This column by ACRU General Counsel and Senior Fellow for the Carleson Center for Public Policy (CCPP) Peter Ferrara was published November 2, 2011 on The American Spectator website.
At the Heritage Foundation last week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan demonstrated why he doesn’t need to be running for President to be framing the debate for 2012. He delivered there on October 26 a breathtakingly beautiful speech on Saving the American Idea, which defines the Spirit of 2012.
He began, “The mission of the Heritage Foundation is to promote the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. These are the principles that define the American idea. And this mission has never been timelier, because these principles are very much under threat from policies here in Washington.”
Ryan, a disciple of and former staffer for the late Jack Kemp, then explained, “What makes America exceptional — what gives life to the American Idea — is our dedication to the self-evident truth that we are all created equal, giving us equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And that means opportunity.”
Since the early 1700s, America has been the land of opportunity, offering world leading prosperity, stemming from world leading freedom. And millions and millions of the dispossessed, the homeless tempest tossed, and their progeny now totaling hundreds of millions altogether, have voted for that American Dream with their feet, crossing oceans, deserts, rivers, and mountain ranges to get here. As I discuss in my recent book, America’s Ticking Bankruptcy Bomb:
Which leaves the question, why did they come? And why do they still come?…. Well, it’s not for the Food Stamps, or the public housing, or even Social Security and Medicare. America’s world leading prosperity dates all the way back to the early 18th century. The roots of that prosperity can be seen in the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the God-given right of each man and woman to the pursuit of happiness. [T]hat is why they came. They came because America has always been the land of freedom and prosperity and opportunity. They came because of the American Dream, that in this nation every man and woman enjoys the freedom and opportunity to rise to achieve their dreams, regardless of family background, class, race, or religion.
Ryan frames the question now facing us in 2012: “Have those periods of unprecedented prosperity in America’s past been the product of our Founding principles? Or, as some would argue, have we made it this far only in spite of our outdated values? Are we still an exceptional nation? Should we even seek to be unique? Or should we become more like the rest of the world — more bureaucratic, less hopeful, and less free?”
Or as I write in my book regarding America’s heritage of world leading prosperity:
Is that over now? Is America just another nation now, like Greece, as President Obama has suggested? In fact, just like Greece? Is the American Dream done? Is that what is meant by the “New Normal”? Or is that just a phrase to provide political cover for the realities of a new socialism, where everyone as Churchill explained shares equally in the curses of misery, rather than unequally in the blessings of capitalism?
Ryan then discussed at Heritage how Obama is answering these questions for 2012:
To my great disappointment, it appears that the politics of division are making a big comeback. Many Americans share my disappointment — especially those who were filled with great hope a few years ago, when then Senator Obama announced his candidacy….Do you remember what he said? He said that what’s stopped us from meeting our greatest challenges is, “the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics — the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and the trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.
Imagine if Obama had been true to his political rhetoric from 2008. Suppose he had been true to his promise that his economic program would involve a “net spending cut,” several trillion dollars of wasted unnecessary spending ago. Suppose he had truly been a non-partisan President working with both parties to enact a truly effective economic recovery program, like Reagan, lifting up the poorest of Americans with booming economic prosperity. Suppose like Ryan, Obama had adopted the inclusive, pro-growth, prosperity vision of Jack Kemp.
Contrary to the abusive rhetoric of left-wing-extremist know nothings in media and entertainment, some of them literally clowns, Obama would be so universally beloved that we would be clearing space for him on Mt. Rushmore right now. Instead Obama played us with rhetoric promising prosperity and recovery, when all along he planned to deliver dependency on his political machine instead.
Ryan explained his disappointment with Obama in devastating detail:
[N]early three years into his presidency, look at where we are now:
Petty and trivial? Just last week, the President told a crowd in North Carolina that Republicans are in favor of quote ‘dirtier air, dirtier water, and less people with health insurance.’ Can you think of a pettier way to describe sincere disagreements between the two parties on regulation and health care?
Chronic avoidance of tough decisions? The President still has not put forward a credible plan to tackle the threat of ever-rising spending and debt, and it’s been over 900 days since his party passed a budget in the Senate.
A preference for scoring cheap political points instead of consensus-building? This is the same President who is currently campaigning against a do-nothing Congress, when in fact, the House of Representatives has passed over a dozen bills to help get the economy moving and deal with the debt, only to see the President’s party kill those bills in the do-nothing Senate.
Note that you never saw President Reagan attacking his opponents this way. He engineered a truly revolutionary rollback of decades of runaway liberalism on a bipartisan basis with the House of Representatives controlled by liberal Democrat majorities for his entire Presidency.
Obama is so divorced from the reality of America and his own policies, that he calls essential relief from the regulatory tsunami he has unleashed on America being for “dirtier air, dirtier water, and fewer Americans with health insurance.” Do you see yet why booming economic recovery is now two years overdue, and nowhere in sight?
The President, indeed, is now denouncing what he calls “the Republican Congress.” Maybe it is true his Democrat base is so out of the loop they don’t know that the Democrats have continued to control the U.S. Senate for going on six years now. But the President is going to be sorely schooled on Election Day to find that the great majority of the American people are, in fact, not that stupid, and cannot be so easily misled by rhetoric that is so dishonest that it can only be described as dishonorable.
Ryan noted that the House already not only proposed but passed a 2012 budget this year that would have put the budget on a path to balance and the economy on the path to prosperity. “But instead of working together where we agree, the President has opted for divisive rhetoric and the broken politics of the past. He is going from town to town, impugning the motives of Republicans, setting up straw men and scapegoats, and engaging in intellectually lazy arguments, as he tries to build support for punitive tax hikes on job creators.”
Exhibit A: between Republicans and moderate Democrats, there are strong majorities in both houses of Congress for individual and corporate tax reform exactly as proposed in Ryan’s House budget. That involves a top 25 percent income tax rate for families earning over $100,000 a year, with a 10 percent rate below that, and generous personal exemptions of $10,000 per family member. And it involves an internationally competitive corporate tax rate of 25 percent, closer to the rates in Communist China, the European Union and our neighbor to the north, Canada. These policies would provide the tax framework for booming economic growth.
But Obama has done nothing to work on that, even though his own Simpson-Bowles Commission proposed quite similar reforms. That Commission was another sham for Obama to pose as a deficit and spending cutter, when his intentions all along have been just the opposite. That was yet another example of what I have called Obama’s calculated deception, taking advantage of what he is sure a majority at least doesn’t know and won’t find out.
Instead, “The tax increases proposed by Senate Democrats and endorsed by the President — when combined with the new taxes in the health care law, and the President’s other tax preferences — would push the top federal tax rate to roughly 50 percent in just 14 months, while doing nothing to promote job creation. This tax increase on so-called millionaires and billionaires would actually constitute a huge tax hike on the nation’s most successful small businesses.”
Ryan finally cuts to the heart of the President’s economic fallacies in saying:
The President has talked a lot about math lately. He’s been saying that, ‘If we’re not willing to ask those who’ve done extraordinarily well to help America close the deficit…the math says…we’ve got to put the entire burden on the middle class and the poor.’ This is really a stunning assertion from the President. When you look at the actual math, you quickly realize that the way out of this mess is to combine economic growth with reasonable spending restraint. Yet neither of these things factors into the President’s zero-sum logic.
Ryan here is actually counterproductively polite. In 2007, before Obama was even elected President, after nearly 40 years of Reagan Republican tax policy, the top 1 percent of income earners paid more in federal income taxes than the bottom 95 percent of income earners combined. The bottom 40 percent of income earners as a group on net paid exactly zero percent of federal income taxes. Yet President Obama is running around the country telling us that Republicans want to put the entire tax burden on the middle class and the poor.
This rhetoric is far worse than just wrong, or in error. It is dishonorable calculated deception. It is so divorced from reality that no other conclusion can be drawn.
Paul Ryan didn’t say the following, but I will. What understanding Ryan’s speech reveals is that while Barack Obama was born in Hawaii half a century ago, he is not culturally an American. Raised during his formative years in the Indonesian public schools, where he learned to appreciate the beauty of the Islamic call to prayer, he was kept isolated from mainstream America the rest of his life. That is why he doesn’t understand the meaning and beauty of traditional American prosperity, and has no clue as to how to restore it.
Worse, his model for political machine domination of America is based not on restoring prosperity, but on fostering dependency on government. That is why he is not and never has been on track to restoring booming economic growth, which on the historical record of America is now long, long overdue. Rush Limbaugh has been right all along.
Worse still, traditional American prosperity is actually morally embarrassing to Obama. These are the reasons why it is not coming back until he and his co-conspirators are removed from power.
That alienation you feel is because America is under foreign occupation right now, by the hopelessly outdated intellectual forces of Marxism rooted in the Eastern Europe of over 100 years ago. America doesn’t need to be transformed. America needs to be restored. This is a Paul Revere moment, and every one of you needs to be deputized to bring the word to everyone you know, so that 2012 may be the year of the Rebirth of America.