Barack Obama Is Not the “Ice Cream President”

There’s an email making the rounds that tells a story about two little girls who run for class president in grade school. One girl works hard, runs a good campaign, and promises to do her best if elected. The other girl promises to give everyone ice cream. The teacher asks the children how they’ll pay for the ice cream. They have no idea, but they vote for the ice cream girl anyway.

That, says the email, is how Barack Obama won the election. He promised to give away free stuff that we can’t afford.

Bill O’Reilly got the ball rolling on this theory when he said, “It’s not a traditional America anymore, and there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama.”

Earlier that day, a Romney supporter told me that he expected his candidate to lose because Obama “bought” votes by “giving away” food stamps and welfare.

We have such short memories.

It was the Republican president George W. Bush who expanded eligibility for food stamps in the 2002 farm bill. It was 99 Republican representatives who voted to expand the program further in the 2008 farm bill. And it was that same Republican president who waived one of the work requirements for 32 states in November 2008.

That’s why the food stamp program added more recipients under Bush than it did under Obama.

The welfare claim is even more ridiculous. We may not remember the food stamp expansion under Bush, but surely we remember welfare reform under Bill Clinton. In 1996, Congress ended “welfare as we know it” and replaced it with “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” (TANF), a program whose budget hasn’t changed in 16 years. It was $16.6 billion in 1996, and it’s $16.6 billion today.

In the year before welfare reform, 4.7 million Americans received assistance from the program. Today, only 2 million receive assistance from TANF.

When TANF was created, 68 percent of families with children in poverty received welfare. Today, only 27 percent get it.

Low-income entitlement spending has increased, but it would’ve increased under any president. Most of it is what economists call “automatic stabilizers” because they automatically increase during recessions. More people become unemployed. More people fall into poverty. More people lose their health insurance. So more people qualify for unemployment insurance and food stamps and Medicaid.

Since the end of the recession, low-income entitlement spending has been falling. In the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office says that it will return to the same level it’s been for the last forty years: a little more than 1 percent of our nation’s income. If you exclude health care, where costs are rising for completely separate reasons, the CBO expects low-income entitlement spending to fall below its forty-year average in coming years.

The CBO is making these projections, of course, based on the Obama administration’s budget. The president who is supposedly giving away free stuff, it turns out, is actually planning to reduce low-income entitlements.

What’s particularly galling about the Republicans’ argument is that Romney was the candidate who couldn’t explain how he’d pay for everything he was promising. Romney was the candidate who wanted to add a $480 billion tax cut to a $1.3 trillion deficit. Romney was the candidate who wanted to add $200 billion in new Pentagon spending every year.

It was the Republican president George W. Bush who turned a surplus into a deficit. It was Bush who took the nation into two wars while passing two massive tax cuts. It was Bush who signed Medicare Part D without figuring out how to pay for it.

Are we all suffering from a collective bout of amnesia?

The Romney camp’s explanation for their electoral loss fits right in with the broader picture they tried to paint of the Obama presidency. In their world, Barack Obama “has fundamentally changed the relationship between government and the people of this country,” as Jon Stewart put it in his debate with O’Reilly.

But it’s simply not true.

And the truth matters. Obama didn’t win the election because he’s giving away free stuff, and perpetrating such a myth only serves to obscure what’s really going on and what really needs to be done in Washington.

==========

This op-ed was published in today’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Bill O’Reilly and Civil Discourse

Growing up, for reasons I cannot recall I was taught to respect every older human being (except my brother).

As I reflect upon it, I mean that I was to respect everyone: Neighbors, teachers, policemen, school crossing guards, etc. It was “Yes, sir,” or “No, sir.” I learned very early on to have, as dictionary.com defines it, “polite or kind regard; consideration: respect for people’s feelings.”

I also learned many years ago that civil discourse is intended to enhance understanding. A conversation differs markedly from an interrogation.   Continue reading “Bill O’Reilly and Civil Discourse”

Damn You! I’m Not an Actor, I’m a Movie Star!

I am thrilled to introduce a new contributor to Trading 8s. He used to write for The Huffington Post, which makes his presence on our little blog even more special. Norman Horowitz will write the “Hollywood Insider” series on media, politics, and the business of entertainment, from Beverly Hills, CA. After serving in the US Air Force during the Korean War, Norman spent over 40 years in the telecommunications industry, from the early days of worldwide television through the development of cable, satellite, and internet companies. He served as VP of International Sales for Screen Gems, Director of International Sales for CBS, President of Worldwide Distribution for Columbia Pictures Television, President and Chief Operating Officer of Polygram Television, and President and Chief Executive Officer of MGM/UA Telecommunications Company. He co-founded the Cable Dating Network, Rxinfo.com, citiesLive networks, and citiescommercialLive networks. He has been an adjunct professor at the UCLA Graduate Business and Film Schools, as well as an associate professor at California State University, Northridge. I’m proud and honored to call him my mentor and friend. — AWO

Peter O’Toole spoke these words in the movie My Favorite Year.

In my hardly-ever-humble opinion, Bill O’Reilly is no longer a journalist (if he ever was one), but rather he is “an actor” who has become “a television star.”

In a manner of speaking, O’Reilly is a reincarnation of Howard Beale from the movie Network.   Continue reading “Damn You! I’m Not an Actor, I’m a Movie Star!”