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Monday, January 26, 2009

President Obama Vs. Rush Limbaugh

As many know by now, there is a little bit of a spat going on between the President and the talk show giant. It all started when the President said this about Rush Limbaugh

You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done,

Limbaugh responded to the President when he spoke to Byron York of the National Review.

To make the argument about me instead of his plan makes sense from his perspective. Obama's plan would buy votes for the Democrat Party, in the same way FDR's New Deal established majority power for 50 years of Democrat rule, and it would also simultaneously seriously damage any hope of future tax cuts. It would allow a majority of American voters to guarantee no taxes for themselves going forward. It would burden the private sector and put the public sector in permanent and firm control of the economy. Put simply, I believe his stimulus is aimed at re-establishing "eternal" power for the Democrat Party rather than stimulating the economy because anyone with a brain knows this is NOT how you stimulate the economy. If I can be made to serve as a distraction, then there is that much less time debating the merits of this TRILLION dollar debacle.

Now, what's interesting about Rush's analysis of the stimulus is how eerily similar it is to Dick Morris' analysis.

The most pernicious of his proposals will be the massive Make Work Pay refundable tax credit. Dressed up as a tax cut, it will be a national welfare program, guaranteeing a majority of American households an annual check to “refund” taxes they never paid. And it will eliminate the need for about 20% of American households to pay income taxes, lifting the proportion that need not do so to a majority of the voting population. Unlike the Bush stimulus checks, this new program will be a permanent entitlement, a part of our budget that can only go up and never down. Politically, it will transform a majority of Americans from taxpayers, anxious to hold down government spending, into tax eaters, eager to reap new benefits.

Both Morris and Limbaugh believe that Obama is using the so called tax cuts as a means of creating a Democratic majority. Both point out that these so called tax cuts, really tax credits, are in fact no more than a pernicious way of making sure that more than 50% of the population pays no federal income tax. By doing so, more than half the nation becomes dependent on the very larger government that President Obama is proposing. This would create the very electoral majority that both Limbaugh and Morris allude to.

Here is what Limbaugh sees as the strategy for going after him.

One more thing, Byron. Your publication and website have documented Obama's ties to the teachings of Saul Alinksy while he was community organizing in Chicago. Here is Rule 13 of Alinksy's Rules for Radicals:

"Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."

Now, it's important to also examine how ambitiously President Obama views the Presidency.

Eking out a bare Democratic majority isn't good enough," he writes in The Audacity of Hope. "What's needed is a broad majority of Americans--Democrats, Republicans, and independents of good will...." After the New Hampshire primary, he told his supporters "you can be the new majority who can lead this nation out of a long political darkness." A month later, after winning the Wisconsin primary, he explained what he called "my central premise," that "the only way we will bring about real change in America is if we can bring new people into the process, if we can attract young people, if we can attract independents, if we can stop fighting with Republicans and try to bring some over to our side. I want to form a working majority for change." That's easier said than done, of course, and likely would require several elections. Speaking to the AFL-CIO in 2003, he laid out the long march that would be necessary:

I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program.... [a] single-payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that's what I'd like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.

So, it would be foolish to believe that President Obama has goals that merely amount to governance. President Obama also believes in grander ideas like creating a sustained new Democratic majority much like the New Deal created a sustained Democratic legislative majority for about half a century.

If all of this is in fact the case, then Rush would be dead on. President Obama would like nothing more than to create a bi partisan stimulus bill. That would insulate him if in fact the bill fails. It would also signal to the country that government spending is a bi partisan goal. By putting the debate centered on the issue of bi partisanship, he also moves it away from the specifics of the bill.

In fact, he has tried since the beginning to bum rush this bill and turn it into law. This will insulate the bill from any serious examination by the public. Yet, his so called tax cuts speak for themselves. They are in fact not tax cuts. No marginal tax rate is cut. Rather, everyone gets a check back from the government and that check is the same whether you make $25,000 or $125,000. (it only goes up for married couples) As such, this tax rebate will in fact mean that an extra 20% of the population will wind up paying no federal income taxes. It will in fact mean that more than half the population will be the beneficiary of the entitlement government culture that is the hallmark of the Obama administration. It will mean that more than half the population will be natural Democratic voters.

If this is what President Obama meant to misdirect the public from, then he way overstepped. The last thing he should have done is got into a food fight with someone with as big a megaphone as Rush Limbaugh. Rush will now be preaching what he has asserted from his microphone three hours daily five days a week. Sure, Rush preaches to the converted, but Rush is also a media figure. By starting this, he has also created a media story. The media can't simply ignore Rush's thesis in covering this story. So, at some point, what Rush is hypothesizing will at least become a part of the media story.

This stimulus package continues to be less and less popular with each passing day. That's because no matter how skilled and charismatic you are, you can't dress up a pork filled spending spree to be anything but that. By throwing a shot at Rush Limbaugh, what President Obama has done is added a layer to this story that only political junkies would be interested in, and allowed that the mainstream might be exposed to this. If, in fact, the MSM is soon debating whether or not this stimulus bill is in fact a means by which President Obama is attempting to create a sustained electoral majority, then the bill is dead. With it will go his extraordinary approval ratings.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, both the liberal media and Rush himself have minimized the effectiveness of his voice. I believe that anything he says these days is heard through the filter of painkiller abuse. While I still respect the man, I doubt there are many who will listen to the warnings and take them seriously. It's Rush being Rush.

mike volpe said...

I don't know that either has done any such thing. Rush continues to enjoy fabulous ratings. His opponents will never marginalize him. The President will try however getting into such a debate with someone that has a microphone for 15 hours weekly is not a smart move.

Anonymous said...

Good related video on Newbusters:

If Obama can silence Rush, then watch out for the The Fairness Doctrine, and the loss of many of our First Amendment Rights - Freedom of Speech.

Sign of things to come?

Dutch Lawmaker Wilders to Be Prosecuted for Anti-Islam Comments

Anonymous said...

Quoting Rush Limbaugh is an act of desperation. Don't you have anything better to write than this propaganda? The man is a proven ideologue. It doesn't matter what Obama does - Rush will spin it the other way

Obama merely mentioned his name to ask for some ideological flexibility from the Republicans. Of course the idiotic media pounce on it as a quote of the day sort of thing.

mike volpe said...

Let me see if I understand you correctly, you want me to write a story about a spat between President Obama and Rush Limbaugh without mentioning Rush's view on the spat. Are you serious?

Is this what passes for objective reporting in your world?

Your statement is ironic on many levels. If Rush is as marginalized as you claim, there would be no reason to mention him by name. Second, you are doing exactly what Rush said that President Obama was doing to him which is marginalizing him. Of course, if he were already marginalized you wouldn't have to continue to do it.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was an interesting article related to the stimulus by Paul Krugman in the NY Times.

What say you Mike?

As the debate over President Obama’s economic stimulus plan gets under way, one thing is certain: many of the plan’s opponents aren’t arguing in good faith. Conservatives really, really don’t want to see a second New Deal, and they certainly don’t want to see government activism vindicated. So they are reaching for any stick they can find with which to beat proposals for increased government spending.

Some of these arguments are obvious cheap shots. John Boehner, the House minority leader, has already made headlines with one such shot: looking at an $825 billion plan to rebuild infrastructure, sustain essential services and more, he derided a minor provision that would expand Medicaid family-planning services — and called it a plan to “spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives.”

But the obvious cheap shots don’t pose as much danger to the Obama administration’s efforts to get a plan through as arguments and assertions that are equally fraudulent but can seem superficially plausible to those who don’t know their way around economic concepts and numbers. So as a public service, let me try to debunk some of the major antistimulus arguments that have already surfaced. Any time you hear someone reciting one of these arguments, write him or her off as a dishonest flack.

First, there’s the bogus talking point that the Obama plan will cost $275,000 per job created. Why is it bogus? Because it involves taking the cost of a plan that will extend over several years, creating millions of jobs each year, and dividing it by the jobs created in just one of those years.

It’s as if an opponent of the school lunch program were to take an estimate of the cost of that program over the next five years, then divide it by the number of lunches provided in just one of those years, and assert that the program was hugely wasteful, because it cost $13 per lunch. (The actual cost of a free school lunch, by the way, is $2.57.)

The true cost per job of the Obama plan will probably be closer to $100,000 than $275,000 — and the net cost will be as little as $60,000 once you take into account the fact that a stronger economy means higher tax receipts.

Next, write off anyone who asserts that it’s always better to cut taxes than to increase government spending because taxpayers, not bureaucrats, are the best judges of how to spend their money.

Here’s how to think about this argument: it implies that we should shut down the air traffic control system. After all, that system is paid for with fees on air tickets — and surely it would be better to let the flying public keep its money rather than hand it over to government bureaucrats. If that would mean lots of midair collisions, hey, stuff happens.

The point is that nobody really believes that a dollar of tax cuts is always better than a dollar of public spending. Meanwhile, it’s clear that when it comes to economic stimulus, public spending provides much more bang for the buck than tax cuts — and therefore costs less per job created (see the previous fraudulent argument) — because a large fraction of any tax cut will simply be saved.

This suggests that public spending rather than tax cuts should be the core of any stimulus plan. But rather than accept that implication, conservatives take refuge in a nonsensical argument against public spending in general.

Finally, ignore anyone who tries to make something of the fact that the new administration’s chief economic adviser has in the past favored monetary policy over fiscal policy as a response to recessions.

It’s true that the normal response to recessions is interest-rate cuts from the Fed, not government spending. And that might be the best option right now, if it were available. But it isn’t, because we’re in a situation not seen since the 1930s: the interest rates the Fed controls are already effectively at zero.

That’s why we’re talking about large-scale fiscal stimulus: it’s what’s left in the policy arsenal now that the Fed has shot its bolt. Anyone who cites old arguments against fiscal stimulus without mentioning that either doesn’t know much about the subject — and therefore has no business weighing in on the debate — or is being deliberately obtuse.

These are only some of the fundamentally fraudulent antistimulus arguments out there. Basically, conservatives are throwing any objection they can think of against the Obama plan, hoping that something will stick.

But here’s the thing: Most Americans aren’t listening. The most encouraging thing I’ve heard lately is Mr. Obama’s reported response to Republican objections to a spending-oriented economic plan: “I won.” Indeed he did — and he should disregard the huffing and puffing of those who lost.

mike volpe said...

First of all, please be careful about reprinting whole articles. There is something called fair use. The better way to do this is to simply give the link. Mr. Krugman has intellectual property over that article.

As to the substance, first, I don't speak for Conservatives but rather for myself. I don't want the economy to get any worse but I also don't believe that massive government spending will work. If it does, I will become an economic liberal because my perspective will be proven wrong.

Yet, Krugman's argument is rather weak. For instance, he says that the $275,000 spent per job is out of context. Well maybe, so how much are we spending per job, $60-10k per job? Krugman thinks this is good? Is he serious? $60k per job maybe better than $275k per job but it isn't good. This isn't a defense, but a distraction.

Krugman seems to mistake when government spending is spent on worthwhile projects and the best way to stimulate the economy. I agree that we should have enough air traffic controllers but we shouldn't spend more money on air traffic oontrollers in order to stimulate the economy. That's ludicrous. Do you actually find this argument to make sense? I agree that there are many worthwhile projects, but we should spend money on them because they are worthwhile not because spending money on them will stimulate the economy. It simply will not. The best way to stimulate an economy is to cut taxes because that's the best way to put more money into the hands of consumers and business owners. Period.

I frankly don't care what his advisors have said in the past though many of them have suggested things other than the ones they suggest now. That is beside the point. President Obama thinks we can borrow an extra $2 trillion and spend our way out of the recession. I firmly disagree that this can work. Until there is clear evidence I am wrong I will continue to believe this.