Just as we saw in the last 21/2 years of the Bush administration, the Obama administration obviously has listened to respond, rather than listening to hear.
The president dismisses his lack of success by claiming he has not communicated his message enough. Really? I don’t care how many news conferences you have, how many speeches you give, or how much money you spend on public relations, if the dog food is bad, the dogs won’t eat it.
The American people are unhappy with the direction of the country. They have a deep antipathy toward the federal government’s activism, and they have actively opposed the Democrats’ health care proposals.
The elections in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts have given evidence that the message is not the problem, it’s the substance of the policy that is coming out of Washington that has people saying, “I’m mad as heck, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
With today’s technology, the American people can research, engage and find out more about what’s in legislation than ever before. This is what has stalled the health care bill. It is now not unusual for common citizens to know more about bills than members of Congress.
Americans don’t like what they’ve seen over the past eight months. President Obama signed an omnibus spending bill last December, costing $447 billion. It expanded federal spending by 12 percent while inflation grew by 1.8 percent. According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, there were 5,224 pork-barrel projects that cost $3.9 billion, including one called “The Shrimp Industry Fishing Effort Research Continuation,” costing us all $700,000. This irresponsible spending makes us all a bit cynical.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two institutions that were central to the economic meltdown, were virtually given a blank check by the Treasury last Christmas Eve. Estimated cost over the next three years — $400 billion.
By the 2006 elections, Republicans in Congress and the Bush White House had dug a ditch so deep they couldn’t get out of it, and surprisingly in some ways, they kept on digging. This seems to be where the Democrats are today.
The Democrats advanced a health-care reform package that even CNN said 61 percent of Americans opposed, and they kept digging. The crash of 2007-08 has cost the middle class their 401(k)s and their home equity. And the Brookings Institute found that American households lost $13 trillion in wealth between mid-2007 and March 2009. This hits the baby boomers drastically, as they are heading into retirement.
Sadly, Congress continues to dig. The American people are angry because they finally understand Washington math. They recognize that the economic recovery — whatever it is — has been driven primarily by government spending.
Stimulus money, first-time home buyer tax credits, cash for clunkers, extended unemployment insurance, and bank bailouts have taken their toll. So Americans are now asking: when does the government stimulus money fizzle out?
President Obama himself said last November, “I think it is important to recognize that if we keep on adding to the debt in the midst of this recovery, that at some point people could lose confidence in the U.S. economy in a way that could actually lead to a double-dip recession.”
My plea is, “Washington, please quit digging.”
Seventy percent of Americans say Washington isn’t working well, and only 28 percent say it does. Fifty-eight percent believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Will America recover from where we were in mid-2007? I’m optimistic we will. However, we cannot sustain our current levels of government spending with consumer confidence being as low as it is, with no consumer demand, no lending to small businesses, and consumer credit being maxed out. This model is unsustainable.
To get us there, we should have had a stimulus bill that was forward thinking to job creation, not backward thinking politics.
We need a fiscal policy that will create an environment for private sector investing by way of capital gains tax reductions, no tax increases, and that will generate credit for small businesses. Big banks got bailouts, small business got shunned.
Considering what has happened to my Democrat friends in the past two months, I anticipated a pivot to the political center in the State of the Union address. The president instead blamed Republicans for his problems, in spite of Democrats having an overwhelming majority in the U.S. House and a filibuster-proof margin in the Senate in 2009.
This tells me the president and the Democrat leadership are not only not listening, they have their hands over their ears. However, the president facing his opposition at the Republican members’ retreat late last month was a step in the right direction.
J.C. Watts (JCWatts01@jcwatts.com) is chairman of J.C. Watts Companies, a business consulting group. He is former chairman of the Republican Conference of the U.S. House, where he served as an Oklahoma representative from 1995 to 2002. He writes twice monthly for the Review-Journal.