I’ve written before about the increasing disjunction between what Obama says and what he does. As Ed points out, however, the problem may be more basic – a complete inconsistency in thought that allows him to state two completely incompatible ideas in the same speech, if not quite the same sentence or paragraph, to wit: we’re going to spend trillions of dollars on wasteful government programs and cut the deficit in half by trimming wasteful government spending.
In fact, this problem is not new. If we cast our memory back to the Democratic debate in Philadelphia, there was a particularly pertinent exchange between Charlie Gibson and Obama on the subject of Capital Gains taxes. Gibson, surprisingly, made a clear statement of the historical facts, i.e. that when Capital Gains tax rates are lowered, revenue goes up, when they’re raised, revenues go down. “So why raise it at all,” Gibson asked, “especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?”
Obama answered somewhat cluelessly that he would raise capital gains tax rates for purposes of “fairness” and also to raise revenue. Gibson to his credit didn’t let it go: “But history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up.”
Obama’s answer is especially pertinent today:
SENATOR OBAMA: Well, that might happen or it might not. It depends on what’s happening on Wall Street and how business is going. I think the biggest problem that we’ve got on Wall Street right now is the fact that we’ve got a housing crisis that this president has not been attentive to and that it took John McCain three tries before he got it right.
And if we can stabilize that market and we can get credit flowing again, then I think we’ll see stocks do well, and once again I think we can generate the revenue that we need to run this government and hopefully to pay down some of this debt.
So here were are a year later, the markets are in free fall, we’ve just experienced the most massive destruction of wealth and savings we’ve seen in our life-times, credit is frozen, and Obama still wants to raise the capital gains tax?
One suspects that there’s an underlying ideological imperative that demands that he “raise taxes on the rich” no matter what the consequences, just as he’ll cut the military budget, cancel deployments of missile defense and spend trillions with no plausible stimulus effect, regardless of the consequences. Then he’ll make up a bunch of rationalizations that suit his needs of the moment. But he doesn’t believe what he says, and pretty soon no one else will either, because they’re all just a bunch of words with no real meaning.