Jay Ambrose: Without some honesty, a tipping point will come

Jay Ambrose

Scripps Howard News Service

Published: Sunday, Nov. 6 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

It's hooey all over the map, mainly from President Barack Obama, but from Republicans, too, and the tipping point cometh if there's not some give someplace soon, starting with the White House. The politicos there have great compassion, at least for their chief, seemingly putting his re-election over national recovery.

Thus it was that Obama made it sound like Congress was loath to pass trade treaties with Colombia, Panama and South Korea that would add thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the economy. Truth, anyone? While Congress was eager to get going, the president had been sitting on these treaties for almost three years, looking over his shoulder at some union friends who didn't like them one bit.

From their perspective, there was reason to gripe. While trade gives a lot, it also can take away. Almost inevitably, some people will be left at least temporarily jobless by major exporting, importing and investment initiatives.

But the only way to keep everything in place forever is to stagnate — no more new technology, no new trade, no growth, no net job gains, just limp-along status quo, if you're that lucky. For the economy, the treaties were going to mean an overall boon, and they probably still will. But the delay has had South Koreans fighting over ratification while Colombia has entered deals with China, meaning somewhat fewer opportunities may flow our way.

Nevertheless, Obama did climb out of bed one morning and sent the treaties to Congress for action. Now he is finally getting serious about our debt, isn't he? If we don't reduce it over the next 10 years — substantially, with spending cuts at the heart of it — the chances for a turnaround are somewhere between meager and zilch, and it will be his leadership that left us wanting.

He's got to know that, especially since he once shrugged his shoulders at his own debt commission's recommendations, putting forth a totally inane, irresponsible budget that even he quit defending prior to the Senate voting it down 97 to 0. Members of that commission were at it again before Congress the other day, saying that, at a minimum, we had to reduce deficits by $4 trillion and come up with some bold moves to accomplish that end.

Not the least of them was flattening the federal income tax and reducing the corporate tax. At the same time, we'd get rid of many deductions (aka loopholes) for both tax systems, a reform raising revenues to accompany a start on revamping Medicare and Social Security. It's a grand compromise that ought to bring everyone to the table, except that too many Democrats and Republicans are scooting their chairs backward.

Ultimately, either they care about America and are prepared to do something, or they ought to return to private affairs. The same goes for a president who seems to think repeating the word "infrastructure" over and over again will win him the mama-and-apple-pie vote. Maybe we should spend more on roads and bridges and maybe that will put more people to work, but the reason infrastructure is such a mess is that we've repeatedly had the same kind of klutzy pork spending that kept Obama's trillion-dollar stimulus from stimulating much of anything.

One conservative suggestion is yes, let's spend more, but let's take the money from some of the silly, pointless projects out there and let's make sure this money is directed wisely. Yes, let's do that — a good way to get the Republican votes you want, Mr. President. If that's too much to ask, could you at least abandon ethanol subsidies and mandates that contribute to high food prices while a record 45.8 million Americans are on food stamps? Or maybe get rid of that health-care program scaring businesses from expanding?

I guess not. Is that the tipping point I see?

Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. Reach him at SpeaktoJay@aol.com.

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