As I warned a month ago, President Obama overplayed the scare tactics leading up to the Sequester. It now appears that the large polling advantage Obama had over the Republicans on the issue of the economy has vanished in the last month. As I wrote last month the protestations that the economy if the Sequester went through would collapse were hollow.
To say that an $85 billion cut out of a $3.7 Trillion budget is hardly cause for alarm. After the military budget doubled in 8 years under both Bush and Obama, reducing the Pentagon budget by 6% hardly qualifies for endangering our national security. This kind of scare talk should be left to John McCain and Lindsay Graham and will only backfire on the President when it turns out that the sky did not fall after the Sequester went through. Anyone who has run a business–big or small–knows that taking 5% out of a budget can be done without killing the enterprise.
Democrats have to be very careful they don’t get themselves in the position of defending Big Government against a natural reform movement that goes beyond party labels.Andrew Kohut wrote an amazing analysis of the Republican’s Presidential problems on Friday. He made it clear that the right wing media has painted the party into a corner, but he also noted the unique blend of opinion that was expressed in the November election.
Voters generally agreed with the GOP that a smaller government is preferable to a larger, activist one, and therefore they disapproved of Obamacare. However, exit polls showed popular support for legalizing same-sex marriage and giving illegal immigrants opportunities for citizenship.
This combination of conservative and liberal views is typical. To win, both parties must appeal to the mixed values of the electorate. But it will be very hard for the Republican Party, given the power of the staunch conservatives in its ranks.
What is so fascinating is that there is a natural constituency for a real reform movement that crosses party lines. It would take on issues of corporate welfare like farm subsidies, pentagon bloat and even such sacred liberal cows as the disability system. Channa Joffe-Walt’s NPR Planet Money series Unfit for Work chronicles the astonishing rise of disability claims in the last 15 years.
In the past three decades, the number of Americans who are on disability has skyrocketed. The rise has come even as medical advances have allowed many more people to remain on the job, and new laws have banned workplace discrimination against the disabled. Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government.
The federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for disabled former workers than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined. Yet people relying on disability payments are often overlooked in discussions of the social safety net. People on federal disability do not work. Yet because they are not technically part of the labor force, they are not counted among the unemployed.
As she points out much of this astonishing rise has stemmed from law firms like Binder and Binder that advertise on daytime TV and take claims into a court system in which THE GOVERNMENT HAS NO REPRESENTATIVE THAT CAN QUESTION THE VALIDITY OF THE DISABILITY CLAIM!. Binder and Binder made $68.7 million last year representing disability claims. Here is the result.
One could look at the subsidies for the phony private college system (University of Phoenix, et al) and see equally galling scams in which the Federal Government is being played for a chump. Or how about one of the biggest corporate welfare scams–farm subsidies? These payments are not going to the little family farmer, they are going to Archer Daniels Midland , ConAgra and other Ag giants. As Taxpayers for Common Sense reported,
Taxpayers could save at least $100 billion over the next ten years by eliminating wasteful agricultural subsidies like direct payments, reining in out-of-control spending on the highly subsidized federal crop insurance program, rejecting new “shallow loss” income guarantee subsidies, and making other federal farm bill programs more transparent and accountable to the public.
And don’t get me started on the Military Industrial Complex. When even a hawk like former Reagan Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, says the pentagon is bloated, you know it’s time to take out the meat ax.
Lehman, who testified along with former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, was asked for his views on the impact of upcoming budget cuts on Navy operations and ship programs. But Lehman said his biggest beef is not with the sequester but with Pentagon bloat that drains resources from combat forces.
“I think that there is a huge amount of overhead fat in the defense budget,” he said. “I don’t see sequester providing the flexibility to remove and cut that overhead that’s in both the uniform and the civilian sides of the Pentagon.” Roughead concurred.
So here is the deal. President Obama has got to find his inner Teddy Roosevelt. His last four years have to be a reform agenda to take on all of absurd waste in our Federal Government. The more he takes the side of defending the status quo, the more his credibility on fiscal matters will crumble. Now is the time. The troops are coming home from two disastrous wars. The economy is recovering and the housing market is once again recovering. Don’t tell us you can’t cut 5% of an incredibly bloated government.
That dog won’t hunt.