Tuesday, April 6, 2010


A former colleague sent me the link to the video, IOUSA, that looks at the threat of the growing national debt. I could quibble with some of the points it makes (I think the debt held by the public is a more meaningful number than the gross debt, and the clip does not explain how a trade deficit is the inevitable outcome when a country that borrows does not save), but it explains why the debt should be the most important issue of domestic politics. It got good reviews, though I wonder if the people who liked it would like a 2010 remake. When the 2008 version says that one of the nation's problems is poor leadership, it is clearly pointing to the Bush administration.

On that topic of political leadership, Peter Wehner had an April 5th blog post at Commentary arguing that history will not look kindly on the Obama presidency. He notes that Obama inherited a terrible debt and deficit problem, to which both Republicans and Democrats had contributed. However:
What I do hold President Obama responsible for is that he took office when it was clear that our debt and deficit had reached crisis proportions. While that situation wasn’t the case when he decided to run for the presidency, it was the situation when he assumed the presidency. And rather than rethink the core purpose of his presidency, he decided to pursue his agenda in a state of denial, as if the financial collapse that began in September 2008 never happened, as if our ominous new fiscal reality had never occurred.

At the moment when history demanded one thing of Mr. Obama, he did another.
I have little doubt that Obama, having helped to engineer this fiscal calamity, will, later in his term, try to portray himself as a model of fiscal rectitude and Republicans as the party unconcerned with the mind-bending levels of deficit and debt he’s saddled us with. I am skeptical this trick will work. Family members are surely happy if a gambling addict gives up habit, but they aren’t about to be lectured on financial responsibility by a person whose gambling ruined the family finances.

The majority of the Obama presidency is still before us. Nevertheless, it’s not too early to say that on this vital front, Barack Obama has been, and will eventually be judged to be, a significant failure. He not only missed history’s calling, he mocked it. He placed his own statist ambitions above the needs of the nation he was elected to serve. Soon enough, and perhaps on a scale he cannot now imagine, Obama and his party will be held accountable for having done so.
 A 2010 remake of IOUSA would, if honest, have to reach conclusions similar to Wehner's. George Bush was as fiscally irresponsible as any president the U.S. has ever had, but compared to Barack Obama, he looks rather frugal.

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