Thursday, July 16, 2009


How many times have we heard the President say one thing, then do another? How many broken promises has he made? Too numerous to list, and you probably know them all by now. Right now -- today -- this minute it's too important to ignore.

We have a government run health care system on the table that will drastically change our lives, along with an energy bill, next to the Hate Crimes bill on the table, all in a row. Karl Rove writes another powerful expose on what this man's words mean:

The President Moves the Economic Goalposts

So what's a president to do when the promises he made about his economic stimulus program fail to materialize? If you're Barack Obama, you redefine your goals and act as if America won't remember what you said originally. That's a neat trick if you can get away with it, but Mr. Obama won't. His words are a matter of public record and he will be held to them.

When it came to the stimulus package, the president and his administration promised, in the words of National Economic Director Larry Summers, "You'll see the effects begin almost immediately." Now it's clear that those promised jobs and growth haven't materialized.

So Mr. Obama is attempting to lower expectations retroactively, saying in an op-ed in Sunday's Washington Post that his stimulus "was, from the start, a two-year program." That is misleading. Mr. Obama never said if his stimulus were passed things might still get significantly worse in the following year.

In February, Mr. Obama said this about the goals of his stimulus package: "I think my initial measure of success is creating or saving four million jobs." He later explained the stimulus's $787 billion would "go directly to . . . generating three to four million new jobs." And his Council of Economic Advisors issued an official analysis showing that the unemployment rate would top out in the third quarter of this year at just over 8%.

That quarter began on July 1, and unemployment is now 9.5%, up from 7.6% when Mr. Obama took office. There are 2.6 million fewer Americans working than there were on the day Mr. Obama was sworn in. The president says now that unemployment will exceed 10% this year, and his advisers say it will remain high through much of next year.

Earlier this year, Mr. Obama assured us that most of the stimulus money "will go out the door immediately." But it hasn't. Only about 7.7% of the stimulus has been spent in the six months since its passage, and more of it will be spent in the program's last eight years than in its first year. So now the president claims he said something different. "We also knew that it would take some time for the money to get out the door," Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio address on Saturday.

One problem with Mr. Obama's stimulus bill that is rarely talked about is that it will force a huge, and likely permanent, increase in discretionary, domestic spending. That portion of federal spending was $393 billion in President George W. Bush's last budget. Democrats immediately raised it to $408 billion for this fiscal year and now face the question of whether to make the stimulus a one-time expenditure or a permanent spending increase.

Federal education spending is a good example. As part of the stimulus, Mr. Obama nearly doubled education spending to $80 billion from $41 billion. If Congress adds that and other stimulus spending into the baseline for future budgets, discretionary domestic spending could mushroom to $550 billion or $600 billion next year. If that happens, Mr. Obama will have broken his pledge that the stimulus would be temporary spending.

As is Mr. Obama's habit, he has answered his critics by creating straw-man arguments. In last weekend's radio address, he attacked detractors as those who "felt that doing nothing was somehow an answer." But many of Mr. Obama's critics didn't feel that way. They offered -- and Mr. Obama almost completely ignored -- constructive ideas to jump-start the economy.

For example, House Republicans offered an alternative recovery package of immediate tax cuts and safety-net measures that cost half as much as Mr. Obama's stimulus program. Republicans have also calculated that their plans would have created 50% more jobs than the stimulus. They reached that estimate by using the same job-growth econometric model that the president's Council of Economic Advisors used for the stimulus.

While in Moscow recently, Mr. Obama answered questions on whether his administration had misread the economy by saying "there's nothing that we would have done differently." Let me suggest two things: He could have proposed pro-growth policies rather than ones that retard economic recovery with a massive increase in deficit spending. And he could fulfill his promise to speak to us honestly rather than selling his proposals with promises and goals he rapidly discards.

In his 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell wrote about words used in a "consciously dishonest way." "That is," Orwell wrote, "the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different." Americans are right to wonder if their president is using his own private definitions for the words he uses to sell his policies.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.