Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Four more years

By Zac Bears

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Barack Obama’s second term as the 44th President of the United States began on Sunday, and we’re now in the second term of arguably the most liberal president in 40 years. With comprehensive health reform, student loan reform, extensive deficit cutting, a more progressive tax code, and smart foreign policy, his legacy and accomplishments are permanent and the American people will face a difficult campaign to replace him with an equally able leader. Yet, Obama is not finished; the president and his advisers will debate immense issues that will shape the future of the United States including gun control, comprehensive immigration reform, true tax reform, and the reduction of the U.S. national debt.

The Obama administration is in a unique position to fundamentally reform the federal government using modern telecommunications to involve Americans in government and rebuild trust in our social contract. The president was not re-elected by the razor-thin margin assumed by the seemingly endless field of political pundits. Over 51 percent of Americans voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, the first time since Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. Almost 66 million Americans supported the vision of a government that levels the playing field for all classes and stops advantaging the rich at the expense of the middle class and the poor.

Obama began his second term with a victory on the fiscal cliff. While going off the cliff would have provided the significant deficit reduction needed to substantively reduce the national debt, the U.S. avoided the inevitable recession brought about by the ill-defined spending cuts known as sequestration. This president has cut the projected deficit by $2.4 trillion since the beginning of fiscal year 2011. Congress and the president have enacted and signed $1.5 trillion in spending cuts and $630 billion in new revenue that will lead to $300 billion in interest savings over the next 10 years. The 2011 budget alone included almost $600 billion in spending cuts and the Budget Control Act enacted another $900 billion in cuts. Spending was cut through cost control, structural reform and waste reduction, but by specifying what would be cut and when, the impact on lower- and middle-income Americans has been limited.

After the fiscal cliff deal, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “The tax issue is behind us … Now it’s time to pivot and turn to the real issue, which is our spending addiction.”

That is not the reality of our budgetary situation. The initial fiscal cliff proposals included between $1.2 and $1.6 trillion in tax increases, yet the deal included only $600 billion. Any Republican that believes the tax issue is settled is fooling the country.

According to the Tax Policy Center, revenue collected by the federal government as a percentage of GDP has remained around 15 percent during the first Obama term. Historically, this is an abysmally low figure and does support government programs demanded by a strong majority of Americans. From the first data point in 1934 to 2008, government revenue dropped below 15 percent of GDP only twice, and averaged 19 percent of GDP. During the only years of government budget surplus, revenues exceeded 20 percent of GDP. The data shows that a balanced budget derives from a balanced plan that includes significant revenue increases (up to 19 percent or 20 percent of GDP) and spending cuts (down to 19 percent or 20 percent of GDP).

Politicians must learn from history, specifically the last president to balance the budget, Bill Clinton. At the 2012 DNC, Clinton said, “People ask me all the time how we delivered four surplus budgets. What new ideas did we bring? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic.”

The discussion of how to balance the budget is simple; there is no calculus, trigonometry or linear algebra. Representatives and senators do not need to write doctoral dissertations in mathematics. Our politicians just need to go back to elementary school arithmetic and realize that a positive difference (budget surplus) needs a larger first number (revenue) than the second number (spending). Taxes must be high enough to pay for what we spend. The occasional deficit that builds debt is essential during times of economic downturn, and these recent $1 trillion deficits protected American jobs and economic security. The issue is that during good economic times, the Bush tax cuts reduced revenue and created deficits. Increased war spending and decreased revenue move the budget away from surplus, not towards it.

I am continuously amazed at the intransigence of the Republican Party. Decades ago, when a party failed as spectacularly as the Republicans, they admitted defeat and worked with the other party so their ideas were not completely ignored. In the Senate, the Republicans realized this and attempted to pare down the tax increases that they disliked. In the House, however, the Republicans abdicated responsibility; they threw a temper tantrum and refused to work when they could not get their way. Government does not work when a negotiator acts like a toddler.

The simple solution to this issue is to ignore the House Republicans. The public already blames them for the brinksmanship over the fiscal cliff. The public will blame them if they hold the country hostage over the debt ceiling. The public will blame them if they block new gun legislation, immigration reform or tax reform.

Obama’s negotiating position has not been better since before the 2010 elections. If House Speaker John Boehner refuses to hold votes on the issues facing our nation, that position improves. Moderate Republicans will work with Democrats to do the work of government. It has happened in the Senate, with the leadership, and it has happened in the House, without the leadership. If the House Republicans truly moderate their positions, they will not lose influence. If they do not moderate, then liberal legislation, supported by only Democrats and the most liberal Republicans, will become the law of the land.

That sounds like progress to me.

Zac Bears is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]


6 Responses to “Four more years”

  1. jpm on January 22nd, 2013 3:16 pm

    Key phrase — “projected budget” The “cut” you highlight is simply a reduction of projected deficits over 10 yrs! That’s approximately 120 billion a year or LESS THAN 1% of of the annual budget. It is not a cut — it is a small reduction of huge projected increases. Our deficit has INCREASED over $6 TRILLION during his first administration. Either you have been duped (like so many other Americans) by Washington’s deceptive language/claims or you are now as guilty as the rest of them


  2. WorkingMan on January 22nd, 2013 3:19 pm

    Four more years, kill me now. This President and this Congress are utterly hopeless. You want real reform/innovation? How about before starting any other initiatives, cut the entire federal government workforce across the board by 10-15%. Then, consolidate duplicative departments to save on materials, real estate, etc. and create economies of scale. There is so much duplication it’s insane. These things alone will derive billions of savings without cutting even one program. Of course, the deficits are driven primarily by entitlement spending for our parents, the baby-boom generation. The one that fucked everything up, from the 1960s right through today. Go ahead, ask your parents, ask your teachers, the generation that invented massive deficits, created America’s drug problem, divorce/family disintegration problem, sexual disease, etc. is now finally beginning to retire in massive numbers. Soon there will be 3 retirees for every working stiff. And they bankrupted their own social security benefits for the past 30 years, KNOWING this problem would come home to roost. They were talking about these deficits in the 1980s when I was a kid. But the can got kicked down the road and now it’s my problem, soon to be yours if you can get a real paying job. As far as I am concerned, the baby boom generation should be left to fend for itself on social security and we should cut it to the bone until this generation passes in 2035 or so. Make exceptions for the poor under a certain threshhold and those over age 67, but for those ages 47-67 they should suffer the consequences of what they have done to this society, and to themselves, over their lifetimes. All this political jockeying and fudging statistics that you cite is nonsense. Social security and medicare are the problem, created by the very people who messed this society up pretty badly from what it was. I am unsympathetic to any please to pay more taxes and more taxes and more taxes to old people and to the 47% of Americans who already have NO tax burden whatsoever. What seems so academic to you seems very real to me – let’s have all these social welfare programs covering every conceivable type of benefit, and let’s get Joe taxpayer (which comprises only 53% of the workforce), to pay for it ALL. A few more years will get you some perspective on all this, but the real problem is an expansion of government and social engineering programs at the expense of the dwindling number of taxpayers who are available to pay for it.


  3. Dr. Ed Cutting on January 23rd, 2013 12:18 pm

    I actually more blame the Baby Boomers than Gen X — and see no reason to make the over-67 exemption. So sorry, you folks made this mess — not those younger than you — and so sorry but there isn’t any more largess for anyone.

    Remember that the majority of the baby-boomers were born in a very narrow band — 1945-1955 (they went to college 1963-1977 and look at when UMass expanded), and they are now 58-68 years old.

    And Zac, perhaps you might want to read Article I of the US Constitution before dismissing the House Republicans. Can you say “impeachment”? Yep, Richard Nixon never thought it could happen to him either — and dismissed Tip O’Neil from the one state that didn’t vote for him and look what happened then.

    40 years ago — in 1972 — Richard Nixon won 49 states — he won every state but MA & DC — and less than two years later, he was history. Ronald Reagan won MA – twice. I don’t know what kind of math you are using, but on the most basic level Obama’s victory was insignificant as compared to those of Reagan, even that of Carter in ’76.

    The last Presidential election to divide the country this badly was the election of Lincoln in 1860, and did anyone ever tell you what happened during the next five years, i.e. 1860-1865? (I’ll give you a hint: It involved a lot of folk your age dying gruesome deaths….)

    I think the British Press got it best — Obama’s inauguration was him preaching to the half of America who love him — the other have viscerally detesting him. The middle is already ceasing to hold.


  4. Mike on January 23rd, 2013 11:23 pm

    So what’s a Smart foreign policy? Continuing the war in Afghanistan for 6 more years? Tripling drone strikes in countries we aren’t at war with? He’s gonna cut the deficit, after it’s gone up more than 50% his first term? Really? Lets talk about his domestic policy, we should continue to burn the constitution he as kept well aflame with his signing of the patriot act and the NDAA by throwing gun control on the agenda?

    He is basically a more socialist George Bush but because he is Obama you guys love him and will make excuses for him all day long. Who would have thought the democrats from 4 years ago would be SUPPORTING the patriot act, NDAA, drone strikes, and the continued war in Afghanistan… You guys drink the kool-aid like it’s nobodies business.


  5. JT on January 24th, 2013 8:47 am

    51% of the popular vote is razor-thin! In many of the states that Obama won, he won with ~55% of the vote or less. So, yes, he has a ton of electoral college votes, but the country is essentially divided about half-and-half between conservatives and liberals. 51% is not “mandate” of the people. Rather, it should tell any candidate, “Don’t anger too many of us!” Of course, Obama doesn’t have to worry about being reelected, so he can do whatever the **** he wants (unless his party ever tells him to knock it off).

    Also, if you still work for a living, I pity you. Apparently, you didn’t qualify for enough entitlements yet.


  6. Crh on February 21st, 2013 2:12 am

    JT, every single president for the past 28 years was elected with less than 53% of the popular vote. America has been divided in two more-or-less-equal sides for a VERY long time. The Electoral College obscures this important fact.


If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.