Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dire state of the nation revealed, but Obama vows to halve deficit.

Barack Obama will address a joint session of Congress tonight and, whilst doing so, will lay the blame for the financial crisis squarely at the feet of George W. Bush.

He pinned the blame for runaway spending on poor leadership in Washington and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which continue to drain the country’s wealth. The massive stimulus package Mr Obama signed into law last week accounts for a quarter of the deficit.

The US leader promised to chop the shortfall in half before his term ended in four years and said he was instituting a new, transparent budget process. He would not try to hide government spending from the public, he said, lacerating his predecessor’s practice of keeping the spending on Iraq and Afghanistan out of the budget.

“For too long our budget was an exercise in deception,” he said.

That exercise featured accounting tricks designed to hide spending while “hoping the American people won’t notice”.

By including the cost of the wars – as well as the cost of dealing with natural disasters such as floods, fires and earthquakes – and providing a true picture of taxes being collected, Mr Obama’s budget will paint a worst-case scenario.

Bush's accounting practices were an act of deception. It would be impossible to give a true account of your home finances, for example, if you excluded the costs of roof repairs or any other major costs. And yet Bush excluded two of his largest expenses - the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - from his calculations.

Tonight’s speech is being treated as though it was a State of the Union address as Mr Obama attempts to build on his early successes that range from new legislation and emergency economic packages to renewed diplomatic efforts.

The high-stakes public relations task he faces is finding a way of convincing sceptical Americans that he has the solution to their economic woes while promising to cut the deficit in half before his term is up. He intends to do this by slapping taxes on the very wealthy, pulling troops out of Iraq and cutting domestic government spending.

Obama is going about this the right way. He is allowing light in where Bush insisted on operating in darkness. The task he faces is a gargantuan one and the light in some ways makes his job harder, but it is essential for public confidence that he is as open as he possibly can be.

And, so far, public confidence in his leadership appears to be holding up.

Despite blundering in important cabinet appointments, the president’s “no-drama Obama” image remains intact. An opinion poll by Gallup released yesterday put his approval rating at 63 per cent, high given the crisis which many fear is yet to hit its lowest point.

We should never forget that Obama inherited this bloody mess. It was not of his making and I am sure that two years ago, when he announced his decision to run for president, he had no idea that a problem this massive was going to be his inheritance from the Bush years.

And, unlike insane people like Rush Limbaugh, most of us realise that it is in all of our interests that he pulls this off. We all have mortgages and savings upon which the stability of our lives depend.

The Republican party are continuing to play the most awful politics at a time when the US seriously needs to come together to face this crisis. After eight years of deficit spending it is simply not credible for these same people to now oppose Obama on the grounds of fiscal responsibility. And yet that, astonishingly, is where they are now seeking to position themselves. I hope Obama gives it to them right between the eyeballs tonight. They are long overdue a serious wake up call.


Obama, rightly, attacks "cable chatter" as simply politics as usual and points out that there simply is no time for this at the moment.

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café paris said...

I hope Obama will help people during the crisis !

Kel said...

I think that's the plan.