Streetcar Line

The Discussions We Should Be Having

With three weeks to go, a plethora of issues, to save the nation.

By 10.16.12

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So many topics demand attention right now, in the final three weeks before what really is the most momentous election so far in my adult lifetime. Americans have good reason to believe the very existence of our country as we know it is at risk. Never in any of our lifetimes has a gang in power threatened to so fundamentally transform the very essence of the social compact, natural law, our constitutional system of limited government, and civil society itself. With so much at stake, and with so many outrages vying for attention, it's hard to know which subject to focus on.

Among them:

Libya is part of a bigger, scarier picture. The simple reality is that the Obama administration has spent years trying to deny the nature and reality of the Islamic-jihadist terrorist threat, and has entertained the idea of cracking down harder on those who "insult" Islam than on the radical Islamists themselves. Administration figures huddle with Islamists. They refuse to rule out the idea of criminalizing speech the Islamists don't like. The FBI under Obama has purged training manuals of information linking Islam to terrorism. An Obamite former advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff writes columns saying that the First Amendment does not protect film such as the Innocence of Muslims idiocy the Obama administration wrongly blamed for the attack in Libya. The depressing drumbeat goes on, and on, and on.

Hillary Clinton always has been incompetent: While it is clearly a dodge for the White House to foist all blame for the Libyan tragedy on the State Department, it also is clear that State, under HRC, screwed up badly. The question is, why does that surprise anyone? Ms. Clinton has been one of the most undistinguished Secretaries of State in history. She can claim no recognizable major accomplishments. No diplomatic triumphs. Nothing memorable at all -- except for a lot of New Age blather. This is entirely in keeping with Ms. Clinton's lifelong record. She actually did very little as a U.S. Senator. And in the White House, she was a walking scandal: FBI files of political adversaries rifled during her watch; a botched handling of the response to Vince Foster's tragic death; corruption so obvious with regard to her husband's exiting pardons that the New York Daily News called her unfit for office; lost Rose Law Firm billing records until two days after a key statute of limitations had expired; and, of course, the utter fiasco that was HillaryCare, mangling the issue so badly that it never even came up for a formal vote. Obama should have known all this when he appointed her. Her failures are therefore his failures, too.

Bill Clinton is a terrible authority on economics: Speaking of Clintons, it is well beyond annoying to see Obama benefit from the former president's imprimatur on Obama's economic policies. The reality is that Clinton did virtually nothing while president to lead the way to a vibrant economy; instead, he was dragged kicking and screaming into signing off on policies with which he disagreed, but which ended up working like charms. The deficit? In January of 1995, he submitted a budget calling for $200 billion deficits (then an outrageous sum) as far as the eye could see. Balanced budgets? He vetoed several, until finally being shamed into signing one. Welfare reform? He vetoed it twice, until Dick Morris told him the only way he could lose re-election would be if he issued another veto. (In fact, Clinton cared so little for welfare reform that he ignored repeated entreaties from Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan to handle welfare reform before unleashing the dogs of HillaryCare; Moynihan complained bitterly about the decision.) Capital gains tax cuts? He never wanted them. Meanwhile, his administration pushed through one bit of deregulation that some blame for part of the financial crisis a decade later, and fought against a wise regulatory proposal whose absence was, according to many other wise people, another major contributor to the crisis. (The deregulation was the destruction of the Glass-Steagall Act keeping banks out of insurance, etcetera. The regulation not taken was the refusal to rein in derivatives and credit default swaps.) Meanwhile, he and his cronies raped Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and used pressure tactics to lure or even force financial institutions into risky mortgage loans the beneficiaries could not afford. Again, Clinton therefore was responsible for yet a third major contributor to the financial crisis of 2008.

Religious liberty. President Obama has led the most sustained assault against religious liberty in this nation's history. Matthew Franck outlined a large part of the case in a Sept. 11 speech at Hillsdale College. This is an issue that could use some explaining. It is not enough for opponents of Obama policies to mouth the words "religious freedom." Instead, opponents should work up a two-minute "connect-the-dots" description of what is/was at stake not only with the HHS mandate but also in the Hosanna-Tabor case, and in a host of other areas of dispute. It is important to explain, as I put it in an earlier column, that "if a Jewish synagogue spent a great deal of its time running a soup kitchen in a predominantly black and Baptist inner-city neighborhood, its charitable impulses would actually be punished by the government." And, though it is almost a cliché, the old warning about how "first they came for the Jews/(Catholics/Socialists, etcetera)… until nobody was left to speak up for me," should be the explanation used as a clincher in the final 20 seconds or so of the two-minute summary. People understand that warning in a deep and personal way.

The medical device tax in Obamacare. How can Barack Obama be truly compassionate if he insisted on passing a bill with a devastating tax on devices that save or vastly improve so many lives, such as pacemakers, insulin pumps, asthma inhalers, prosthetic limbs, and blood-pressure monitors? As one of at least a dozen new taxes in Obamacare, including five major ones that will hit in 2013, this tax explodes Obama's promise never to raise taxes on the middle class. So outrageous is it that even former second-generation Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal blasting it not only for its ill health effects but also because it is a major job killer.

The Romney team must do a far better job explaining its tax-reform plans. Look, we already know Romney wants to negotiate the exact details with Congress. We get it, already. But it shouldn't be too hard to do a more persuasive job explaining the idea of eliminating loopholes while cutting tax rates. As in: "Here's what my approach would be: First we put the commission together to figure out how many upper-income special tax loopholes we could close. One idea, not as one I definitely would accept, but as an example, is just to put a total limit on all high-income tax deductions with the exception of the one for charitable giving, which still should be encouraged. Anyway, the plan is this: Once we identify the total amount we can save by cutting loopholes, then and only then would we figure out what the across-the-board tax-rate cut would be, up to a maximum of 20 percent. We want to cut the national deficit and debt, so we will ensure that tax reform is revenue-neutral, period, end of story. Figure out the loophole cuts first, and then cut the rates for middle-income earners to match it. That's as simple as can be."

Energy costs. Repeat after me: A gallon of gasoline costs twice what it did on the day Obama took office. A gallon of gasoline costs twice what it did on the day Obama took office. A gallon of gasoline costs twice what it did…. Then: Just this week, Obama's team ruled out more drilling in Alaska. Obama reneged on a promise to develop natural gas off the coast of Virginia. Obama slowed down drilling in the Gulf of Mexico so much that he was officially found in contempt of court, a serious legal violation. Obama blocked the Keystone Pipeline and cost us tens of thousands of jobs. And Obama has been brutal against the mining of coal even as we find ever-cleaner ways to use it. When you slow energy production down, energy prices rise. Production down, prices up. Production down, prices up. Gasoline was about a buck-eighty, now it's above three-sixty. It's Obama's fault.

There. That's enough for now. If Romney wants to be really tough, he'd throw in a blast at Obama's opposition to saving children who survive botched abortions. But this isn't just about Romney and Obama, so this isn't really a column just about campaign issues. This is about the very survival of our country. These are debates every one of us should be carrying, to all who have ears to hear.

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About the Author
Quin Hillyer is a senior editor of The American Spectator and a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom. Follow him on Twitter @QuinHillyer.