These Obama town halls are really great as a window into what the president really thinks. Here he was in Iowa:
Part of it is the way our media has evolved. It used to be everybody was sitting there watching Walter Cronkite. Now, everybody is on their own little blog or their own separate news forum. If you're a Democrat, you're reading The New York Times. If you're a Republican, you're watching FOX News, right? People don't listen to each other as much.
The New York Times — the Fox News of the left! Even President Obama thinks the paper has a pro-Democrat bias.
More highlights, or lowlights, depending on how one sees it, from the president's remarks at that Iowa town hall:
when you hear this argument that somehow if you just cut taxes for wealthy folks that the economy is going to be better because they're the job generators, et cetera, just remember that we created tens of millions of jobs under the tax code that existed before the Bush tax cuts, and we've had much less job growth since that time.
So we've had an experiment in this theory that you hear propagated all the time -- it didn't work.
This is the post hoc ergo procter hoc fallacy. A Republican politician could say:
when you hear this argument that somehow if the government just spends more money then the economy is going to be better because what's needed is stimulus, aggregate demand, etc., just remember that we created tens of millions of jobs before the "recovery act" was passed, and we've had much less job growth since that time.
In defending the recovery act, President Obama has said you have to compare it to what would have happened without it. But the same argument could apply to tax cuts.
A more important argument with taxes, I think, is that they affect employment and the stock market in part on the basis of expectations. Of the 139 months between between January 2000 and July 2011, the five worst months for job creation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' seasonally adjusted payroll survey, were January 2009 (-820,000 jobs), November 2008 (-802,000 jobs), March 2009 (-796,000 jobs), February 2009 (-726,000 jobs), and April 2009 (-660,000 jobs). Mr. Obama's reasoning would blame the fact that the Bush tax cuts rather than the Clinton tax rates were in effect during these months. An alternative and perhaps more sensible explanation is that the market was responding to the election of a president who had campaigned on a promise of restoring the Clinton-era tax rates for couples earning $250,000 a year or more. If you are a small businessman who thinks that your taxes are going up, you don't hire that extra employee with your profits, you keep the money in the bank (or in a gold ETF) to pay the tax bills.
More from Obama's town hall:
So there are two contrasting visions that are going to be presented over the next year and a half in this debate that we still have to finish about how to close the debt and the deficit and how we move this country forward. And I'm on the side of a vision that says we live within our means but we still make investments in the future, and everybody pays their fair share and we've got shared sacrifice and shared opportunity.
And on the other side you've got a vision that says, we are going to make sure that those who have benefited the most pay the least, and we underinvest in education and we underinvest in infrastructure and we underinvest in basic research. That's their vision. And we dismantle Medicare as we know it and make it into a voucher system. Well, that's -- I don't think that's the way that America is going to grow; that's not how America is going to prosper. But the only way that we're going to be able to win that argument is if you guys make a decision that you want a country that's big and bold and generous, and not one that's cramped and just believes in a winner-take-all economy in which everybody else is left out in the cold. (Applause.) That's not the kind of America that I was raised in, not the kind of America I believe in.
"Underinvest in education"? Under President Bush education spending increased to $69 billion in 2008 from $42 billion in 2001, an increase of about 64%, which was larger than the 19% increase in appropriated spending for the federal Department of Education during the eight years of the Clinton administration. Generosity versus leaving everyone else in the cold? Under Mr. Bush the Republicans added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare and fought wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in part to improve those countries, wars that Mr. Obama wants to end. On the foreign policy front, who is the bold and generous one and who is cramped and wants to leave people out in the cold? Mr. Obama is a master of the false dichotomy and of the straw man.
It's also worth commenting on Mr. Obama's claim that Republicans say "we are going to make sure that those who have benefited the most pay the least." This is apparently a comment directed at a desire to decrease marginal tax rates on the "rich." But a lot of the "rich" got that way not by "benefiting" from the government but through their own talent, ingenuity, industry, or luck, or some combination thereof. Once they are rich, they and sometimes even their children are disqualified from many means-tested government programs and tax credits like Pell Grants, public housing, and Medicaid. And far from paying "the least," in terms of the progressive individual income tax and in terms of the gross dollar amounts they pay, they pay a lot of taxes — unlike the tens of millions of lower income Americans who don't owe any federal income tax at all. This is President Obama as a class-warfare divider rather than a rising-tide-lifts-all boats uniter.
I know a lot of people who think Mr. Obama is a genius and a brilliant communicator, or, as Vice President Biden once put it, "bright and articulate." But if the Republicans nominate a strong candidate in 2012, they should try to get Mr. Obama to commit to as many presidential debates as possible. In these situations where Mr. Obama's not reading from a teleprompter, he says things that don't stand up well under challenge.