- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If Americans who tuned in to President Obama’s televised address Monday night were hoping for a breakthrough in the budget crisis, they were sorely disappointed.

What we got instead was a political campaign speech, aimed at the Democrats’ diehard political base, that rehashed his tax increase proposals for the umpteenth time as the only way to break the debt-ceiling impasse that has pushed our fragile economy to the edge of another recession.

No olive branch proposal was extended to conservatives who control the House and exert de facto control in the Senate. Instead, his speech repeated the same tiresome, class-warfare rhetoric he has used in numerous negotiating sessions, press conferences and White House statements.

As the House and Senate battle over two competing plans to break the deadlock, Mr. Obama is still desperately clinging to his job-killing plan to raise taxes on corporations, businesses and upper-income taxpayers.

Even some of his most ardent defenders were shocked by the transparently partisan campaign speech at a time that cried out for bold leadership as the calender moved dangerously closer to the Aug. 2 debt-ceiling deadline that could trigger global repercussions.

“The president should not have gone on national television to give a political address,” veteran Democratic point man Chris Matthews said Monday night on MSNBC.

What we have here, in the words of a famous movie remark, is “a failure to communicate,” or at least, in Mr. Obama’s case, a failure to accept that he lost the tax battle last year when he extended the Bush tax cuts for another two years.

If anything has come out of this titanic struggle to stop runaway spending, lower the deficit and reduce a mountain of debt, it is that Mr. Obama and the Democrats are not going to do it by raising the country’s tax burden.

That’s especially true in a weak economy that is getting progressively weaker. Is Mr. Obama, or his ivory tower speech writers, at all familiar with the Republican and Democrat proposals that are now facing votes in Congress? Neither call for raising taxes. Nor do they immediately demand entitlement benefit cuts, turning that job over to a special 12-member House and Senate committee tasked with finding a bipartisan plan to reform Social Security and Medicare that can pass Congress in December.

House Speaker John A. Boehner’s new, two-step, debt-limit increase to cut spending by nearly $3 trillion calls for raising the debt limit right now by up to $1 trillion, with an accompanying $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over 10 years. The House-Senate panel would have to come up with an additional $1.8 trillion in spending cuts. His plan, modeled after the military base-closing concept, would put the panel’s recommendations on a fast-track, up or down vote that would allow no amendments.

Mr. Obama could request an extension of the debt-ceiling next year, but it would require a two-thirds majority in each house to block it.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s plan calls for fully raising the debt limit now, with $2.7 trillion in spending cuts, but no new tax revenues, over 10 years.

Somewhere between these two proposals there are the makings of a compromise, though Mr. Obama and the Democrats don’t want to face another debt-limit vote in 2012 that will only remind voters of the explosion of deficits and debts under his spendthrift presidency.

Whether Mr. Boehner can muster a majority of the 240 Republicans who run the House remains unclear. But it seems more likely now that he bowed to Tea Party demands to include future spending caps and another vote on a constitutional balanced budget amendment - provisions that the Senate already have rejected.

Meantime, Mr. Obama’s politically weakened presidency is likely to become even weaker by week’s end if new numbers show that the economy is growing even more slowly than was previously evident.

The Commerce Department on Friday will announce its economic growth estimates for the second quarter and the news isn’t expected to be good. “The report is set to be another disappointment, with forecasters expecting a 1.7 percent annual rate of growth,” down from an anemic 1.9 percent GDP rate in the first quarter, reports Washington Post economic reporter Neil Irwin. That’s well below the level needed to bring the 9.2 unemployment rate down anytime soon.

Mr. Obama didn’t have much if anything to say about the economy in his speech Monday night, and with good reason. He’s getting failing grades from an overwhelming majority of the voters on an economy that is veering dangerously closer to another recession.

Seventy-three percent of Americans “said the economy is getting worse,” a national daily tracking survey showed over the weekend, according to the Gallup Poll. “This is up 11 percentage points from the three days ending July 6, and the worst level for this measure since March 2009,” Gallup said Monday.

At the same time, Mr. Obama is averaging a dismal 43 percent “job approval rating for the week of July 18 to 24, tied for the lowest weekly average of his administration,” Gallup said.

That may explain why he went on national television to make a desperate but demonstrably empty political pitch on the growing debt crisis. His support is hemorrhaging faster than the national debt is rising.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.

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