President Obama Completely Gets it

When President Obama announced his intention to extend the Bush era tax cuts over a month ago, he called a press conference to defend himself against leftist critics who were livid that he was breaking his promises.  President Obama was doing the right thing, but there is no more ambiguity that he said he would not extend tax cuts for those in the higher income brackets than there was in the early 1990’s when President Bush Sr. promised he would not raise them.  I have been meaning to write about something President Obama saidf at that press conference that I consider to be vitally important, but I have just not gotten to it until now.

It is sad that Obama felt the need to defend himself for doing something so indisputably right. Increasing the tax burden on any income level of citizens during a recession is utter stupidity, and Obama’s major economic influences all knew it.  They all told him so.  This was a totally non-controversial move.   However, sound economics is not the top priority of this administration, and it certainly is not the top priority of the far left (I do not say that as a low blow or ad hominem attack; I believe I am representing them very accurately).  No, “class warfare” is of greater priority to the left than economic growth.  Obama has telegraphed this both purposely and accidentally since the 2008 campaign.  The left was upset at Obama because they believed he was violating their key tenet that economic fairness can be created through redistribution of wealth.  I have a hunch the left is about to see a much less ideological and far more political Barack Obama than they have seen so far.  Regardless, Obama said something in his press conference that his critics on the left should have taken comfort in, and his critics on the right (me and my friends) should begin taking seriously.  For indeed, he hit the nail on the head.

Obama, in mentioning those who were upset with him for ditching the “public option” in his health care bill last year, made a shocking statement (though it would be much more shocking if it were not so true).  He said that we had to remember that social security originally covered a very small number of people, but through time they got it to become the default retirement system for the entire country.  He said that Medicare when first passed was insignificant in its scope, but now is the largest entitlement program in the world.  Obama was not saying this critically; he was saying it cheerfully.  President Obama, like anyone who intends to actually have an impact in the things that matter to them, is an  incrementalist.  He understands, especially when one is dealing with power and authority granted to the federal government that serves the purpose of increasing citizen dependency on the state, that this is a multi-generational game.  Advocates of huge government programs do not need to worry about the programs being enacted into law that fall short of the goals they have for them; those programs will grow like a weed in the next decade.  History leaves no room for dispute.  Obama and his ilk may find this to be comforting.  I find it to be cause for great anxiety.

The right also will only make generational impact through long term persepctive and truly incremental strategy.  President Reagan enacted the largest tax cuts in American history in 1982, and to this day the notion of increasing the marginal income rates is nearly impossible politically.  Reagan’s rates were dramatically lower than his predecessor’s, but they were substantially higher than they are now.  We have been successful in incrementally cutting, and keeping low, the tax rates. 

We must be aware of the incremental hope the left has – a hope rooted in their undying confidence that eventually the people will give up and beg the elites for help – and tactically fight against it.  But we also must develop our own incrementalism, one that slowly but surely breaks down the entitlement system we have now.  One that eventually ushers in comprehensive tax reform.  One that intelligently pursues an improved national energy policy.  The right may or may not believe that incremental efforts will pay off.  But it matters now what we believe or don’t believe: The President and the left know full well that they will.  The issue is not going to be “incrementalism, or nno incrementalism”.  It is going to be: Whose incrementalism?