The LuLac Edition #1689, July 24th, 2011
PHOTO INDEX: PRESIDENT HARRY S TRUMAN.
PULLING A TRUMAN
Ever since Barack Obama came onto the political scene, he has been compared with various past Presidents. Being from Illinois a few compared him to Lincoln. That in my historical estimation is a bit overstated. Some compared him to John Kennedy. As a matter of fact, Obama got the endorsement of the Kennedy clan because he was said to remind them of the energy and clean slate of the JFK New Frontier of the 1960 campaign. Taking over as President in one of the worst economies since the Depression, there were some that compared him to Franklin Roosevelt. There was an iconic Time Magazine of Obama in a top hat smoking a cancer stick with the FDR trademark cigarette holder. As Obama embarked on his ambitious health care and stimulus agenda, he was compared to the domestic Lyndon Johnson. That of course was an insult to Johnson since Obama caved on the stimulus (which should have been bigger) and heath care (which should have been a single payer system). Perhaps the problem is that Barack Obama has been compared to so many former Presidents that he has not staked out a claim of his own for the office. But Friday afternoon, with the debt crisis coming to a climax, and House Speaker John Boehner essentially dissing the office of the Presidency, maybe Barack Obama should fashion himself after Harry Truman. Truman was a man of singular beliefs in America. He knew he didn’t come to the office as an elected choice and he took his fair share of criticism personally. That stuff rolled off him very easily but Truman never let any political opponent disrespect his office. And on Thursday and Friday, John Boehner did just that. By walking out of a meeting, by refusing to return the President’s phone calls, by having staffers tell the President “no” he wasn’t going to call back, John Boehner the Speaker of the House disrespected the Presidency. Truman fired Douglas MacArthur for that, he sat in stone silence when Dwight Eisenhower sat in the limo on the way to the 1953 inaugural and he wrote about how he took seriously as a President and ex President the office he held. And for this current Speaker of the House's actions, President Obama should land on this guy like a ton of bricks. I get that Boehner is trying to hold on to his job. (He’ll be axed as Speaker before this session ends because of the Tea Party Caucus). But you don’t disrespect the office. President Obama held a news conference on Friday night and explained his position. It is abundantly clear that the GOP is hellbent on destroying this country’s credit rating to protect the rich. It is clear that the GOP has undermined every compromise (even noticed by the media) to make sure President Obama fails. It is now time for the President to get this done. It is now time for the President to expose the Republican House as a bunch of jackals that want to ruin this country. The debt ceiling takes one sentence to extend. It was extended 18 times in Ronald Reagan’s tenure, 8 in George W. Bush’s tenure. This President at a cost to his own popularity in his party is giving the GOP spending cuts. And they sit and say no. What is so disturbing to me is to hear the callers to my friend Sue Henry’s show spout out the rhetoric handed out by the right wing talk show hosts. Like lemmings they are following these reactionaries over the cliff. It is time to stop this foolishness. It is time to call out John Boehner and his colleagues (two of which sadly represent us in Lulac land) as pathetic, disrespectful, unpatriotic, obstructionists that put political partisanship above the economic interests of this nation. Obama’s actions in these negotiations prove the old Truman quote and it applies to the GOP:
"I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell."
Here is the text of the President’s statement from Friday:
Good evening, everybody. I wanted to give you an update on the current situation around the debt ceiling. I just got a call about a half hour ago from Speaker Boehner who indicated that he was going to be walking away from the negotiations that we’ve been engaged in here at the White House for a big deficit reduction and debt reduction package. And I thought it would be useful for me to just give you some insight into where we were and why I think that we should have moved forward with a big deal. Essentially what we had offered Speaker Boehner was over a trillion dollars in cuts to discretionary spending, both domestic and defense. We then offered an additional $650 billion in cuts to entitlement programs -- Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. We believed that it was possible to shape those in a way that preserved the integrity of the system, made them available for the next generation, and did not affect current beneficiaries in an adverse way.
In addition, what we sought was revenues that were actually less than what the Gang of Six signed off on. So you had a bipartisan group of senators, including Republicans who are in leadership in the Senate, calling for what effectively was about $2 trillion above the Republican baseline that they’ve been working off of. What we said was give us $1.2 trillion in additional revenues, which could be accomplished without hiking taxes -- tax rates, but could simply be accomplished by eliminating loopholes, eliminating some deductions and engaging in a tax reform process that could have lowered rates generally while broadening the base.
So let me reiterate what we were offering. We were offering a deal that called for as much discretionary savings as the Gang of Six. We were calling for taxes that were less than what the Gang of Six had proposed. And we were calling for modifications to entitlement programs, would have saved just as much over the 10-year window. In other words, this was an extraordinarily fair deal. If it was unbalanced, it was unbalanced in the direction of not enough revenue.
But in the interest of being serious about deficit reduction, I was willing to take a lot of heat from my party -- and I spoke to Democratic leaders yesterday, and although they didn’t sign off on a plan, they were willing to engage in serious negotiations, despite a lot of heat from a lot of interest groups around the country, in order to make sure that we actually dealt with this problem.
It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this kind of deal. And, frankly, if you look at commentary out there, there are a lot of Republicans that are puzzled as to why it couldn’t get done. In fact, there are a lot of Republican voters out there who are puzzled as to why it couldn’t get done. Because the fact of the matter is the vast majority of the American people believe we should have a balanced approach.
Now, if you do not have any revenues, as the most recent Republican plan that’s been put forward both in the House and the Senate proposed, if you have no revenues at all, what that means is more of a burden on seniors, more drastic cuts to education, more drastic cuts to research, a bigger burden on services that are going to middle-class families all across the country. And it essentially asks nothing of corporate jet owners, it asks nothing of oil and gas companies, it asks nothing from folks like me who’ve done extremely well and can afford to do a little bit more.
In other words, if you don’t have revenues, the entire thing ends up being tilted on the backs of the poor and middle-class families. And the majority of Americans don’t agree on that approach.
So here’s what we’re going to do. We have now run out of time. I told Speaker Boehner, I’ve told Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, I’ve told Harry Reid, and I’ve told Mitch McConnell I want them here at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. We have run out of time. And they are going to have to explain to me how it is that we are going to avoid default. And they can come up with any plans that they want and bring them up here and we will work on them. The only bottom line that I have is that we have to extend this debt ceiling through the next election, into 2013.
And the reason for it is we’ve now seen how difficult it is to get any kind of deal done. The economy is already weakened. And the notion that five or six or eight months from now we’ll be in a better position to try to solve this problem makes no sense.
In addition, if we can’t come up with a serious plan for actual deficit and debt reduction, and all we’re doing is extending the debt ceiling for another six, seven, eight months, then the probabilities of downgrading U.S. credit are increased, and that will be an additional cloud over the economy and make it more difficult for us and more difficult for businesses to create jobs that the American people so desperately need.
The American people expect action. I continue to believe that a package that is balanced and actually has serious debt and deficit reduction is the right way to go. And the American people I think are fed up with political posturing and an inability for politicians to take responsible action as opposed to dodge their responsibilities.