Phil We know three things absolutely: death, taxes and four more years of President Barack Obama.
Ethan: Not sure I would put those three in the same sentence, but I get your point. Go on.
Phil: As a Democratic insider, what do you see in the unleashed Obama second term? True progress on curbing America’s spending addiction? Smaller, less intrusive federal government?
Ethan: We ended the irresponsible spending addiction when George W. Bush left office, and thankfully Obama has turned back the most intrusive parts of the Patriot Act. So, if you’re asking whether I think Obama will go back to the ways of Republicans, no way!
Phil: Wow, we really were politically separated at birth. I’m thinking about the president’s first term where he said he was going to cut the deficit (say nothing about the debt) by half. Instead, he doubled it! And your assessment is that he ended the spending addiction? What goes through your mind when you make these statements?
Ethan: What goes through my mind is the surplus Bush squandered with his tax cuts, two wars and unfunded prescription drug coverage. Thankfully, Obama reversed two of those three in his first term (I am cool leaving the third in place).
Phil: Ethan, the facts are that Obama just made the Bush tax reductions permanent and is winding down the wars on the schedule Bush set. Really, you must let go of “it’s Bush’s fault” and accept the last four years as the Obama legacy.
Ethan: I do accept the last four years as part of Obama’s legacy, and I am proud of what we saw. Clearly the American people are as well since they re-elected him by 5 million votes. And, if the philosophy he gave voice to in his riveting inaugural is any indication, we are going to see a man committed to a progressive agenda that will turn the Ronald Reagan tide that has been plaguing our middle class for 40 years. A man committed to closing our equality gaps in regard to gender, race, sexual orientation and, most importantly, income.
Phil: Really was stunning, wasn’t it? He’s the same man who ran against same-sex marriage the first time out who has now seen the light. The same U.S. senator who called raising the debt ceiling “immoral” and “unpatriotic,” who now as president says just the opposite. The man who got the same percentage of the vote as Bush in his re-election, declaring now that he has a mandate from the people.
Ethan: The same man, indeed (although he actually got 4 million more votes than Bush, but who’s counting…). As I said, Obama has found his footing. Let’s just hope his second term is better than Bush’s so Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo don’t have to spend so much time fixing the past when one of them takes the presidential oath in 2016, as Obama had to do in his first term.
Phil: Whoa, don’t get too far ahead of yourself there, pilgrim. The only way America is going to have a future the children can manage is to adopt a plan (perhaps a constitutional amendment) to pay our debts down to a sustainable level. Even states and many municipalities have to face these facts. This is Obama’s opportunity to belong to the ages like Lincoln does. Use the power of the office to convince elected officials across America that the children are counting on them to cure our addiction to deficit spending, starting with D.C.
Ethan: If you’re talking long term, I am with you. We see some serious structural issues around health care spending that must be addressed in the next decade. But in the short term, Obama must continue to focus like a laser on our economy and the widening wealth gap. And that means he must invest in infrastructure, education and jobs training. These were his themes from the inaugural, and I was proud that he understood the moment.
Phil: Really? Keep deficit spending now in the name of “investments” and pass the responsibility on to the next president? That’s how your party is going to transcend Reagan? The difference between Obama and Reagan is that Obama didn’t reveal his ultra-liberal agenda until after his final election. Reagan told voters his from day one.
Ethan: Give me a break. Reagan said he wanted smaller government and then proceeded to almost triple the national debt and add more than 200,000 non-military employees to the federal government. Obama has reduced the federal payroll by almost 20,000, after saying he would do just that!
Phil: Of course we both know that Congress decides what to actually spend.
Ethan: So, it was the fault of congressmen and women when Reagan was unable to stop their spending, but Obama gets no credit when he is able to get them to reduce the federal payroll?
Phil: You would be correct but for the fact that Congress hasn’t passed a budget since Obama became president! Again, I say, the president has the bully pulpit to lead all levels of government to spend within their means. We must believe in individuals to rise above dependency on government and climb higher for themselves, their families and their country. More government means more money from fewer people. This must stop.
Ethan: Well, it is true that we need more money from fewer people (the wealthy). In fact, that was one of Obama’s campaign pledges, and he kept it! Death, taxes and Obama keeping pledges. That much is true.
Phil: More like “pledges to spend more from a diminishing number of people.” That, and you rubbing in Obama’s re-election for the next four years, is what I know to be true.