Barack Obama’s dream of being a transformational president who alters the course of his country died 48 hours ago.
The message America sent Obama and the men and women America sent to Congress to replace his allies impel one to ask: Why would he want a second term?
Why would the most liberal president since FDR wish to preside over the major surgery on the social safety net that must be done in the era of austerity we have entered? The liberal hour is over. Why would the Party of Government not prefer that Republicans do the painful work of paring back programs for which Democrats have fought since the New Deal?
The media have begun a drumbeat to demand that the new speaker, John Boehner, compromise with Obama for the good of the country.
Are these people delusional?
Republicans were brought to power because they were the Party of No. Boehner takes the gavel from Nancy Pelosi because he led the fight to kill the Obama stimulus, Obamacare, card check, amnesty, cap-and-trade and Barney Frank’s financial reform.
Boehner’s beliefs are closer to the Tea Party than to Obama. He owes his speakership to the Tea Party. His political interests dictate allying with the Tea Party and moving even further away from Obama.
Why would Boehner lead his caucus into a suicide pact with Obama when, in Boehner’s eyes, the national interest and his own interests point in the other direction?
The left has yet to grasp that the nation has repudiated it as well as Obama. America has shifted to the right, which again raises the question of Obama’s relevance. Why would our most liberal president since FDR want to lead the nation into an age of austerity?
Here is retiring GOP Sen. Judd Gregg, the fiscal conservative that Barack Obama most wanted in his Cabinet.
“This nation is on a course where if we don’t … get … fiscal policy (under control), we’re Greece. We’re a banana republic.”
“(T)he Tea Party is in the mainstream of where political thought is right now,” said Gregg. “We’ve had a radical explosion in the size of government in the last two years: You’ve gone from 20 percent of GDP to 24 percent of GDP headed toward 28 percent of GDP. That has to be brought under control or … we’re going to bankrupt the country.”
Conservatives, Republicans, Tea Partiers all agree with Gregg.
But how does Obama, whose deficits have added more to the debt in two years than Bush added in eight, convert and become a deficit hawk?
Consider Social Security, which all agree must be made solvent.
There are two ways. One is to raise the wage base on which Social Security taxes are imposed and raise the 6.2 percent payroll tax on both employers and employees. But these are major tax increases. And the GOP and Tea Party will fix bayonets to fight them.
The other way is to raise the retirement age to 70 and re-index Social Security COLAs (cost-of-living adjustments) to prices, not wages, reducing future benefits for baby boomers and generations X and Y.
Will Pelosi’s battered liberals go along with reducing Social Security benefits if Obama proposes it? Or would that tear what is left of his tattered coalition to pieces?
To cut spending to 20 percent of GDP from 24 would require annual slashes of $600 billion, eliminating a sixth of the budget.
Will Democrats go along with that magnitude of cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment benefits, earned income tax credits, infrastructure, Pell grants and welfare?
Will Republicans go along with cuts of that size for the Iraq and Afghan wars, new weapons systems, closing of bases and withdrawal of troops from Korea, Japan or Europe? To get 4 percent of GDP out of defense would require putting the Pentagon on furlough.
Bottom line: The new Republican House has the numbers and will to block new taxes and fund both wars and the rising defense budget. And the president has the veto power to block severe cuts in social programs, which his bloodied forces will demand that he do.
Were this a parliamentary system, Obama would be out of power, as the nation voted to reject his party and reverse the course of the country.
In Britain, under Prime Minister David Cameron, the austerity the people voted for is being imposed. In Virginia and New Jersey, where Govs. Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie were elected in 2009 to change the direction of state government, this is happening.
In Washington, however, where Obama’s agenda and party were repudiated by the nation, they still retain the power to prevent the nation from going where America voted to go.
The center has disintegrated. The result: a deadlock of democracy, with neither party responsible and neither accountable, as we drift toward the falls.
Greece, here we come.