Barack Obama seems to imagine that he has acquired an equally decisive mandate with his election to a second term. Although his margin of victory over Mitt Romney was less than that over John McCain, he appears to have decided this is enough to steamroller the Republicans.
With little over a two percent surplus and entire sections of the nation (most notably the entire South) aligned against him, he has nonetheless concluded he was authorized to transform the country.
Already it is clear that those observers who thought his reelection would have a salutary effect on our chief executive have been proven wrong. Obama is not about to become an evenhanded statesman.
Right from the opening bell, our president seems determined to demonstrate his lack of moderation. This is odd, because didn’t he, in fact, spend the better part of a year advocating a “balanced approach” to tackling the deficit; one in line with what the Simpson-Bowles Commission recommended?
Yet, as I recall, its leaders advocated a three-to-one ratio of spending cuts to tax increases. Now our president is demanding, not asking for, a three-to-one ratio the other way. And, oh by the way, he refuses to be specific about what spending cuts — if any — he would approve.
His number one non-negotiable demand, of course, is to raise taxes on the upper two percent of income earners. This is defended as a necessary step toward fiscal “fairness.” It is also endorsed as an essential tool in lowering the national deficit.
But let us look at the real possibilities. On the one hand, if income tax rates go up on those earning over $250,000 a year, it is unlikely that revenues will increase very much. Indeed, if history is a guide, they may actually decrease. In this case, the deficit will not be reduced one whit.
On the other hand, if revenues do increase substantially, this will largely be at the expense of small business owners. In this case, hiring will be adversely affected and the unemployment rate will rise. We might even enter a renewed recession.
So what should Republicans do? Should they attempt to prevent what they have good reason to believe is bad public policy; then get the political blame for their principled stand? Or should they let the president own the consequences of his over-reaching?
In either case, with our national debt still soaring, after 30 short years, 100 percent of the federal budget will go entirely for interest payments. My 20-something KSU students, i.e., the ones who will be most hurt by such a development, think this is a long way off, but it is not.
Obama keeps kicking the deficit disaster down the road, perhaps in the hope this will force our country to adopt his collectivist solutions. Nevertheless, the end result will probably be domestic poverty and international impotence.
Perhaps Obama is actually a reincarnation of France’s King Louis XV. This monarch was the one who allegedly said “Après moi le deluge.” (“After me, the deluge.”) After all, Obama knows that in four more years whatever problems he creates will be someone else’s responsibility.
He may even be hoping that the rescue operation is assigned to Republicans who will then bear the onus for the medicine they administer. The immediate question, however, is should the Republicans accept the current blame? Or should they stand back as Obama mistakenly implements policies for which he does not have the authority he thinks he has?
In any event, batten down the hatches. A harsh wind is blowing out of Washington; one that may flatten many houses before it subsides.
Melvyn L. Fein Ph.D., is professor of Sociology at Kennesaw State University.