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Obama’s political goals bad for us all

Updated: December 30, 2011 8:08AM

The long struggle over the national debt, the deficit, taxes and spending reflects the reality of our divided politics, and nothing much is likely to change until next year’s elections. That’s the message of last week’s failure of the so-called supercommittee of Congress to produce a deficit-reducing blueprint.

The problem is that the last two elections — the 2008 presidential contest and the 2010 congressional balloting — delivered sharply opposed mandates to the capital.

President Barack Obama emerged from 2008 with what he saw as a mission to transform America, expand federal entitlements with a new health care law and, above all, make the country a fairer place by having government “spread the wealth around.”

To Republicans and conservatives, that understandably sounded like the income redistributive model of European welfare states.

The problem for Obama is that a radical spread-the-wealth agenda wasn’t why voters elected him. Weary of the George W. Bush years and his wars, they turned to a man with so little experience that they could project their own aspirations on his campaign. Voters wanted someone to fix the collapsing economy and find a way to elevate Washington policy-making above the petty nature of hyper-partisan politics.

But it soon became obvious that Obama placed priority on transformation, as in passing Obamacare, above a laser focus on the economy. And he had little interest in working with Republicans, outsourcing legislation-writing to ultra-liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and their huge Democratic majorities. When Republicans sought to influence legislation, Obama reminded them that “I won” the election.

Revulsion — and that’s not too strong a word — among Republicans, conservatives and center-right independents over the aggressive Obama agenda fueled the 2010 election that swept the GOP into control of the House.

The problem for Republicans is that they run only one-half of one branch of government.

Furthermore, Obama and Democrats believed the 2010 voting was a cry of pain about the nation’s high unemployment rate, not a protest of their big-spending, big-government platform.

All that added up to gridlock.

And it means the voters in next year’s election will have to decide what direction they want the country to go regarding the fundamental issues about the size of government, spending and taxes.

That’s why Obama has pushed governing to the back burner as he ramps up his campaign travel. A Wall Street Journal examination found that Obama attended a record 54 campaign events in 42 days in swing states thus far during this pre-election year. That’s more than the previous record of 49 events over 34 days spent by Bush in battleground states during the same period in 2007.

There is a template for compromise hovering over this gridlock. It’s the proposals of Obama’s own deficit commission for tax and entitlement reform. But he didn’t embrace the panel’s report.

More than a way out of the political quagmire, it’s a recipe for reviving the economy. The problem is that its formula of lower tax rates with a broader base and restraint on government growth through entitlement modernization runs afoul of Obama’s “spread the wealth” agenda. Unfortunately for the nation, his political goals trump policy that would be good for the economy. It’s up to voters to decide which path to take.

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