The president gave a press conference today and was critical of the Republicans for refusing to raise taxes as part of a congressional agreement to raise the debt ceiling and thus allow the government to continue to pay its bills come August 2. But, unfortunately, he gave no indication of where he stands in the negotiations other than his old, tried and tired urge to tax the super-rich, which will not even come close to balancing the budget. It looked to me like a campaign speech rather than the leader of our country taking the bull by the horns and leading the country and the Congress into an agreement on reducing the deficit.
When the president spends his bully pulpit time blaming and attacking the other political party as the two parties are in the process of trying to negotiate an agreement, it tells me that the negotiations cannot come to an agreement. I suppose Democrats were encouraged that Obama finally sounded tough and said nasty things about the Republicans that Democrats want him to say, but I don't see how today's performance created any space for Boehner and the Republicans to find a way to agree to raising taxes as part of what they will agree to. It looked to me like a pandering to his base and another campaign speech for 2012.
I agree, completely, that the Republicans need to raise revenues. It is not any news to anyone that this needs to be done. But for the president to just criticize the Republicans does nothing to move them forward.
The only thing that makes any sense to me on the revenue side is a major tax reform that lowers tax rates, broadens the tax base, and eliminates the tax earmarks that give away special exemptions to taxation. This was proposed by Simpson-Bowles in December of last year. The only person in the country that could have taken that report, and the momentum created by that report, was the President of the United States, regardless of who the president was at that time, and regardless of which party the president belonged to. But, this president ducked. He pretended to be influenced by Simpson Bowles, and he proposed ... raising taxes on the super-rich ... what a surprise.
I hope that the two sides agree to sign off on the increase in the debt ceiling by doing two things: cut spending and make a binding pledge to create tax reform starting August 3, with the President taking the lead with a deadline of proposing an overhaul of the tax system by the end of September. I see no other way of increasing tax revenues other than massive tax reform. He doesn't even need to take any time to study the tax reform, all he needs to do is present the Simpson Bowles tax plan and lead the country from his bully pulpit, and lead Congress with good old fashioned LBJ congressional maneuvering and get it done.
We need leadership, and only the president is in a position to provide it. It takes more than a jaunty walk and snide attacks on his opponents to get it done. It takes genius, and genius is what we need. Maybe this crisis will finally awaken the man in the White House to become the leader that I had voted for two and a half very long years ago.