not to raise taxes on those, to borrow an expression currently in vogue because of a movement he supported, in the 99%.
In short, he gave us more spending without paying for it.
By holding firm to this tax pledge, Obama is effectively asking Americans to support a bigger government that the proverbial 1% will pay for. No wonder the “Democrats’ tax-hike obsession killed the SuperCommittee.” This obsession of taxing the rich is all they have.
Obama and his Democrats are unwilling to make the case to the American people for big government, unwilling to ask them to shoulder the burden of the higher cost of all the goodies they’re promising.
He lost the argument back in 2008 when he failed to ask Americans to shoulder that burden of bigger government. He promised not to raise taxes because he realized that such promises of higher taxes. This self-appointed post-partisan new kind of politician was indeed most political, making a political calculation in order to help smooth his election.
Obama’s promise notwithstanding, higher taxes on the wealthy won’t pay for the higher spending we have in the wake of a his predecessor’s domestic spending increases and in the significant increase in the rate of government growth since his party took over first Congress, then Congress and the White House (leaving Republicans to clean up their messes).
How, I wonder, did Obama expect to pay for his programs? Through the power of magical thinking?