So yesterday, it seems President Obama – before he stormed out of the room today in the debt-limit negotiations – told the House Republicans through the media that they should emulate Reagan and do a deal with him.
“Ronald Reagan repeatedly took steps that included revenue, in order for him to accomplish some of these larger goals,” Obama told CBS in an interview.
“And the question is if Ronald Reagan could compromise — why wouldn’t folks who idolize Ronald Reagan be willing to engage in those same kinds of compromises.”
In other words, what Obama takes from Reagan’s tenure as president is that the Republicans in the House should cave to what he wants. He doesn’t take from Reagan’s example that a president should compromise for the good of the country.
Put aside the fact that this is total babbling bullshit on a million levels, so much so that it’s basically incomprehensible. Let’s just focus on the fact that Reagan did a budget deal with the lefties in Congress in 1983. And let’s stipulate that the deal in question involved Reagan giving up one part tax increases in exchange for the promise of three parts spending cuts.
After all, Obama purportedly offered four parts spending cuts to one part tax increases, right? That’s an even better deal than Reagan cut with Tip O’Neill, no?
Well, if House Speaker John Boehner is to be believed one reason why the two sides aren’t getting anywhere is that Boehner can’t pin Obama or his vice president Joe “Big F-ing Deal” Biden down on any specifics.
So much so that when Biden’s framework which supposedly cuts spending by $2 trillion over the next ten years was put to an examination and the VP’s people were asked, point blank, what the total spending cuts being offered THIS YEAR were, the answer came back: $2 billion.
We’re staring a partial default and a potential government shutdown in the face, and despite that 69 percent of the American people aren’t interested in raising the debt ceiling, and the best Biden can do is $2 billion. Obama might be throwing around $4 trillion in budget cuts, but there are no specifics. All he really offers is the same lame-ass “spending freeze” trash he was laughed out of school for in January. Freeze the spending baselines, so that essentially you’re promising not to spend any more than 25 percent of GDP every year after you get re-elected, and you probably “cut” $4 trillion over 10 years.
But you’re not actually cutting anything – particularly not now, when you’re running up a $1.6 trillion deficit this year. The idea that this is put forth as a serious proposal in the midst of a real crisis over the size of the national debt is mind-boggling. And the idea that this constitutes the kind of leadership from which to invoke Ronald Reagan as some sort of cudgel with which to beat your political adversaries is right out of Bizarro World.
So much for the concept of a real compromise.
But even if we were to give Obama the benefit of what doubt may exist about this fiscal freakshow, it still appears he’s remarkably ignorant about the former president he so carelessly invokes.
Sure, Reagan did a budget deal with O’Neill. Turns out O’Neill and his people reneged on the spending cuts they promised, which if House Republicans are supposed to learn a lesson from Reagan would be a fact they’d draw from to demand Obama produce the cuts first before getting any considerations.
After all, the budget compromise and its results weren’t exactly lost on Reagan…
“I’ve been asked if I have any regrets. Well, I do,” said Reagan. “The deficit is one. I’ve been talking a great deal about that lately, but tonight isn’t for arguments, and I’m going to hold my tongue.”
That was from his farewell address.
Reagan was actually pretty outspoken about his dissatisfaction with those compromises at the end of his presidency.
In the days leading up to that speech, Reagan had indeed spoken repeatedly about the deficit, explaining its sources and how it could be eliminated with characteristic passion and analytical accuracy.
On Dec. 13, 1988, Reagan gave a speech to a group of his political appointees. He told them he believed that in the “Washington colony,” as he called it, there was an “iron triangle” working to expand government beyond its constitutional limits and, in the process, drive up deficit spending.
“It sometimes seems to many Americans that what might be called a ‘triangle of institutions’ — parts of Congress, the media and special interest groups — is transforming and placing out of focus our constitutional balance, particularly in the areas of spending and foreign policy,” Reagan said. “Some have used the term ‘iron triangle’ to describe something like what I’m talking about. And with apologies to them, I’ll borrow that term.”
Reagan predicted Americans would rise up against this “iron triangle” and take their government back.
“Fundamentally, the American people know what’s up, and they don’t like it,” Reagan said. “They may re-elect their congressmen, but they trust Congress itself less and less. They may watch or read the media, but they stop believing it, and they show more and more dislike for special interest influence. The only question is: When will they say once and for all that they’ve had enough? The strength of our nation has never been with the Washington colony, but with the American people. The budget deficit is the colony’s last stand.”
Wait, there’s more.
About a month after this speech, Reagan introduced his final budget. He said it would put the nation “on track to a balanced budget and a modest surplus by fiscal year 1993.”
How could this be — given the fiscal crisis we face today?
As Reagan explained to his political appointees, economic growth spurred by the industry of the American people as well as by his tax cuts was causing federal tax revenues to increase. If growth in the federal government could be held to a slower rate than growth in federal tax revenues, the deficit could be eliminated.
“And why do we have deficits? It’s not because of a lack of revenues,” Reagan told his appointees in December 1988. “Federal revenues have grown by $375 billion since 1981, but spending has grown by $450 billion.”
“So, the challenge before us is setting spending priorities, deciding where to spend some of the additional revenue, but not spending it all so we can reduce the deficit,” he said.
Reagan had actually engineered a strong enough economy that a spending freeze could actually produce a favorable budget situation as the economy grew. Obama hasn’t. That much is obvious.
Of course, all the House Republicans are well aware of this. And Obama’s mendacious (or perhaps ignorant) use of a conservative icon for his own contrary purposes can’t possibly have a persuasive effect.
After all, when presented with what was clearly a bad deal Reagan was more than willing to get up from the table.
Perhaps it’s time for Obama to stop referencing Reagan in any event. The American people can certainly tell the difference between Reagan and the guy currently occupying that office, and it’s not a comparison that favors Obama.