Do we have a president or a perpetual candidate? It’s not an entirely unfair question.
Even as Barack Obama was warning of the dreadful consequences of the budget sequester looming on March 1, he spent days away from Washington, apparently out of touch with Democratic as well as Republican congressional leaders.
In the meantime, Obama fans were lobbing verbal grenades at none other than the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward.
His offense: He’s continuing to make it clear, as he did in his book The Price of Politics, that it was Obama’s then–chief of staff and now–Treasury Secretary Jack Lew who first proposed the dreaded sequester.
This inconvenient fact threatens to interfere with the ready-for-teleprompter narrative that the Republicans want to cut aid to preschoolers in order to save tax breaks for corporate jets.
It appears that Obama prefers delivering such messages to crowds of adoring supporters over actually governing.
His theory seemed to be that if he kicked his job approval rating up a few points, Republicans would agree to the revenue increases he is promoting, just as they agreed to a tax-rate increase in the “fiscal cliff” showdown.
But his job rating continues to hover just above 50 percent. That’s not nearly high enough to compel cooperation. In addition, his campaign rhetoric undercuts his credibility with politicians of the opposite party and perhaps of his own. It’s not that these people resent being criticized. They understand that that is part of the game. But the substance of the criticism suggests the president is not serious about public policy.
Take that old chestnut about corporate jets. The actual issue here is about depreciation — over how many years can a purchaser deduct the cost of a corporate jet?
Do you have to spread out the deduction over seven years? Or can you take it all in five?
No doubt, serious arguments can be made for one view or the other. As they can for the depreciation schedules of hundreds or thousands of products. Lawyers and lobbyists can make a living doing this.
But the bottom line is that the amount of revenue at stake is small, pathetically small next to trillion-dollar federal-budget deficits.
Obama keeps talking about corporate jets because it tests well in polls.
And that’s the reason, I think, he keeps talking about universal preschool, not just for disadvantaged children.
Polls show that large majorities of Americans would be willing to have more government money spent for preschool for disadvantaged children. The impulse to help adorable but needy little kids is very strong.
Unfortunately, the evidence that preschool programs do any permanent good for such children is exceedingly weak.