Obamas Poll-Driven "Rope-A-Dope"
By Howie Rich
Saying one thing and doing another is standard operating procedure for many – if not most –American politicians, but President Barack Obama has turned this political version of boxing's “rope-a-dope” into a true art form.
Like a heavyweight champion expertly deflecting body blows with a bare minimum of effort, Obama's “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” approach to governing has his political opponents scrambling – and the American taxpayer on the ropes.
With deft moves that would make even the great Mohammed Ali jealous, Obama has capably demonstrated his mastery of political maneuvering by paying lip service to limited government themes at the precise moment(s) that his big government overreaching seems to be reaching a point of critical mass. And not surprisingly, a fawning Fourth Estate has taken the American public along for the ride, essentially parroting talking points from Obama's White House with barely a critical word.
Take Obama's ongoing “rope-a-dope” on spending.
Shortly after unveiling a record-shattering $3.67 trillion federal budget – with an unprecedented $1.8 trillion deficit – the President announced that his Cabinet agencies were cutting $100 million from their budgets. You read that right, $100 million – or not even a molecule in the bucket by comparison.
“The rounding error of a rounding error,” noted the National Review, pointing out that Obama's “cuts” represented 1/40,000th of the federal budget and 1/7830th of Obama's $787 billion bailout bill. In other words, those “savings” wouldn't account for even a fraction of the increased interest payments American taxpayers have been forced to absorb on account of all the new government borrowing Obama is pushing through.
Of course, that mattered “comparatively” little to mainstream media, which promoted Obama's “fiscal conservatism” with headlines worthy of the second coming of Ronald Reagan.
“Obama challenges government agencies to cut costs,” one headline screamed. “Obama to begin budget cuts with Cabinet,” another blared.
No doubt laughing all the way to the (Federal Reserve) Bank was the President himself, who has studied behavioral science and knows that most Americans are “insensitive to scope,” meaning they view 10 million, 10 billion and 10 trillion with roughly the same amount of head-nodding.
Fortunately, enough people picked up on the meaningless of the gesture, meaning Obama had to rope-a-dope once more – eventually proposing $17 billion in “cuts,” or half a percent of the total budget.
The latest example of Obama's fiscal “bobbing-and-weaving” was the reintroduction earlier this month of federal “Pay-go” legislation – which would ostensibly require Congress to have cash on hand before approving its new government programs and mandates. Never mind that Obama's “Pay-go” plan would not affect discretionary spending (which accounts for 40% of the budget) or that it would permit government to finance new entitlement spending over a 10-year period, which isn't exactly “pay as you go” when you think about it, is it?
In fact, citing a $2.5 trillion addition to the federal deficit over the next decade, the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget recently referred to Obama's “Pay-go” plan as the equivalent of quitting drinking – with the exceptions of beer and hard liquor.
Also, let's not forget the fact that entitlement spending actually grew faster during the so-called “Pay-go” era (1991-2002) than it did in the previous twelve-year period, according to the Heritage Foundation.
Of course, none of those facts stopped the mainstream press from dutifully rolling out another barrage of front-page news stories portraying Obama as the champion of this “fiscally responsible” legislation – which, according to CNN, “requires Congress to balance any increased spending by equal savings elsewhere.”
Obama's real reason for rolling out this “Pay-go” sham?
“Sensitivity,” according to Forbes.
Just days earlier, a USA Today/Gallup poll showed that – for the first time – a majority of Americans disapproved of the President's efforts to control federal spending. That same poll also showed Obama's overall disapproval rating at a record high.
In other words, time for some more poll-driven, “teleprompted” lip service from the President.
The author is chairman of Americans for Limited Government.