19 August 2010

Change we can believe in

I'm getting tired of writing about this.

I gave President-Elect Obama the benefit of the doubt in January 2009, as I felt that, given his campaign rhetoric and the centrist model for governance that Bill Clinton gifted to the Democratic Party, Obama could turn out to be a decent president. Among other things, I expected that he would be better on civil liberties, reduce the deficit (likely by raising taxes, but still -- that beats the Bush policies), change the tone in Washington, reach across the aisle on health care legislation, and take on the hard challenges like entitlement reform. Obama has done none of these things -- not only has he continued the Bush policies he campaigned so hard against, but he's, unbelievably, gone in the other direction. We've dealt with the health care misadventures and the civil liberties abuses ad nauseum here.

But perhaps the most heinous example of the president's "politics as usual" conduct is his absurd fear campaign regarding Social Security. In his weekly radio address last week, Obama claimed, almost unbelievably, that Republicans, if returned to power in 2011, wanted to dump "your" Social Security monies into accounts controlled at the whims of "Wall Street bankers." The implication, of course, is that Republicans have it in for old folks, and darn it, you'd better think twice before voting for them.

This is wrong on about twelve different levels.

First, privatlization isn't supported by anyone in the Republican Party outside of Paul Ryan. Not Mitch McConnell, not John Boehner, and I haven't heard a single 2012 presidential candidate endorse it. Second, even under Ryan's plan, 1) the option to move Social Security monies to private accounts is entirely optional, 2) that option would only be available to workers under the age of 55, 3) the government would insert a floor such that any losses dropping the value of the accounts below the normal government payout (around one percent annually) would be reimbursed, and 4) the government would retain a huge amount of regulatory authority and oversight as to the accounts. For any Democrat -- much less this president, who campaigned so hard on the back of these platitudes that he seems to be intently trying to destroy -- to suggest that Republicans want to steal seniors' money and give it to Wall Street bankers is just absurd. He knows exactly what he's doing, because he has the best in the business -- Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, David Plouffe, et al. -- advising his every move. In any White House, nothing is done by accident.

This conduct is shameful. Candidate Barack Obama would excoriate President Barack Obama, if given the chance.

By employing these scare tactics, Obama falls nicely in line with the folks at MoveOn.org, who hysterically oppose raising the retirement age, even though when Social Security was created in the 1930s, the average American male wasn't even expected to live to the retirement age. The president is content with kicking the can down the road and letting the next administration deal with the problem -- which, absurdly, he recently claimed is actually no problem at all.

Can anyone believe that this is the same guy who campaigned as a trans-partisan healer, who eschewed name-calling, who claimed he defied the old labels? When a campaign is run on personality and not policy, the business of governance can be quite frustrating, because voters didn't support your policies per se -- they supported you.

As the Democrats careen toward a staggering, historic defeat in November, Barack Obama has no one to blame but himself.

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