Commentary: Obama economics is not what we need now
SAN DIEGO -- With soaring gas prices, a shaky job market and a surge in home foreclosures, many Americans say their No. 1 issue is the economy. Unfortunately for Barack Obama, that's one area where he strikes out with regularity. In fact, in rece...
SAN DIEGO -- With soaring gas prices, a shaky job market and a surge in home foreclosures, many Americans say their No. 1 issue is the economy.
Unfortunately for Barack Obama, that's one area where he strikes out with regularity. In fact, in recent weeks, the Illinois senator has been one for five on major economic issues.
The only thing he got right was his opposition to the gas tax holiday proposed by John McCain and Hillary Clinton. It was a political stunt that would have offered little relief to most American motorists.
More recently, Obama was wrong to voice support for the $289 billion farm bill recently approved by Congress. President Bush vetoed the bill, insisting that the legislation gave away too much to multimillionaire farmers while Americans continue to pay more for groceries. Besides, the bill doesn't make sense. The federal government will wind up guaranteeing payments for farmers, even if prices remain high.
Still, the Democratic-controlled Congress wasted no time in overriding the President's veto to please agribusiness.
On trade, Obama was wrong to follow Clinton's lead and threaten to pull out of NAFTA if Mexico and Canada wouldn't agree to renegotiate terms more favorable to U.S. workers.
On the mortgage crisis, he was wrong to propose a $10 billion home foreclosure prevention fund "to bridge lender and borrower" so that more people could stay in their homes. That would only reward those who made bad decisions.
And, in perhaps the most serious economic misstep of all, Obama was wrong, while campaigning in Oregon, to tell a group of seniors in an assisted living facility that McCain would doom Social Security -- America's most beloved entitlement program -- because the Arizona senator supports privatizing it.
McCain would allow workers to invest at least 20 percent of their payroll taxes in private accounts, with a potentially higher yield than the current system allows. The idea would be to allow Social Security funds to grow faster to head off a projected shortfall in less than 10 years when the amount of money going into the system will be less than what is going out. Other proposed reforms include trimming benefits and raising the retirement age.
Obama also opposes those ideas, instead favoring a plan that would make higher-income workers pay more into the system. He wants to raise Social Security taxes on those who earn more than $97,500, who, he says, amount to the "upper class." Even Clinton called that a tax increase and said it was the wrong way to fix the Social Security shortfall.
Besides, many experts who have studied the future of Social Security suggest that workers who are now under 40 are already headed for massive tax increases in the next 10 to 20 years just to keep the current system afloat and pay for the retirement of nearly 70 million baby boomers. Against that gloomy backdrop, Obama would have young workers with higher incomes pay even more in taxes. And even that may not be enough to fix the shortfall. That's why you have to keep other ideas on the table, even the unpopular ones.
It's not that Obama isn't smart enough to know this. And it's not that he doesn't understand economics. I'm sure he does. I suspect the problem is that the presumptive Democratic nominee is trying too hard to ingratiate himself with what has now become the biggest and most influential special interest in America: middle-class voters who feel squeezed financially and want government to come to the rescue, or at least want politicians to assure them that someone cares that they're having trouble making ends meet.
Let's keep it real. What politicians care about most is getting elected, and -- like other Democrats -- Obama seems to think the way to accomplish this is by promising everything to everyone and asking for very little sacrifice in return. That's Obama-omics. And it's not what the country needs.