Doing the right thing isn’t always popular. The United States is trying to gets its financial house in order, and the process isn’t allowing President Obama to make many new friends.
During a news conference on Wednesday, President Obama took question after question about issues ranging from gay rights to war powers. But the issue on everyone’s minds was how to make drastic budget cuts to reach a debt ceiling deal before a deadline of Aug. 2.
[[social-toolbar]Cutting the national debt can be political suicide. Just ask former President George H.W. Bush, who recognized it had to happen in the early 1990s and raised taxes, costing him re-election. Obama may be on the same track. Perhaps that’s why he began his recent news conference by talking about tax hikes on the easier targets than individuals.
Target one: corporate jet owners. Target two: the oil subsidies.
On six separate occasions, Obama said that the $3 billion government handouts to corporate jet owners should end. “You’ll still be able to ride your corporate jet. You are just going to have to pay a little more,” Obama said.
Then there’s the subject of government handouts to the big five oil companies, which consistently reap some of the biggest quarterly profits in history. Other than the folks at the American Petroleum Institute, it’s hard to find anyone who thinks this is a good use of taxpayer money. In fact, polls show that almost 75 percent of the country wants to eliminate these subsidies. So no wonder the president started off talking about eliminating these subsidies in the same breath as the corporate jet tax loophole. If George H.W. Bush had done a little more of this, he might have won re-election. But he still wouldn’t have been focusing on the real problem — and neither is Obama.
While it’s unlikely to happen, it’s time for the leaders of this country to have an adult conversation about Social Security, Medicare, defense spending and yes, taxes. Don’t get me wrong, there is no legitimate reason for the government to be holding the oil industry’s hands — let alone providing corporate jet owners with assistance — while many in this country can’t find a job. But getting rid of both of these handouts saves the country less than $50 billion in 10 years, less than 1 percent of the projected 10-year deficit. That’s less than a drop in the bucket.
So, let’s get rid of the handouts to the fat cats in fast planes and the multinational corporations that fuel those planes. But, let’s not act like this issue alone will get us anywhere close to where we need to be.
Washington insiders know that if the president wanted to use energy policy to address the nation’s fiscal situation, then he should have spoken up and supported last year’s climate bills or done more in Copenhagen in 2009 than just show up and hope his presence alone would fix things. But he didn’t. Instead he has spent his time targeting handouts to oil companies — and that's not a solution.
It’s time to take care of the little things and move on to the bigger, more difficult issues. That’s where real leadership kicks in. It may even cost the president re-election. But he was elected to take on bold challenges and make hard choices. So here we are Mr. President. It’s nice to see you championing the issues that 75 percent of Americans agree with, but a little more focus on the harder issues will help you solve the big problems.