It probably won’t get the attention it deserves, but House Speaker John Boehner Monday delivered an important speech about the country’s economic future.
Speaking to the Economic Club of New York, Boehner laid out his vision for a better, more prosperous America, a vision that conflicts strongly with what President Barack Obama proposes to do.
The speech will be glossed over because it conflicts with the national narrative that those who are paid to comment on such things are trying to establish in the lead-up to the 2012 election. To them, Obama is the good guy while Boehner wears the black hat. Anyone who looks at the evidence can see, however, that it is the reverse that is true.
The economy remains in shambles. None of the things Obama promised would be the result of his policies have happened. The critics who predicted his economic stimulus would only lengthen the recession and produce a limping recovery were right because Obama’s agenda does not, as Boehner said, give the American people “the freedom to do what they do best.”
“I believe our mission as legislators is to liberate our economy from the things that impede growth,” Boehner said Monday, “to provide clear policies so that innovators and entrepreneurs have the green light to move forward and create jobs without having to worry about second-guessing from Washington.”
Indeed, that’s about all people can do these days: worry about what new tax or job-killing regulation or mandate the White House and its allies in Congress have in store for them. The U.S. House of Representatives, under Boehner’s leadership, is the only check on the excesses of government that have led to the current crisis. [See editorial cartoons on the economy.]
Boehner is right when he says that many of the nation’s problems “can be traced to a misguided belief by politicians that the American economy is something that can be controlled or micromanaged or influenced positively by government intervention and borrowing.” The recent announcement by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that they remain in the red and are seeking a further government bailout confirms this view. The problem is too much government interference in the marketplace, not the lack of it.
Since becoming president, Obama has presided over a historic increase in the government’s role in two vital sectors of the U.S. economy—healthcare and the Internet—and he is poised to do even more in the area of labor-management relations, food and agriculture, the energy industry, and, through efforts to impose restrictions on carbon emissions in the name of “protecting the environment,” what remains of the nation’s manufacturing base.
“For job creators, the ‘promise’ of a large new initiative coming out of Washington is more like a threat,” Boehner told the group. “It freezes them. Instead of investing in new employees or new equipment, they make the logical decision to stand pat.”
In order to get the American economy back on its feet, policymakers must recognize that its success is the result of “the sum total of the hard work and ingenuity of our people,” as Boehner said, not because a group of so-called experts from Washington and the academy and Wall Street think they can micromanage everything.
With the coming need to increase the federal debt ceiling, all these problems have come to a head. Congress and the White House must figure out a way to bring spending back under control and move forward toward renewed economic growth. Unfortunately, the president and his friends, particularly Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, would rather punt than make hard choices, holding out the specter of a new economic collapse were the debt ceiling not raised. [Read the U.S. News debate: Should Congress raise the debt ceiling?]
“The debt limit debate presents our nation's leaders with the opportunity to reverse these habits and prove that we're starting to get the message. It's a chance to change course and admit that reactionary, short-term Washington solutions aren't always best,” Boehner said. “We have a chance to provide certainty to job creators by signaling that our government is finally set to take a new approach when it comes to the spending and borrowing that has put us so deeply in debt.”
Calling the upcoming vote a “time to end the spending binge and prioritize and modernize what we spend,” Boehner said, “It's true that allowing America to default would be irresponsible. But it would be more irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without simultaneously taking dramatic steps to reduce spending and reform the budget process.” Moreover, he added, “It would send a signal to investors and entrepreneurs everywhere that America still is not serious about dealing with our spending addiction.”
Boehner, in this one speech, put his cards on the table. “With the exception of tax hikes—which will destroy jobs—everything is on the table. That includes honest conversations about how best to preserve Medicare, because we all know, with millions of baby boomers beginning to retire, the status quo is unsustainable.”
The Republicans have been walking their talk. With the vote to abolish Obamacare, their effort to wring additional savings out of this year’s federal spending, their successful drive to block an increase in the federal income tax, and the Ryan budget, they have shown they are serious about addressing the nation’s economic problems and creating the groundwork for future economic growth. To this, Obama and the Democrats have had just one response: “No.”
The White House expects that Boehner can be maneuvered into a position where he is negotiating with himself while they stand pat and do nothing. It won’t fly. It’s time for the president to either lead by putting his own plan on the table, follow, or just plain get out of the way.