Clint Eastwood fans recall the popular shoot 'em up Western entitled "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." The moniker fits an Obama-led Washington, circa 2014. Don't believe me? Check it out:
Despite aggressive overselling of an economic recovery by Democrats, Republicans must recognize a number of positives on the economic front. Consumer spending has improved, and so have the markets. Unemployment has steadily (albeit too slowly) decreased to the "new normal" — around 7 percent. A natural gas revolution has produced thousands of new jobs and helped secure our energy future. Federal spending has slowed due in large part to the sequester imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 — a spending discipline soon to be mitigated by the recently concluded bipartisan budget deal. Inflation has remained historically low as the economy continues to recover from a devastating economic downturn. Alas, the major question in today's Washington concerns when the Federal Reserve will curtail "QE3" (quantitative easing) and how the markets will react when the buying spigot is finally turned off.
The redistribution-of-wealth initiative popularly known as "Obamacare" now applies to every American. Most of you have not heard much about the scope and variety of the new taxes contained within Obamacare's 11,000 pages, but you are about to receive a serious reminder. So serious, in fact, the National Bureau of Economic Research informs us that the 22 new and expanded taxes contained in the health bill will push marginal tax rates for medium income households to 50 percent — and almost exclusively targeted to those who work, produce and employ. And now comes more bad news for Obamacare apologists: A bill that was originally projected to cost less than $1 trillion in 2009 is now projected to cost $1.8 trillion and increase the long term federal deficit by $6.2 trillion, per the Government Accountability Office. And that promise of a $2,500 per family savings is nowhere to be found.
I will not (again) chronicle the myriad other deficiencies of the legislation that has brought the president's job approval and personal integrity numbers down to Nixonian levels. Suffice it to say the negligent overselling of a complex bill that has cost millions of Americans their doctors, hospitals and health insurance plans culminated in the awarding of the "Lie of the Year" designation by PolitiFact.
On the foreign policy front, the "willing to negotiate with any rogue regime" Obama administration has never overcome its inclination to subordinate the facts of recent history with its desire to strike a deal with the Iranians. Fortunately, this is one instance where the wishful thinking crowd may not prevail; there are plenty of U.S. senators (from both parties) intent on negotiating with the world's leading sponsor of terror and serial violator of arms control agreements from a position of strength. These leaders have not forgotten that bad guys (especially bad guys under pressure) regularly violate international agreements in order to buy time to achieve their nefarious goals. One thing we know: Benjamin Netanyahu cannot afford to indulge the administration's "trust first" approach — just too much downside for his embattled country.
In a related mess, the amateur hour known as American policy in Syria has strengthened the murderous regime of Bashar Assad and further degraded pro-western elements of the rebel forces. At least for the next three years, U.S. "(red) lines in the sand" will be seen as unserious — a dangerous place for a superpower to find itself.
Contributing to the president's poor approval ratings is the notion that this lame duck White House tends to make it up as it goes along. And a weak staff appears unwilling (or unable) to tell the Emperor when he has no clothes.
Politically motivated IRS investigations? Never heard of 'em. Justice investigation of a Fox News reporter? Ditto. Fast & Furious? Blame it on Bush. Phony cover story to explain Benghazi? "What does it matter?" (That one courtesy of the former secretary of state). Recess appointments while Congress is still in session? No problem. Waiving/extending statutory deadlines and granting waivers to politically favored groups? You betcha. Unilaterally changing immigration law prior to an election? But we needed the Hispanics on election day. Amending the Senate filibuster rule in order to secure activist judges on the nation's second most important appellate court? Priceless.
A rather unsettling bottom line: This administration is willing to do just about anything for the good of the (progressive) cause. Pretty ugly, indeed.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around" and "America: Hope for Change" — books about national politics. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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