“Bush lied, people died!” “Obama lied, health plans died!”
The extent to which you accept one proposition and reject the other probably says more about you than the two presidents. But let’s say there is a groundswell of support for unapologetic honesty from our national leaders, and let’s imagine the president giving a baloney-free speech about the budget and everyday welfare. My guess is that at various points people would turn the channel, and only a handful of viewers would be left at the end.
I doubt even Common Sense Man would get through it. You’ve met him, right? There’s no problem so complicated that Common Sense Man can’t solve it with a cliché. “Live within your means!” “Budget like a household!”
In any event, grab the clicker and give it a try:
“Good evening, my fellow Americans. Chastened by the backlash against, um, inaccurate utterances, I’ve apologized, but my administration wants to do more. Noting that the American people crave the truth and cry out for honesty, we’ve decided to leverage this moment to embark on a campaign to enact a Balanced Budget Amendment and wipe out the debt before handing the country over to our children. You seem ready, America, so here we go.
“Currently, spending is historically high and taxation is low, so we will need to cut spending and raise revenue. However, before we raise tax rates, we must eliminate tax breaks.
“First, capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than regular income. This bias against workers’ paychecks has to end. Sorry, Gov. Romney. Nothing personal.
“Second, we currently forgo $250 billion in revenue annually to subsidize employer-provided health care. This is a much larger sum than is being spent on subsidies for the Affordable Care Act. Both of these bailouts must be discontinued. How will you be covered? That’s no longer the government’s concern. We have a budget to balance.
“Third, we must end the deductibility of mortgage interest, which reduces government revenue by more than $100 billion a year. If it’s the only reason you bought a house, then sell it. You’re going to need the cash for health care.
“Fourth, we must end the deductibility of state and local taxes. Now that we have to balance budgets just like state and local governments, we can no longer justify this tax break.
“OK, is anyone still with me? A few? Then on to spending cuts.
“First, we will calculate how much each person has paid into Medicare and cap spending at this amount. After that, you’re on your own. We will adjust for inflation, of course. We are not heartless. You should know that the average Medicare beneficiary covers about one-third of his or her health care bills with the payroll taxes they’ve paid over a lifetime.
“Second, we must discontinue Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit for seniors. Congress failed to fund it; we can’t afford it. No sensible household budgets this way.
“Third, we currently spend more on defense than the next 10 nations combined. We must decommission aircraft carriers, mothball planes, cancel defense contracts and lay off millions of people. The Base Realignment Closure Commission process will be greatly accelerated. After it’s over, you’ll be calling me BRAC Obama, among other names.
“Fourth, along with ending welfare as we know it for the middle and upper classes, we must discontinue services for the poor until the budget is balanced. Our libertarian friends – who are probably the only folks left listening – tell us that charity will fill the vacuum.
“Now I know this sounds daunting, but we must do it for our children and our children’s children. They will thank us for living within our means, for budgeting like a household – one that’s no longer subsidized. But most of all, they will thank us for our honesty.
“Good night, and may God bless what’s left of America.”