Hey Obama, Listen To Johnson (Or Truman Or Roosevelt)

Brion McClanahan Author, The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution
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Obama unveiled his latest budget proposals Monday to a mix of yawns and frowns and a definite rejection from Congress. Obama threatened the veto more times in his State of the Union speech than any previous president, and the two sides appear far apart on any tangible issues, save Republican buckling on immigration and a lack of conviction to repeal Obamacare. The vote this week on that issue will be largely symbolic. As long as the Republican leadership can go along and get along, they are willing to bide their time leading to 2016.

Obama has candidly stated he thinks Republican demands for tax cuts will kill the apparently robust economic growth of the past two years. The current 11.2 percent of Americans who are unemployed, underemployed, or discouraged from finding employment would disagree. What we need, Obama clearly thinks, are higher taxes and more spending. He proved it with a nearly $4 trillion budget that called for a spending increase of almost six percent and a “low” half a trillion dollar deficit.

Conservatives immediately howled in protest at the projected $1 trillion in tax increases over the next decade, and for good reason. They are an economic disaster waiting to happen, as are the out of control deficits for the foreseeable future.

Obama, however, finds himself in the same situation as Harry Truman after the 1948 election. Truman knew he would not see any of his ambitious “Fair Deal” initiatives passed through Congress, so he doubled down on a far left agenda in an effort to rally his sagging base and prove that the Republicans were the big, bad wolf who wanted to eat impoverished children, starve their grandma, and take away their housing (add phones, healthcare and free college to Obama’s list). Both Obama and Truman threw their opponents a bone by suggesting higher defense spending — something fiscally responsible conservatives should approach with caution — but their budgets and their agenda were D.O.A.

Republicans have trotted out statistics from various conservative publications and think tanks that poke holes in Obama’s economic theories, denounced him as a closet socialist, and rallied behind the Reagan economy of the 1980s to prove that tax cuts are beneficial. Obama won’t listen. Democrats won’t listen. Obama keeps printing money, running up debt, and running the United States toward financial ruin, albeit with an often complicit Congress. But perhaps the problem is not the message but the messenger. Maybe Obama needs a good dose of liberal economic logic.

Who said this:

“With the utmost seriousness I point out to the Congress the profound effect of this fact ($5 billion in debt) upon our national economy. It has contributed to the recent collapse of our banking structure. It has accentuated the stagnation of the economic life of our people. It has added to the ranks of the unemployed. Our Government’s house is not in order and for many reasons no effective action has been taken to restore it to order … For three long years the Federal Government has been on the road toward bankruptcy … Too often in recent history liberal governments have been wrecked on rocks of loose fiscal policy. We must avoid this danger.”

Answer: Franklin Roosevelt, 1933

Obama would assuredly respond that he agrees, hence his proposal for dramatic tax increases to stave off high deficits and national bankruptcy. Strike one for changing his mind.

Who said this:

“One of the most powerful anti-inflationary factors in our economy today is the excess of government revenues over expenditures.”

Answer: Harry Truman, 1948

Even the free spending Truman, who then cautioned against tax cuts, understood that the government need to maintain a balanced budget, not in ten years, but now and forever. Obama should take his advice. Of course, Obama would then explain that Truman advised against tax cuts and promoted a domestic agenda that mirrored his own. Strike two for changing his mind.

Who said this:

“We need a tax cut now to keep this country moving.”

Answer: Lyndon Johnson, 1964

Johnson said this during the same speech in which he declared “war on poverty.” Obama has declared a war on just about everything in the free market, but after Johnson’s quote, he wouldn’t have a response. He would probably stumble around, suggesting that the situation is different, that he could favor tax cuts if the economy were better, etc., but Johnson did not suggest we needed tax cuts later. We needed them now.

No one could question Johnson’s commitment to excessive government spending and an unsustainable liberal agenda mainly through the explosive growth in entitlement spending, but the architect of the Great Society admitted that tax cuts “keep this country moving” by freeing up capital, the only real measure of wealth and prosperity. This quote, more than John F. Kennedy’s insistence on tax cuts, is a home run for the good guys.

So, if Obama won’t listen to conservatives, perhaps he should listen to liberals. Even some of them displayed brief — very brief — periods of sanity. This may be too much to ask.