26 January 2011

A fine speech, but lacking plausible means

Only a few moments to make a few comments on the president's speech. I think it was a fine political speech, which will do a good deal to bring back some wavering Independents. It gave them an anchor, a basis to think of President Obama as the leader of the nation again. The President managed to make the Republicans look small-minded, unimaginative, pessimistic. This will be good for Democrats.

But on specifics, the speech outlined something that just can't be done. You can't make significant investments in infrastructure (a great idea) while freezing domestic spending and making only small cuts to military spending, and keeping the basic social programs intact. Just allowing the tax cuts for the very rich to expire at the end of the "deal period" will never be enough.

Simplifying the Individual Tax Code is also fine, as long as it shifts burdens upward and doesn't increase taxes on the beleaguered Middle Class. This could be a partial solution to the President's dilemma: a stealth means to increase taxes on upper income Americans. Same with the Corporate Tax reforms he proposes. Lower the rates, but eliminate enough exclusions and tax breaks to actually significantly increase revenue. Because the fact is, that without major increases in revenue (only some of which will come from recovery of the economy over the next few years), the necessary and laudable investments in our future the President describes cannot be paid for other than through increased debt.

Somehow the courage must be found to propose to the American people that the enterprise is worth it: it is a challenge comparable to World War II, and worth demanding from our wealthiest citizens that they pay much, much more of their fair share to make our country stronger. I would also argue that, at some point, the courage must be found to do what President Eisenhower was warning us about 50 years ago: challenge the military-industrial complex, and begin the process of dismantling America's overseas military empire, now that the Cold War has been over for 20 years. Because, in truth, in this century of new challenges, whether it was ever worthwhile or not, we can no longer afford it.

Rep. Ryan's official Republican response was pathetic. He sounded like a bookkeeper.

I see no reason to dignify the mentally challenged (and utterly mendacious) Rep. Bachmann's tea party talk with any comment at all.

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