Going in to the first year of his Presidency is something that any President needs to handle delicately. Jimmy Carter failed to do it, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush did it almost flawlessly, and Bill Clinton went with the flow of Congress and it cost Congress. For all the things that the United States is facing in economic policy, foreign policy, and cultural divisions, President-elect Barack Obama needs to act as if he is walking on eggshells. If not, the first year could take away his aura of almost messianic appeal.
In looking at a number of things that the Democrat-led Congress and Obama are eyeing as policy they would like to implement, there are eight things that Obama cannot sign in to law or else he could make the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 look like a blip on the radar screen by 2012, if not 2010. Here are the nine policy changes Obama and the Democrats cannot pursue if they hope to expand their majorities or hold on to them over the next two to four years:
#1: Any Tax Increase
Everyone knows that the economy is in a slowdown. Despite Obama’s calls for “trickle-up” economic policy, reducing taxes on the highest of income groups always appears to lead to greater economic expansion. John F. Kennedy took the top from 90 percent to 70 percent and Ronald Reagan took the top rate from 70 to 20. The end result both times was an economic expansion and greater tax revenues. However, Obama might tempt his fate by going against this approach.
The three areas where Obama would want to raise taxes would be on the so-called “rich” by raising income tax rates to the Clinton-era top brackets of 36 and 39.6 percent, eliminating the cap on FICA taxes, and to raise the capital gains tax rate. Any of these three would turn this current recession in to a full-blown depression. As I mentioned in an earlier post, tax increases were the last of the four things that pushed the economy of the 1930’s in to the Great Depression.
One of the reasons that the stock market has shed anywhere from 11.7 percent to 14.8 percent of its value in the eight trading days since the Presidential election came to a close (depending on which market you’re evaluating) is that Obama has not addressed his plans on taxes for the foreseeable future. Even the Wall Street Journal has called on Obama to hold a press conference, give a speech, or issue a press release that says he will not increase taxes for the “foreseeable future”. If this does not happen, the stock market will continue to shed its value while waiting with baited breath as to what Obama intends to do as President.
If a tax increase comes, it would not be felt until at least the next year. However, the effects of the tax increase would be long lasting in that it would take a potential economic recovery in 2010 in to a second recession that would likely come before the Congressional midterm elections. If the economy is still an issue, 2010 could go for the Democrats the same way it went for Republicans in the middle of economic woes in 1970 and 1982 and Democrats in 1978.
#2: Trillion-Dollar Deficit Budget
If anyone has been paying close attention, there have been calls for President-elect Obama to increase deficit spending once he takes office. It appears all but certain that unless strict budget discipline is imposed by Congress and Obama, the deficit could hit $1 trillion by the end of the year. All of a sudden, a party that had promised to restore fiscal responsibility and budget discipline by way of PAYGO budgeting would be well on their way to losing all credibility on the matter.
It was one thing for Obama to slam President Bush on doubling the size of the deficit during the Presidential Debates against John McCain, but it would be another to not practice what he preaches. By the time of the midterms in 2010, there is no more George W. Bush to blame for unbalanced budgets. Either the deficit is reducing in size as Obama said he would like to do or it is increasing in size as Congressional Democrats would be willing to let happen.
When it comes to a budget battle, the home-field advantage belongs to Congress because of the ability it has to draft its own budget and to get members to vote for it based on a number of pork-barrel projects and other giveaways. It also makes it harder for the President if he decides to wage a budget battle with Congress as it will trickle in to other areas on matters of public policy.
About the only way out for Obama would be to severely cut military spending. Doing so in a time of two-theater military engagements would cause a great deal of harm to the military. Even the blue-dog Democrats will attempt to stop him (until they get pork or tax cuts they desire). In the end, reducing military spending by increasing runaway earmarks could actually accelerate the size of the deficit at an even faster pace.
Chances are that if spending is increased and tax revenues start to run dry thanks to a faltering economy, Obama will have no choice but to become the first President to sign a trillion-dollar budget in to law. If it happens, there will be wrath from the voting public who had expected better from the Democrats on budget matters.
#3: The Employee Free Choice Act
Speaking of bolstering the unions, the biggest thing that Obama and the Congressional Democrats can do to help their base is to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. What this bill intends to do is to boost union membership by automatically creating a union shop thanks to more than 50 percent of a company’s employees signing a union card.
By doing this, it forces an already harmonious relationship between owners and workers in to a more tension-fuelled environment by forcing upon big and small business alike in to pro-union collective bargaining agreements with the government as an arbiter. The problem with this is that workers will get more benefits and wages and job protection while hurting any company’s bottom line with pro-union bureaucrats fighting business at the same time.
Also, this would end secret-ballot elections in union elections. Instead, all union elections could be open-ballot votes with union bosses seeing how particular members of their membership voted. In effect, it would turn a union election in to the equivalent of a Saddam Hussein-era Iraqi election with members ostracized and ridiculed for not voting the union line. In a sense, it makes “employee free choice” sound Orwellian.
President Bush was smart to veto this bill in 2006, but it will take the filibuster efforts of 41-plus Republicans (which could be in doubt) to stop this bill dead in its tracks. If Obama is all about jobs, he will reject this bill because it will actually kill jobs instead of creating them.
Already, there are economists predicting an unemployment rate of as much as 7.3 percent by May 2009 and 9 percent by the end of 2010. If this bill becomes law, we will be talking depression-level unemployment by the time the midterms arrive.
#4: Bailouts of American Automakers
Rasmussen Reports released the results of a poll showing that 73 percent of Americans fear the United States Government running out of money. If the automaker bailout goes in to effect, Obama will increase that number further thanks to the bailout itself and the number of failing companies in the business community also calling for a bailout.
The airlines, cities, and states are all getting ready to get in to line to see how much money the government will give them in the form of a bailout. If this goes through, then Congress will be hard pressed to find a way out of telling all of them “no” directly to their faces.
If nothing else, the bailout isn’t for General Motors, Ford, or Chrysler, but it’s for the establishment of the United Auto Workers union to an effort to keep their negotiating leverage. If a Chapter 11 bankruptcy (which is needed) were to ever come about for any of the big three, then it would zap the UAW’s power away thanks to a conservator who would dramatically scale back their pay and benefits.
Chances are good (and I’ll be the first to make this prediction) that if the automakers are bailed out now, they will be back for more cash before the Presidential election in 2012 because of the unions and their bad business models. If bankruptcy happens, it could actually save an entire sector of the economy from an even bigger calamity.
#5: Repealing Abortion Restrictions with the Freedom of Choice Act
To the best of my (or anyone else’s) knowledge, there is not a single state that has successfully restricted abortion by way of a constitutional amendment. If the Freedom of Choice Act ever becomes law, it would result in abortion on demand sans restrictions and even allow for the federal government to directly pay for as many abortions as possible.
One of the ways in which Obama and the Democrats succeeded in winning elections was by neutralizing the values-based voters of the conservative persuasion. This was done by their rhetoric of sounding like Reagan on issues such as abortion, faith, and gay marriage (more on this later) and sounding genuine about it. Even President-elect Obama did this in his run for President.
What also helped was the complicity of the mainstream media in not probing Obama or other Democrats on social issues. If this one flies under the radar (the media hopes), this will all be forgotten by the midterms and 2012. Instead, there are a number of voting groups that would know better.
For one, the Catholic voters went for Obama by the margin of 53 percent to 45 percent while Protestants only went for McCain by a 53 to 45 percent margin. What could be important is the Catholic vote, which made up 26 percent of the electorate versus the Protestant vote (55 percent). For years, Catholics were a reliable part of the Democrat Party base until Roe v. Wade when the Democrats took up the feminazi’s struggle on abortion and kicked Catholics to the curb on the matter. Despite this, Catholic voters went for Obama this year.
However, what Obama could not afford to do would be to legislate against abortion bans and encourage more abortion. Catholic clergy (priests and nuns) would not stand for it and would relay their message from their lecterns. If the Catholic vote were to go 75 percent to a Republican, that would be more than 25 million votes, or a projected increase of 10 million votes for the GOP. This switch alone would be enough to defeat Obama in his reelection bid unless he could get some 1.5 million votes elsewhere.
#6: Repealing the Defense of Marriage Act
From what has been taking place in California in regards to the passage of the gay marriage ban in that state might set the stage for this action taking place. In order to throw the far-left base of Obama’s supporters a bone, there might be a move to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that was signed in to law by President Clinton in 1996. Should this happen, it could galvanize a majority of voters who oppose gay marriage.
Again, this goes back to the plans of Obama and the Democrats to sound like moderates or conservatives on social issues, but their rhetoric ultimately becoming lip service. Far-left politicians on social issues have a hard time being elected when they become an issue in a campaign and when they proclaim left-of-center social policy approaches.
In districts where conservatives outnumber liberals by substantial margins, this would not play well at all. If the issues of gay marriage and abortion become the forefront in these campaigns, it almost always favors the Republicans. It would be wise to back off this for quite some time until at least what Obama would hope to be his second term. If not, there will be major electoral losses and Obama would have to reinstate a gay marriage ban in order to save himself from being attacked along social policy lines.
#7: “Comprehensive” Immigration Reform
This was tried back in 2007 by John McCain and Ted Kennedy and we all know how it turned out. In the end, there were not enough votes to break the filibuster and bring “comprehensive” immigration reform to the floor of the United States Senate. One of its supporters who tried to break the filibuster was then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama who supported this bill.
The major point at which the American public and most Senators began to oppose the bill was that amnesty would be granted to all illegal immigrants currently here in the United States and to their immediate families living outside the country. It also drew opposition because of the reduction in the length of the border fence.
Obama, who also expressed his support to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants during the Democrat primaries, has said he wants to sign it in to law. If there are not enough votes to sustain the filibuster, it will likely pass and another 20 million illegal immigrants and their immediate family members will be put on a “path to citizenship”.
Amnesty was tried in 1986 when Ronald Reagan made it happen with his idea that it was the “right thing to do”. Sadly, we have come to the realization that amnesty is not the answer, but a band-aid for a gaping wound.
#8: Reinstating the Off-Shore Drilling Ban
Later this month, OPEC will meet to discuss further cuts in oil production in an effort to raise prices. This comes as there was the expiration of the off-shore drilling ban and George W. Bush’s executive order ending a ban on the practice. However, as any economist will tell you, when you cut supply, you increase the price.
The same would likely take place here as OPEC will almost certainly cut production dramatically in order to start making money the same way they were back in the summer. Iran alone has called for a cut of up to 1.5 million barrels per day. Of course, the Democrats and Obama will become useful idiots by attempting to restrict domestic oil exploration.
All of this will actually increase energy prices as the calls for more oil exploration become louder and louder by the day. In the end, it could prove to be fatal as Obama tries to make plays to extreme environmentalists and sacrifices the pocketbooks of average Americans to make a play to his base.
#9: Brining Back the Fairness Doctrine
There’s an old expression of “if you can’t beat them, join them”. However, in the liberal lexicon, the expression goes “if you can’t beat them, silence them.” Sadly, liberals support free speech only when it appeals to liberalism. The return of the Fairness Doctrine (aptly called the Censorship Doctrine by Sean Hannity) would only impose on AM and FM radio so-called balance as determined by government bureaucrats.
Former Clinton advisor Dick Morris has predicted that it will happen, but will be overturned by the Supreme Court “in two years”, but talk radio is effectively dead if this happens. Their targets are the successful conservative talk radio programs because of the failure of liberal talk radio programs. In other words, they are going to destroy success in order to prevent failure which is a long way of saying the attempt is an equal outcome.
This will put the United States on par with Venezuela and Russia in terms of restricting free speech on the radio. Meanwhile, television, newspapers, and the internet will not fall under this kind of regulation. In other words, one might call it the Hush Rush Act of 2009. All of this would be designed to end any voice of opposition even as Obama and the Democrats put the United States in the fast lane on the highway to hell.
All of these in some way could be plays to the Democrat Party or liberal bases, but they would all begin to antagonize the center, center-right, and right-wing elements of the country to where they take it out on either Obama or on Democrats in Congress. If this becomes the case, it will take either a Republican majority in both houses of Congress to bring Obama to the center following the 2010 midterms or the complete overhaul of Democrat majorities and Obama in 2012.
If nothing else, the GOP needs to get to work to offer opposition and alternatives or to be prepared to electorally defeat the Democrats within the next four years.