Okay, okay. I know that Obama doesn’t read AB. So I know that his decision, reflected in his speech today at a lunch with Associated Press editors and reporters, to finally—finally—start refuting the Republicans’ economics proposals with actual examples and statistics, was not prompted by my repeated laments here that Obama just doesn’t do specifics, i.e., statistics and other facts, when speaking to the general public, which until now he’s rarely done anyway. And my primal pleas that he do so. (When, earlier this year, he defended his decision to openly approve a Super Pac that supports him, explaining that he decided to not unilaterally disarm, I said to myself: “Hmm. Guess he’s had a change heart, after unilaterally disarming for the last three years.”)
So the first sentence in the title of this post is facetious. The second sentence in the title is not.
The New York Times is reporting on its website:
President Obama opened a full-frontal assault Tuesday on the budget adopted by House Republicans, condemning it as a “Trojan horse” and “thinly veiled social Darwinism” that would greatly deepen inequality in the country.…
In the latest of a series of combative speeches, the president said Americans could not afford to elect a Republican president at a time of fragile economic recovery, with a weak job market and a crushing national debt from “two wars, two massive tax cuts and an unprecedented financial crisis.”
The widening gulf between the rich and everyone else, Mr. Obama said, was hobbling the country’s economic growth. He cited studies that found that societies with less income inequality had stronger and steadier growth.
“In this country, broad-based prosperity has never trickled down from the success of a wealthy few,” the president said, according to excerpts of his address. “It has always come from the success of a strong and growing middle class. That’s how a generation who went to college on the G.I. Bill, including my grandfather, helped build the most prosperous economy the world has ever known.” …
But the president reserved his harshest words for the 2013 budget proposal recently passed by the Republican-controlled House. The budget, drafted by Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, calls for $5.3 trillion in spending cuts, as well as tax cuts for households earning more than $250,000.
“Disguised as a deficit reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It’s nothing but thinly veiled social Darwinism,” Mr. Obama said. “By gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last — education and training, research and development — it’s a prescription for decline.”
I’m absolutely thrilled. Obama’s finally picking up the gauntlet that the Repubs have thrown down, and, calling that spade the spade that it is, is throwing it back. Hard. Clear. And with real precision.
By far the most important parts of what he said are, I think, his references to the WWII generation’s use of the GI Bill and how it effectuated class mobility and helped spur the tremendous economic growth of the three postwar decades, and his actual citation to studies showing that societies with less income inequality had stronger and steadier growth.
But I hope he goes even further and compares the tax rates during the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s—including capital gains taxes and estate taxes—with today’s tax rates established during the G. W. Bush presidency and, even more important, with the tax rates proposed by the current Republicans.
Yup. George Romney and Edward Davies, Ann Romney’s father, amassed their wealth during Socialism. They must have been economic Houdinis. Or corrupt Commie officials.
I hope Obama also discusses what those higher tax rates bought. The interstate highway system, for example, and the student loan programs and significant aide to state universities that helped finance so many baby boomers’ college educations. And that he points out, again and again, that in January 2001 we had no budget-deficit problem because we were raising most of the federal tax revenue needed to pay for most of our federal needs.
Specifics. Statistics. To refute the damn lies and the soundbites and clichés. And to illustrate the consequences. A picture really is worth a thousand words. Even if the picture is drawn in words.
Here’s one such picture, already framed: In his State of the Union address earlier this year, Obama acknowledged the problem of spiraling college tuitions and its effect on the ability of college-age members of the so-called working- and even middle-class to attend college, and on the longer-term economic effects upon those who do, using college loans that leave them owing massive debts upon graduation. Not even to mention the long-term effects on the economy from this huge aggregate debt. He suggested penalties, in the form of reductions in federal funds, for colleges and universities that don’t find ways to curtail the tuition hikes.
A day or two later, Linda posted a fact-based refutation, pointing out that the main reason for the incessant tuition hikes at public universities is the incessant cutting of state funding for those universities, necessitated all the more by the economic downturn since 2007 and the resulting decrease in tax revenues and increase in recession-related expenditures. Not long afterward, I read—I don’t remember where—that one major state university, which was not identified in the article, has seen its state funding reduced from 80% of its total revenue sources to 20% within (I think) the past two decades. The result, as some longtime professors at state universities lament, is that the student bodies at these schools are now, unlike in earlier relatively-recent times, largely from upscale families, and very few are from working-class families. The level of federal financial assistance to states for colleges and universities obviously impacts this significantly.
I’d love to hear Obama use this as an example to illustrate that the starve-the-beast juggernaut has broad and profound societal consequences.
I’d also love to see Obama ask rhetorically what people think will be the consequence of the Republicans’ budget if, during the next economic downturn there is no funding for unemployment compensation, a need that obviously is in an inverse relation to the unemployment rate and therefore to tax revenues. And what will we cut from the budget in order to provide emergency disaster funding for, say, hurricane damage?
But today was a terrific start. It’s statistics and other specifics that matter. And today, for once, he provided some. Hopefully, it was just the start.