Barack Obama

The Myth of Obama's Centrism

Obama's quest for a "balanced approach" is the lifeblood of his political success--and also its biggest myth.


Barack Obama's quest for a "balanced approach" is the lifeblood of his political success—and also its biggest myth. Witness the coverage of the purportedly centrist president's 2014 budget proposal.

"Obama sends Congress $3.77T spending plan, riles both sides," says one prominent headline; "President Obama's risky 'goodwill' gambit," begins another fairy tale. "Obama Budget Is Meant to Draw GOP to the Table," claims The New York Times.

Nearly every story stresses that the budget has drawn critics from both the left and the right. Obama, you see, is so moderate he's willing to wrangle with the socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont (and his petition signed by a couple of million folks who wouldn't know the difference between a "chained consumer price index" and a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich) and Republicans. So, balance.

White House Flickr

President Obama's budget would spend $160 billion more in 2014 than the Congressional Budget Office's base line had even imagined. No tax reform. No genuine entitlement reform. His 10-year, $1.8 trillion "deficit reduction plan" is predicated on doing away with $1.2 trillion in sequester cuts and making it up by taxing us directly or allowing tax hikes to pass through various industries. It is a massive zero-sum fallacy masquerading as a budget.

Nearly every piece of journalism means to frame Obama as a rational broker residing somewhere between Senate Democrats and House Republicans, when in fact, he offers only meager concessions—or, more precisely, a meager concession—meant to compel impotent Republicans into surrender.

Take all this excitable talk about the "chained CPI" concession, which, if I'm reading my media correctly, is to be treated with the deference of an authentic compromise. A chained CPI lowers the cost-of-living adjustments for senior citizens who receive Social Security by switching to an index that grows more slowly—based on the idea that Americans have the sense to be more prudent with their purchases when things get more expensive. Republicans may like the idea, but according to the CBO, switching to a chained CPI would raise taxes by about $124 billion over the next decade. Your personal exemptions, your deductions, earned-income and child tax credits, etc., would all be adjusted annually for the CPI.

What do you get in return? As Peter Orszag, Obama's former Office of Management and Budget director, explains it, the savings on a chained CPI has been diminishing for years. So less than $150 billion would be saved. The tax hike would be nearly as big as the benefit cut. Which, I suppose, is a "balanced approach" if a person believes that Washington is entitled to all your earnings and works backward from that premise.

What else? Among other things, a death tax increase. It has new restrictions on individual retirement account and 401(k) plans. New taxes on energy. Rosy assumptions about Obama's disastrous economy that make it all work. MSNBC may talk about collective child rearing, but it's Obama who's creating a universal pre-K by taxing smokers. (Let's hope they won't forget to set aside funding for those pro-smoking PSAs to ensure the sustainability of the program.)

Inevitably, Republicans will have to reject Obama's budget—which was, incidentally, delivered two months late—because it is stuffed with tax increases that would mean political suicide. Republicans will be cast as obstructionists, when in fact, there sit Senate and House budgets entirely ignored by the White House. Maybe the president is offering voters the type of spending they desire—though, looking at polls of their attitudes on taxes, that's debatable—but the media do the public a disservice by framing his proposal as moderate or, even more dishonestly, casting Obama as a great compromiser.

NEXT: Jobs Worries Keep Fed Focused on 'Stimulus'

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  1. The centrism isn’t mythical. The Lying African has managed to move the country to the left with ever more free shit. The left controls media interpretation of the past, present, and future; the center is whatever they say it is.

    1. The Camel Clutch of Truth!

      You’re strange.

    2. “The Lying African”

      Obama’s tunisian?

  2. “…a universal pre-K…”

    Read: mandatory.

  3. When it comes to Obama, the NYT, WaPo, and MSNBC are about as capable of critical thought as Lindsey Vonn with Tiger Woods. I don’t see what is so shocking that they would think Obama’s budget is centrist, when they missed the fact that while the man demonized health insurers, he passed a law requiring every citizen to buy their product and demonized big banks while signing Dodd-Frank with its too-big-to-fail provisions. Do you think some of those ink-stained wretches might have thought that a tax on smokers to pay for Pre-K is a breach of his promise not to increase taxes on anyone making less than $250K a year? They all view his chained CPI as Obama’s NIxon in China moment.

    1. This. The real lifeblood of Obama’s political success is that he has the most fawning, sycophantic media of any president in American history.

      1. Ever do this for fun and/or morbid curiosity: look at all the media hype from 2008? It’s a fucking cult.

    2. When it comes to Obama, the NYT, WaPo, and MSNBC are about as capable of critical thought as Lindsey Vonn with Tiger Woods.

      I donno, the last one got out with over half a billion.

      1. Yeah I guarantee you she knew before they married, and the deal was if he ever got caught, he had to pay her and split.

        This white knighting thing where “poor Swedish wife was so naive” pisses me off. She’s probably as smart as anyone, and she knows that her handsome, charismatic, rich, famous, constantly on tour all over the world husband has girls on the side. But the deal was that they stay on the side.

        Same thing with Vonn. She knows he’s gonna have other girls. She doesn’t care. Because she’s with one of the most desirable men in the world. She’d rather share him with others then settle for someone of lesser status.

        1. people always look at the likes of Elin or serial “victim” Christie Brinkley, and say “gosh, she is gorgeous; how could any man possibly cheat?” Someone not being fed at home will seek it elsewhere. And someone of Tiger’s status travels in a universe none of us can comprehend.

          I was at a trade show for my company in Vegas last week and there were zero groupies awaiting my arrival at the hotel, zero propositions slipped under my room door, and zero texts offering to things my wife may have already done but with multiple participants.

          1. Exactly. That’s why guys are driven to excel. The more successful you are, the better and more plentiful the pussy gets. Yes, your Swedish swimsuit model is hot, but so is the college student who took your coat at dinner and left her number and her panties in the inside pocket.

  4. he offers only meager concessions?or, more precisely, a meager concession?meant to compel impotent Republicans into surrender.

    And surrender they will, if Crybaby Boehner has his way.

  5. I’m so glad Sanders isn’t my senator anymore. Unfortunately it is now Warren.

    1. At least Sanders is honest about what he is.

      1. Yeah. I always had less problems with Sanders than most others because he was upfront about his positions and would articulate them & defend them.

        1. And I somehow doubt Sanders would have though 22/hr minimum wage would have worked.

          1. make it 100 and all problems will be solved

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