Is President Obama Part of the Economic Problem in America?

4798An uncomfortable truth not likely to be discussed by President Obama during his State of the Union on Tuesday is his own complicity in the broken state of our political economy.

Republican Speaker of the House John Beohner looks on as President Obama delivers last year's State of the Union address, on Jan. 24, 2012. Photo: Pool/Getty Images
To be sure, the House GOP and their Senate allies have displayed a frightening and gleeful zeal in wrecking the recovery. For a year and a half, the Republican Party has been willing to IED the economy time and time again to preserve the gilded perch that the super wealthy have over the rest of us. But it wouldn't be possible without a helping hand from the president.

Unless there is a fundamental change in this dynamic, people of color, the working poor and all of those looking for their shot at the American dream are in for a rough go over the next four years.

The fight over taxes that wrapped just weeks ago is merely the first in a series of looming battles set to unfold on core economic and budget issues over the next three months. On March 1, unless something changes, over a trillion dollars in automatic spending cuts will begin to take effect. Half of the cuts, or "sequestration" as they're formally known, will fall on the portion of the budget that provides economic opportunity for people of color and the working poor through transportation, education, housing and food programs.

But it won't be the first time and the consequences are always the same. GOP willingness to protect the interests of the 1 percent at the end of last year caused the economy to shrink in the last three months of 2012 for the first time since 2009, when the recession was at its worst. Here again, the recalcitrance of the Republican Party has yet again acted as a downdraft on the economy.

Unfortunately, the president all too readily accommodates them. By doing so, he actually lends credibility to their often absurd economic ideas--the desire to mollify doesn't pacify, it emboldens.

A quick review of how we ended up in the end-of-year budget quagmire makes the point.

Dancing With Myself

In 2011, President Obama responded to the rightwing fury of the new Congress with the inclination to come to terms. That summer, as the fight over country's tax and spend policy reached a crisis point, Obama proposed a longterm deal with twice as many budget cuts as revenue increases. He did so against the wishes of many in his own party.

With this plan, the president actually conceded a major point erroneously. As I have written before, our longterm budget predicament is caused by a lack of revenue rather than too much spending. But with the president having signaled a major compromise early on, the House GOP felt encouraged to demand even more cuts and the broader deal fell apart.

Obama immediately met their rejection with an agreement for $1.2 trillion in unilateral cuts--which have already begun to implemented--and agreed to find another $1.2 trillion in savings by the end of 2012.

Each capitulation by the president sowed the seeds for the next crisis.

Unfortunately President Obama's pattern of negotiating with himself while compromising with others is not new.

Source: | Imara Jones
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