I am not a fan of David Letterman. His wise guy brand of humor doesn’t work for me, particularly late at night. But when the President chooses to visit the Letterman show while the Middle East is erupting in deadly anti-American chaos and within a few days of FED Chairman Bernanke announcing another twisted “Hail Mary” monetary scheme that, in the end, likely will do nothing more than further weaken the dollar and drive up gas, food and commodity prices, I stay up and tune in. And I was glad that I did. I got answers to two revealing questions straight from the President.
I have struggled to understand how Obama really perceives the unprecedented debt and deficit crisis that forever balloons at the rate of $4 billion a day, casts an impossible pall on our economy, and shamefully leverages the future. His political talking points, mostly inaccuracies designed to finesse the uninformed, don’t help and don’t really count. The numbers are so daunting that I often find myself late at night (without Letterman) pondering with an insomniac anxiety potential scenarios that could forever damage all those who share a generation with my four kids or my six grandchildren. And often at these times I wonder whether Obama, as the man at the helm, privately sweats the unfathomable risks of our fiscal mess as much as countless Americans like myself.
Obama’s lack of leadership on the crisis is startling. He has never offered a plausible scenario under which untold financial misery can be avoided long term with his policies in place. He has no plan to meaningfully cut the deficit, rein in spending, or deal with our crushing entitlements. He refers to basic no-brainer spending cut proposals as “concessions.” He never mentions (not even in his State of the Union) the downgrade of our nation’s credit rating in 2011, the first time in our history that an official rating agency has proclaimed that the full faith and credit of the United States is inferior to that of many other nations. His budget proposals have been so bad (the latest adding over an additional $11 trillion in debt during the next ten years under fantasyland assumptions) that no one in Congress will even consider them. The result is that the federal government hasn’t had a budget in over three years because Obama and his Democratic colleagues in the Senate refuse to deal with the challenge. He forever blames others for the massive spending hikes that have surfaced since he took office. During the last fight to push the debt ceiling up another $2 trillion, he just sat in the wings, ranted for others to do their job, offered nothing constructive, and chastised as hostage takers those who expressed concerns about the future impacts of rapidly escalating, unprecedented debt levels. He has no interest in considering badly-needed structural reforms to Social Security and Medicare, the two unsustainable behemoths that stand as a powerful obstacle to any real progress. And, of course, his way of addressing the issue is to claim that tax hikes on the Obama-defined rich are a key to a cure when the undisputed facts confirm that (relatively speaking) such hikes are a peanut factor that will only hurt job creation, further drag the economy, and ultimately drive down government revenues.
Two questions always surface whenever I ponder this level of leadership and how Obama can even sleep at night. Questions One: Is it possible that Obama is a non-numbers person who just has no capacity to understand and appreciate the magnitude of the risks to future generations? The reason that most Americans do not grasp the severity of the situation is that they have no understanding of the hard numbers. Is it possible that the President suffers from this same limitation? Question Two: Is it possible that the future financial welfare of young Americans just isn’t a priority for Obama?
Of course, many believe that the answers to these two questions are obvious based on Obama’s record. But any uncertainty is now gone. Surprisingly, we got the answers to both questions directly from Obama on, of all places, the Letterman show the other night.
When asked by Letterman, Obama stated that he could not remember the amount of the federal debt when he took office. It blew me away. This simple exchange confirmed beyond any doubt that Obama really is a bona fide non-numbers person who doesn’t mess with details. It’s a scary, inescapable conclusion. Anyone who has studied the numbers behind the magnitude and history of our debt crisis, even at a superficial level, could not possibly forget such a basic fact. It would be tantamount to forgetting the names of your kids. Actually, it would be more like forgetting that you even have kids. Obama is always armed with crafted sound bites and forever projects a know-it-all authority. But it’s clear that, beneath the surface, he’s a person who doesn’t bother with numbers and related details. And to really appreciate (let alone develop a passion to fix) what we now face, a person needs to be immersed in the numbers.
As regards our ballooning debt, Obama went on to state to the Letterman audience that “we don’t have to worry about it short term.” This claim, on its face, is perplexing because the concept of “short term” has no relevance in the context of an out-of-control deficit course (over a trillion a year for the last four years) that perpetually increases an unsustainable public debt level (up 93 percent from 2008) by continually borrowing against the future.
But Obama then explained his “no worry” claim by stating, “Right now interest rates are low.” No doubt rates are low, and FED Chairman Bernanke announced just a few days before Obama’s Letterman appearance that the FED will keep short-term rates at historic lows until at least mid-2015 and will start printing money to buy bonds at a clip of $40 billion a month to help push down long-term rates. So does that do it?
What is most depressing is the concept that we need not worry about the size of the monstrous hole that is being dug for future generations so long as we can keep borrowing to fund the artificially low rates that are currently being charged on the ever-ballooning hole. It’s financial management at its worst. But it does explain why there is no long-term survival plan and the perceived lack of concern for our budgetless status, the rating downgrade, wasteful spending at unprecedented levels, and scary numbers that now cause countless Americans to fear for their kids and grandkids.
There are many who characterize Obama’s approach as the bold leveraging of existing resources to further his plan to fundamentally transform America by increasing the size and role of government and pursuing priorities that trump concerns for the financial welfare of future generations. Others demonize it as intergenerational theft and the worst form of financial stewardship. But whatever the characterization, the reality confirmed via Letterman the other night is that the magnitude, risks and debilitating effects of our debt and deficit crisis will continue to balloon so long as Obama is running the show.