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Finally, Obama leads on the deficit

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Republicans have criticized President Barack Obama for his "failure to lead," particularly when it comes to shrinking the budget deficit.

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Well, the other day he led. He offered up a long-term plan for controlling the deficit while protecting programs that the poor and elderly depend on.

Did any Republican follow? Not a one. They accused Obama of shallowness, disingenuousness, and (get the children out of the room) partisanship.

Wow. A president of the United States being partisan. Imagine that. I can see why the Republicans were so upset. They're such gentle, kind, cooperative people whose first instinct is to compromise. Always.

Not.

President Obama gave us a reasonable and rational--if overly general--approach to trimming the deficit down to size in the foreseeable future. The Republican leaders hated it for two reasons:

1. It raised taxes on the rich, both the filthy variety and the merely well-to-do.

2. It cut military spending by more than a token amount.

If there are two things that Republicans can't abide, it's seeing rich people pay taxes while defense contractors go on a diet.

They know what causes budget deficits. Poor people cause them by sucking up public funds with their cries for undeserved food and shelter. Public employees cause them with their "Cadillac health care plans." Children cause them by going to public schools where they are (sometimes) given expensive books. Old people cause them because they get sick a lot and take a long time dying, often at public expense.

Republicans want a budget plan that will put a stop to all that. They want a plan like the one the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), concocted.

Above all, they want a plan that does not raise taxes on their rich corporate sponsors, which the Ryan plan does not. His plan does suggest "closing loopholes" to pay for lower tax rates--as does Obama's plan. (I wish I had a buck for every time I've heard a politician promise to close loopholes. I'd be able to afford my own loophole by now.)

Ryan's plan is nonsense. He doesn't give the military budget so much as a haircut. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, his spending cuts over the next 10 years would fall mainly on low-income people, who have been losing altitude for years.

Obama had Ryan's plan right when he said:

"There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. There's nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don't have any clout on Capitol Hill."

Republicans claim that raising taxes on the rich will kill the economy. The evidence is otherwise.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress raised taxes and lowered the deficit. The economy took off and produced a budget surplus for the final four years of his presidency.

Enter George W. Bush with his tax cuts for the rich, pointless wars, and the unpaid-for prescription drug benefit. The budget descended into the red again and hasn't recovered yet.

Where's the prosperity Bush II promised us with the cuts? Where are the jobs those rich people were supposed to create?

For that matter, where's the magic his deregulation of financial markets was supposed to produce?

None of it happened, unless you think a near-meltdown of the economy is magical.

Republicans ignore all this--as well as most evidence, be it scientific or historical.

They would have you believe that two years after being thrown out on their ears for their incompetence, they deserve another chance. And all they offer is the same thing again.

If the American people fall for that scam, they deserve what they get.

On second thought, I do have a problem with Obama's partisanship in his quest to tame the deficit. It isn't partisan enough.

OtherWords and retired Des Moines Register columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.

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Pioneer staff reports
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