Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!*
August 4, 2011 § Leave a comment
President Barack Obama, the President of the United States and leader of the Western world, has just presided over an agreement that, according to principles repeatedly and eloquently stated by him, was immoral and irrational.
It was immoral because it called for sacrifices from those least able to endure them, while making no demands on those to whom appropriate sacrifice would be trifling because it would impact neither their opulent lifestyle nor their power over the lives of others. It was irrational because, at a time when the American economy is suffering from diminished demand for goods and services, it siphons billions of dollars from the pockets of those who would be most likely to add those dollars to the needed demand.
The President was aware of these circumstances and he declared himself committed to all of the just-stated principles. He accepted the deal because he was maneuvered into a posture that charged him and his political allies with accepting it or causing a financial catastrophe.
This movie has been shown twice within the past few months. The first time, the President agreed to continue tax cuts for wealthiest Americans to avoid cutting off money for unemployed workers to sustain them while they searched for jobs.
This should not occur again.
To prevent it, the President should call a press conference and make the following statement: “I shall veto any measure that takes further steps to deal with the federal deficit unless that measure includes substantial tax increases on the wealthiest two percent of Americans. I recognize that spending cuts must accompany such a measure. I am ready and willing to negotiate in good faith concerning the nature, extent and timing of both spending cuts and tax increases.
I think it is fair and responsible of me to make this clear to all concerned as Congressional leaders make appointments to the committee charged with making recommendations to the Congress concerning these matters.
I also want to say a word to those members of Congress who come here feeling bound by a pledge that excludes them from responsible negotiations concerning these issues. Making judgments about the nature and fairness of taxation is one of the principal functions of an elected member of Congress. If some members have made political promises that prevent them from making such judgments, I can and do ask that they put their responsibilities to America above their commitments to their constituents. I fully recognize the political peril this entails. I ask that they risk that peril because I need their honest judgment, not the judgment of unelected, self aggrandizing political bosses who use their political skill and access to money to control public policy.
In 1775, Edmund Burke, usually recognized as the father of modern conservatism, said the following to his constituents in Bristol, from whence he was elected to Parliament:
‘Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.’
As a matter of condor, I must tell you that Mr. Burke was defeated for re-election to his seat in 1780. His place in history is secure, nevertheless, because he valued his principles above political gain.”
If the President makes this statement before the appointments to the so-called “Super Committee” are announced, he will place the burden on those who make them and on the appointees to produce a reasonable and morally acceptable recommendation. If he waits until after the Committee makes its recommendation, his veto will place the entire responsibility on him for its consequences. He should, in other words, offer a choice to the Congress; not wait for the Congress to offer him another choice between two unacceptable results.
If he does not do this, the next episode is so predictable as to be tiresome: He and the Democrats will, once again, be offered a choice between two immoral and irrational policy measures.
Oh, and one more thing: If they call his bluff, he must veto the measure and his veto message must place the blame where it belongs: on those who voted for something they knew would be vetoed.
*Stan Laurel to Oliver Hardy in many funny movies.