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The Growing Price of Economic Rescue

A Commentary by Debra J. Saunders

Friday, October 17, 2008

Before Wednesday night's debate, Team Obama sent out pre-debate "talking points," which Politico.com posted, that hit John McCain for his "erratic and unsteady" response to the economic crisis, while lauding Barack Obama's "steady leadership."

I suspect that this sort of McCain-hot/Obama-cool setup does more than help Obama turn his banker-like demeanor into an asset. Democratic candidate Obama understands that the Beltway media expect him to move to the middle if he is elected. After all, Bill Clinton did it -- because ambitious Democrats know on which side their bread is buttered.

But Obama has not moved to the center. He continues to lurch to the left as he offers up underfunded new spending proposals -- all beneath the radar of talking heads, who seem to believe that if Obama's temperament is moderate, his policies also must be middle of the road.

Wrong.

To some, Obama may seem moderate because, like the Republican McCain, he frequently talks up "tax cuts," which is supposed to be a conservative plank. Except that Obama's alleged big tax cut -- heretofore called a "rebate" -- of up to $1,000 for families for "95 percent of Americans" is not as he advertises.

Factcheck.org found that Plan Obama would benefit 81 percent of households. And the rebate would go to the more than one-third of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes; for those families it's not a rebate, but a government handout. Meanwhile, the erstwhile rebate would not go to many workers who actually do pay federal taxes, such as individuals who earn more than $75,000 or couples earning more than $150,000.

In its first incarnation, the $1,000 check was "an emergency energy rebate." As oil prices have declined, it has morphed into the economic stimulus part of his "rescue plan for the middle class." (Obama also wants to increase home-heating subsidies.)

It apparently does not matter that the $168 billion stimulus package, proposed by President Bush and passed by Congress in February, failed to stimulate the economy as expected. Perhaps the real genius of Obama is that he is able readily to denounce the "era of easy money," while promising more easy money.

Angry about the $700 billion bailout? Steaming mad because the Democratic Congress added another $110 billion in sweeteners to the tab?

Hang on, the spending spree is not over. While the Obama rescue plan is supposed to cost $60 billion, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi already is talking up a new $150 billion stimulus package. Do you think Democratic leaders will split the difference? Or take the highest number, and then add some more?

When presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed a 90-day moratorium on housing foreclosures, Obama mocked the idea. Now he's for it. As Election Day nears, Obama has been scarfing up government proposals as if they are impulse items displayed at the checkout counter.

Next year's deficit is expected to exceed a half-trillion bucks. No worries. Obama said that he would trim federal spending with "a scalpel."

During this campaign, I've hit McCain for his gimmicky gas-tax summer-holiday proposal. It was a bad idea, considering the growing federal deficit, and his stated desire that Americans consume less foreign oil.

I look at McCain's new $52 billion so-called stimulus tax-cut package --McCain wants to halve capital gains taxes for the next two years -- and wonder how he expects to make up the difference. It cannot be done. And it violates McCain's fiscal conservative bona fides.

Then again, if McCain wants to lower taxes on the investing class to stimulate the economy and create American jobs, Democratic leaders are likely to work to keep McCain's impulses in check.

But who will curb Obama? Pelosi, with her stimulus spending plans? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who greased the bailout package with a $110 billion tip?

Team Obama may call McCain "erratic." Frantic would be the word for the spending spree bound to follow with the Democrats in full control of America's checkbook.

COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

See Other Political Commentary

See Other Commentary by Debra J. Saunders

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

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