America saw a different President Obama yesterday. Over the last two years, the president’s job was to repair the economy and to make us safer. He has failed at both but at least he appeared to be trying — his failures were arguably attributable to inexperience, misguidance, and incompetence. Yesterday, however, the president went from being wrong to being deceptive and intellectually dishonest.
The peril of our nation’s present fiscal course has been amply documented. The facts are settled. The president’s own bipartisan deficit commission proposed entitlement and spending reforms to restore fiscal responsibility. The Republicans in the House of Representatives and Chairman Paul Ryan have offered alternative reforms of their own. With the resulting national recognition of financial peril, the country was presented with a once-in-a-generation opportunity. As the president summoned the nation, change was hoped for. Demagoguery, divisiveness, and deception is what we got.
Of course, it was predictable that the president would call for “tax hikes for the rich” even as he surely knows that extending the Bush tax cuts has been the single feature of the December tax compromise that has contributed most to stimulating the economy. And as he excoriates millionaires and billionaires — a politically delicious target — he also surely knows that the higher taxes he promises will impair America’s vital small businesses, depressing job and income growth for everyone.
Even so, if these shortcomings had been the only fault of the president’s speech, his performance would at least have been consistent with those of his past. But in refusing to endorse any — any — substantive reforms of our runaway spending and entitlement programs, and in impugning the motives of those who have put forward such proposals, the president’s performance went from wrong to bad.
The matter of spending and reform is no longer about politics. It is about preserving America’s future. The president’s descent is disheartening and dangerous.