By Taylor Armerding
— President Obama ought to be getting "dimed" out by now.
That he isn't is yet more testimony to the attention span of the American public - somewhat shy of a Sesame Street skit.
The president has called on the nation's smallest coin - the dime - so many times to support his promises - both during his tenure and before it, when he was campaigning - that it should be starting to, uh, wear thin.
That along with other phrases like "paying down our debt in a balanced way," when the only thing even under consideration is slowing the growth of the debt, ought to be laugh lines by now.
Still, he won't let it go. It's become one of those verbal tics - you know, like automatically saying "the mess I inherited" every time anyone suggests that after four years, it might be time to stop blaming George W. Bush for everything that's gone wrong and is still going wrong.
So, sure enough, it showed up in his recent State of the Union address, when he assured the tingling masses (well, probably at least MSNBC's Chris Matthews) that $83.4 billion in proposed new spending on new "investments" wouldn't make the bottom line of the brokest nation in history any worse.
"Let me repeat - nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime," he said.
Actually, the president is guaranteed to be technically correct. His proposals won't increase the deficit by a single dime. They will increase it by billions of dimes, added to the trillions that he has already added.
It has become such an absurd mantra that the Republican National Committee finally couldn't resist - it created an ad recently showing video of Obama making about a dozen of his "one single dime" promises, and then dryly observed at the end that under Obama, the nation's debt has increased by 58.6 trillion dimes.
Even the president's speechwriters were a bit more circumspect this time around. Instead of having him promise that whatever new spending initiative he was proposing "won't" add a dime to the debt or deficit, they went for some wiggle room, with the weasel qualifier "shouldn't."
That way, when it in fact does increase the deficit by more billions of dimes, he can blame it again on Bush, or Republicans in general, because they wouldn't raise taxes as much as he wanted.
And the saddest thing for the nation, and for the "children" (who by the way are our future) is that there is no political reason he should retire the dime promise. He continues to get away with it, enabled by mainstream media outlets that give him a pass on laughable assertions that would have had them carving up Bush if he tried the same thing.
The president promised to cut the deficit in half during his first term. Instead he vastly expanded it, and got re-elected.
He promised that Obamacare would not add a single dime to the deficit, and the addition is $1 trillion and climbing. He still got re-elected.
By the time the reality of this fiscal calamity hits, the president will be long gone - retired with his lavish government pension and full-time Secret Service protection while his shimmering mirage of an expanding, robust middle class will instead be staggering under the weight of paying off those trillions of dimes.
Apparently, people can get all excited about government raising the minimum wage to something like $9 or $10 an hour, but trillions in debt just puts them to sleep. While digging for a few dozen more dimes just to fill their cars with gas, they're lulled by one of those other constant promises from the president - that if we just "ask the wealthy to pay a little bit more," then everything will be fine, and nobody else will have to pay - yep, one single dime more.
The same is true of "paying down our debt in a balanced way." The president sounds so reasonable - yes, yes, we do have to cut spending, yes, we need a smarter, not a bigger, government - but somehow when any actual policy is implemented, the taxes are higher, but so is the spending.
The president "asked" the wealthy to pay more last year and the Republicans finally caved on it, agreeing to tax increases for those with higher incomes but below half of the "millionaire" level that the president is so fond of invoking. Meanwhile, there were no cuts, other than the government definition of a cut, which is a bit less of an increase. It's like claiming that a pay raise of 3 percent is a pay cut because you wanted, and planned for, a 5 percent raise.
But, with automatic budget cuts less than a week away under sequestration (something Obama and Congress created together), the president is once again kicking Republicans for not being willing to take a "balanced approach" to deficit reduction by "asking the wealthy to pay their fair share."
Get ready for four more years of dimes of debt piling up and demands to punish anybody who has become successful. It's been working so far. Why change?
- Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.