For years, President Obama promised meaningful reform to entitlement programs, and for years, Washington refused to take any action. This weekend, with the majority of Americans hoping the president would lay out a clear path to reduce spending and get our deficits and debt under control, he barely paid lip service to those issues. Entitlement reform was notably absent and the idea of deficit reduction was “almost mocked.” Talk is cheap on our overspending problem, but now it appears to be not even worth mentioning.
ENTITLEMENT REFORM NOTABLY ABSENT FROM PRESIDENT OBAMA’S SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS; DEFICIT REDUCTION “ALMOST MOCKED”
POLITICO: “Obama Dodges ‘Hard Choices’ On Entitlements.” (Carrie Budoff Brown, “Obama Dodges ‘Hard Choices’ On Entitlements,” POLITICO, 1/22/13)
- Entitlements “Lurking Like A Legacy Killer.” “Unless Obama seizes the opportunity in the next few months, entitlement reform will hang over his second term, lurking like a legacy-killer if he hands off the task to the next president, deficit hawks warn.” (Carrie Budoff Brown, “Obama Dodges ‘Hard Choices’ On Entitlements,” POLITICO, 1/22/13)
- “Hard Choices” Remain. “President Barack Obama insisted four years ago that the nation must make ‘hard decisions’ to preserve entitlement programs. But on Monday, the ‘hard choices’ he spoke of on health care and the deficit came with a major caveat: He’s not willing to give up much.” (Carrie Budoff Brown, “Obama Dodges ‘Hard Choices’ On Entitlements,” POLITICO, 1/22/13)
Obama Most Likely “Done On The Entitlement, Spending Front.” “It’s still possible that something big could come out of the upcoming sequestration/budget battle, but most likely, Obama is done on the entitlement, spending front. And realistically, this may be the end of serious entitlement talk for a long while.” (Joseph Wiesenthal, “Obama’s Inauguration Speech Dealt A Devastating Blow To Deficit Hawks,” Business Insider, 1/22/13)
Business Insider: “Obama’s Inauguration Speech Dealt A Devastating Blow To Deficit Hawks” (Joseph Wiesenthal, “Obama’s Inauguration Speech Dealt A Devastating Blow To Deficit Hawks,” Business Insider, 1/22/13)
- Obama “Almost Mocked The Idea Of Deficit Reduction.” “The real bombshell was what he [Obama] didn’t include, however. He could have included a serious paragraph about a ‘Grand Bargain’ to reduce the deficit. … Instead, he only addressed it in a half-hearted manner. In fact, he almost mocked the idea of deficit reduction.” (Joseph Wiesenthal, “Obama’s Inauguration Speech Dealt A Devastating Blow To Deficit Hawks,” Business Insider, 1/22/13)
- Instead Of Fiscal Discipline, Obama Defends Costly Status Quo. “[A]mid calls to impose discipline on the federal budget, he defended the value of a costly social safety net, describing it as a critical support for Americans willing to ‘to take the risks that make this country great.’” (Zachary Goldfarb, “In Inaugural Address, Obama Outlines Second-Term Economic Plans,” The Washington Post, 1/21/13)
- Deficit Ship Has Sailed. “Prior to today, there had been some talk that Obama would pursue deficit reduction, as part of his legacy project in his second term. But it’s pretty clear that ship has sailed.” (Joseph Wiesenthal, “Obama’s Inauguration Speech Dealt A Devastating Blow To Deficit Hawks,” Business Insider, 1/22/13)
“WE NEED … ENTITLEMENT REFORM”
Senior Obama Advisers Acknowledge Need For Entitlement Reform:
White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe: “We need spending cuts and entitlement reform and revenue. Have to have that.” (“David Plouffe: Revenue Debate Not Over,” ABC News, 1/20/13)
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “It is the president’s position that when we’re talking about a broad, balanced approach to dealing with our fiscal challenges, that that includes dealing with entitlements.” (Stephen Ohlemacher, “Senate Dems Divided Over Cuts To Benefit Programs,” The Associated Press, 11/28/12)
Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: “If we don’t do some common sense rational things, in 20 years or in 15 years or even in 10 years, we’re going to have a budget that is completely taken up by entitlements and the pentagon.” (Robert Gibbs, MSNBC’s Morning Joe, 1/22/13)
Obama Pledged To Reform Entitlements Four Years Ago:
Pledged To Overhaul Medicare, Social Security In First Term. “[Obama] pledged during the 2008 campaign to overhaul Medicare and Social Security in his first term, saying he couldn’t finish the job in his first two years but ‘we’ve got to do it quickly.’” (Carrie Budoff Brown, “Obama Dodges ‘Hard Choices’ On Entitlements,” POLITICO, 1/22/13)
- Entitlement Reform “Central” To Containing Spending. “As president-elect, Obama said entitlement reform would be ‘a central part’ of his administration’s attempts to contain federal spending.” (Carrie Budoff Brown, “Obama Dodges ‘Hard Choices’ On Entitlements,” POLITICO, 1/22/13)
Widely Reported That Obama Was Willing To Address Entitlements. “During the debt ceiling fight and the fiscal cliff fight, Obama was (widely reportedly) willing to make cuts to entitlements in exchange for higher taxes from Republicans.” (Joseph Wiesenthal, “Obama’s Inauguration Speech Dealt A Devastating Blow To Deficit Hawks,” Business Insider, 1/22/13)
“Obama Pledges Reform of Social Security, Medicare Programs” (in 2009): “What we have done is kicked this can down the road. We are now at the end of the road and are not in a position to kick it any further,” [President Obama] said. “We have to signal seriousness in this by making sure some of the hard decisions are made under my watch, not someone else’s.” (Michael D. Shear, “Obama Pledges Reform of Social Security, Medicare Programs,” The Washington Post, 1/16/09)
BUT AMERICANS STILL WANT WASHINGTON TO STOP SPENDING AND REDUCE OUR DEBT AND DEFICITS
New Public Notice Poll: Majority Of Americans Wanted President Obama To Address Specific Spending Cuts In Inaugural Address. “Seventy-four percent disagree and 22 percent agree with President Obama’s statement that ‘We don’t have a spending problem.’ In fact, 56 percent say it is extremely or very important that President Obama call for specific spending cuts in his upcoming Inaugural address.” (Public Notice Poll, “Majority Of Americans Disagree With President On Spending,” The Tarrance Group, 1/18/13)
Spending Remains A Top Issue. “Spending and the federal deficit are tied with jobs and the economy as the top concern on people’s minds (29 percent). The next top concern is education at 11 percent.” (Public Notice Poll, “Majority Of Americans Disagree With President On Spending,” The Tarrance Group, 1/18/13)
Wealth is not Created at the Top: It is Only Devoured There
The UK has left the EU and we can argue about the minutiae of Wealth until we’re blue in the face. But the overriding factors are apparent and in one of the richest countries in the world it is shocking that so many people can’t even be sure if they are going to be able to eat enough today or provide for their loved ones.
These days, politicians from the left to the right assume that most wealth is created at the top. By the visionaries, by the job creators, and by the people who have “made it”. By the go-getters oozing talent and entrepreneurial-ism that are helping to advance the whole world – Opinion by Rutger Bregman
… across the spectrum virtually all agree that wealth is created primarily at the top and so entrenched is this assumption that it’s even embedded in our language. When economists talk about “productivity”, what they really mean is the size of your paycheck. And when we use terms like “welfare state”, “redistribution” and “solidarity”, we’re implicitly subscribing to the view that there are two strata: the makers and the takers, the producers and the couch potatoes, the hardworking citizens – and everybody else.
Bankers, pharmaceutical giants, Google, Facebook … a new breed of rentiers are at the very top of the pyramid and they’re sucking the rest of us dry
In reality, it is precisely the other way around. In reality, it is the waste collectors, the nurses, and the cleaners whose shoulders are supporting the apex of the pyramid. They are the true mechanism of social solidarity. Meanwhile, a growing share of those we hail as “successful” and “innovative” are earning their wealth at the expense of others. The people getting the biggest handouts are not down around the bottom, but at the very top. Yet their perilous dependence on others goes unseen. Almost no one talks about it. Even for politicians on the left, it’s a non-issue.
To understand why, we need to recognise that there are two ways of making money. The first is what most of us do: work. That means tapping into our knowledge and know-how (our “human capital” in economic terms) to create something new, whether that’s a takeout app, a wedding cake, a stylish updo, or a perfectly poured pint. To work is to create. Ergo, to work is to create new wealth.
But there is also a second way to make money. That’s the rentier way: by leveraging control over something that already exists, such as land, knowledge, or money, to increase your wealth. You produce nothing, yet profit nonetheless. By definition, the rentier makes his living at others’ expense, using his power to claim economic benefit.
But here comes the rub. Most rentiers are not as easily identified as the greedy banker or manager. Many are disguised. On the face of it, they look like industrious folks, because for part of the time they really are doing something worthwhile. Precisely that makes us overlook their massive rent-seeking…
The problems we face are that the politicians are firmly in the hands (pockets) of the uber wealthy. We live in a corporate plutocracy and those holding all the wealth and therefore power have no intention of changing the status quo, even if it isn’t sustainable. They remind me of bacteria (or cancer) devouring the host body more and more even though eventually it will kill them too.
Donald Trump Forgets Important Lesson From Grandad:
Harper’s Magazine reprints an interesting letter from US President Donald J. Trump’s own grandfather that may get you thinking. Here is it then:
The Emigrants – By Friedrich Trump – From a letter written in 1905 by Friedrich Trump, Donald Trump’s grandfather, to Luitpold, prince regent of Bavaria. Trump had been ordered to leave Bavaria for failing to complete mandatory military service and to register his initial emigration to the United States twenty years earlier.
Prince Luitpold rejected Trump’s request for repatriation; the family later settled in New York. Translated from the German by Austen Hinkley.
Most Serene, Most Powerful Prince Regent! Most Gracious Regent and Lord!
I was born in Kallstadt on March 14, 1869. My parents were honest, plain, pious vineyard workers. They strictly held me to everything good — to diligence and piety, to regular attendance in school and church, to absolute obedience toward the high authority.
After my confirmation, in 1882, I apprenticed to become a barber. I emigrated in 1885, in my sixteenth year. In America I carried on my business with diligence, discretion, and prudence. God’s blessing was with me, and I became rich. I obtained American citizenship in 1892. In 1902 I met my current wife. Sadly, she could not tolerate the climate in New York, and I went with my dear family back to Kallstadt.
The town was glad to have received a capable and productive citizen. My old mother was happy to see her son, her dear daughter-in-law, and her granddaughter around her; she knows now that I will take care of her in her old age.
But we were confronted all at once, as if by a lightning strike from fair skies, with the news that the High Royal State Ministry had decided that we must leave our residence in the Kingdom of Bavaria. We were paralyzed with fright; our happy family life was tarnished. My wife has been overcome by anxiety, and my lovely child has become sick.
Why should we be deported? This is very, very hard for a family. What will our fellow citizens think if honest subjects are faced with such a decree — not to mention the great material losses it would incur. I would like to become a Bavarian citizen again.
In this urgent situation I have no other recourse than to turn to our adored, noble, wise, and just sovereign lord, our exalted ruler His Royal Highness, highest of all, who has already dried so many tears, who has ruled so beneficially and justly and wisely and softly and is warmly and deeply loved, with the most humble request that the highest of all will himself in mercy deign to allow the applicant to stay in the most gracious Kingdom of Bavaria.
Your most humble and obedient,
… Well then. Long ago, yes.. Still applies? You tell me.
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