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HANSON: Maxing out a crisis card
Imagine that last fall before being elected, Barack Obama had outlined the positions he has embraced since being inaugurated as president. An honest campaign speech could have gone something like this —
”As we approach Election Day, the American people should not waste the crisis we find ourselves in.
“Consequently, if elected, I promise to get us over the Bush financial meltdown with a stimulus program that will borrow $787 billion - which, of course, will add to the already sizable budget deficit (nearly $500 billion) projected in the Bush administration’s last budget.
“By March of next year, my new $3.6 trillion budget will include a spending bill with more than 8,500 budget earmarks to target in-need constituents.
“In addition to the stimulus/borrowing plan, I intend to devote $634 billion to fund a new supplementary national health-care system. But that is not all. Unfortunately, the initial Bush bank bailout of some $700 billion also may well have to be augmented by an additional $750 billion.
“Although my new spending proposals may raise the federal deficit in my first year to $1.75 trillion, I promise the American people that by the end of my first term, I will halve the federal deficit - albeit adding another $3 trillion to $5 trillion to the national debt.
”Those savings can be accomplished by upping the federal income tax to about 40 percent on those rich 5 percent of Americans who currently pay only 60 percent of our aggregate income taxes - as well as lifting Social Security caps on their payroll taxes and cutting out many of their tax deductions.
”With state income taxes, federal income tax, Social Security and payroll taxes, along with new cutbacks in deductions, some of these rich will pay over 60 percent of their incomes in taxes. That is not an unreasonable rate in comparison with past levels - or the fact that well over 40 percent of Americans do not make enough to pay any federal income taxes.
“I expect that Wall Street may react negatively to these proposals. We may see the Dow fall an additional 2,000 to 3,000 points after I’m elected. It may descend to under 7,000 during my first weeks of office. And this may be the moment when the economy continues to cool and unemployment rises.
”But to deal with this reaction of entrenched interests, I promise a fresh team of hard-nosed American professionals - understanding that it is impossible to appoint some without past insider connections and occasional tax problems.
”From the former Clinton administration, I will select Rahm Emanuel to run my staff. To oversee revenue, Timothy Geithner will assemble a large team at Treasury. Sen. Clinton herself will run state, and I will anchor my Cabinet with pros like Tom Daschle, Eric Holder, Bill Richardson and Hilda Solis.
”On matters of protecting civil liberties, I assure the American people that I have examined the Patriot Act, the FISA accords and renditions - and I have discovered that they, in fact, do not shred our Constitution. I will, however, shut down Guantanamo Bay - but must keep it open another year and appoint a task force to study the issue.
“Our new direction in energy policy will center on cap-and-trade initiatives that promote wind and solar power. While we won’t rule out oil, gas, coal and nuclear development, problems with greenhouse gas emissions and nuclear waste mean that these ossified 20th-century industries - including new offshore drilling development - must be discouraged and further taxed or regulated to subsidize our green future.
“Abroad, I promise to give America a new image. My first television interview will be with al Arabiya. Due both to new initiatives and my unique background, I can reassure them that no longer will the United States alienate the Muslim world. Our aim is to return to stable and friendly relations with the Middle East characteristic of 20 to 30 years ago.
“Indeed, on matters in the Middle East, I will bring back my suspended adviser Samantha Power. I look forward to her input, along with that of Charles Freeman, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and critic of Israel, as head of the National Intelligence Council, to craft new directions in the region
“We expect to open new dialogues with Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran without preconditions. And to further the cause of peace in the Middle East, the United States will pledge almost $1 billion to help rebuild the Gaza strip that is governed by Hamas.”
Now all that would have been hope and change that we could have voted on.
Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and author of “A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War.”
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