Bob Franken

White House Stormy Weather

Never forget one of nature’s immutable laws: “If Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining That Means Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud”. At least that’s the case when it comes to Washington’s nature.

Let’s take the thunderbolt from Boston that seems to have shocked the lethargic White House into the realization the voters’ anger and fear require jolting action.

Beginning the day after the election that sent a Republican from Massachusetts, of all places, President Obama has switched into his “No More Mr. Nice Guy” mode. Gone is that Joe Cool stuff. The new Message of the Day is that it’s time to turn up the temperature. Call that a Silver Lining.

Unfortunately, the sharper focus on the economy is clouded by the unavoidable suspicion it’s more sound bite than anything else, more motion than movement toward truly unraveling the tangled mess that endangers the party in power.

We are being showered by a sudden flurry of proposals at the White House. Unfortunately some are widely considered to belong in the Snow Job category.

Let’s take the tax credit for employers who hire people. That’s an idea that was rejected last year because it would be so easy for the deceptive corporate types (pardon the redundancy) to manipulate. They could layoff workers, for example, just before re hiring them back to get their gift from the federal government. It was too hard too swallow the first time around, but it’s being regurgitated again.

The Spending Freeze is another of the platitudes we always get from those who want to show their resolve to reduce deficits. As a certain Chief Executive would say “Let me be clear”: The current Deficit will drown the nation if it isn’t drained from the budget. The swells have been, uh, swollen by a combination of fiscal necessity in the last year and fiscal irresponsibility in the last near-decade. It doesn’t matter who did what, it will take difficult action for fiscal survival.

Instead of paralyzing worthwhile government programs caught in an indiscriminate freeze, why not do the hard work of identifying and eliminating the worthLESS ones?
Why not? Because so many of the latter have powerful, well-financed lobbyists to keep them in place.

Here’s another: Instead of just going after the relatively small “Domestic Spending “chunk that freezes always target, why not take the Pentagon off the sacrosanct
list and tap into the off-limits programs that are “National Security” in creative name while hundreds of billions are wasted there on fraud and waste? Why not? Again, the same Special Interest stranglehold by the greedy beneficiaries who get away with easily distorting patriotism and the misguided belief that anything military must be untouchable.

One other idea: How about reforming health care? Done right, it could do wonders for the middle-class and cut deficits at the same time. Of course that would require the Democrats to keep fighting even after absorbing a body blow. So we can forget about that one. That’s what the White would like for us to do. Forget about health care reform.

One can only hope that President Obama has not forgotten how to fight with meaningful action fight with meaningless rhetoric in. “I’d rather be a good one term president”, he told Diane Sawyer, “than a mediocre two term president”. He also needs to worry about being a mediocre one term president.

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