By TOM PURCELL – Syndicated Columnist
Students, faculty and parents, it is my honor to deliver a commencement speech today. I am about to do something I have never done as president: tell it like it is.
Back in 2008, I was nothing but an idea – a blank canvas upon which millions painted whatever image they wanted to see.
Americans were frightened then, as the U.S. and the world came frighteningly close to an economic meltdown.
My words reassured millions. I told you I was going to bridge the political divide, bring people together, get America’s fiscal house in order, get the economy going and cut our massive deficit in half by the end of my first term.
You elected me. Suckers.
The first thing I did, under the guise of greatly improving the economy, was the largest stimulus package in world history.
Those ninny Republicans wanted to stimulate the economy through massive temporary tax breaks and credits.
I preferred the old Chicago-Democrat method, using nearly $1 trillion in taxpayer funds to pay off unions and other supporters.
By my own measure – I promised the stimulus would keep unemployment below 8 percent – that program failed.
Still, my poll numbers were high. I could have used my sizable political capital to tackle our real problems – a muddled tax system that holds back growth and an explosion in entitlement spending that will soon cripple America – but I had no time for that.
So I punted. I established the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, co-chaired by Republican former Sen. Alan Simpson and Democrat former Sen. Erskine Bowles, and let them figure out what to do about tax reform and entitlement spending.
After all, I had more important fish to fry: my legacy.
I had Democrat majorities in the House and the Senate and an irresistible opportunity to be the first president to create the crown jewel of entitlements: health care for all.
Sure, I burned through my political capital in the process. Many were unhappy about government meddling with their relationship with their doctors. Now, the Catholic Church is grumbling about government meddling with religious freedom (by me telling it what provisions better be in its employee health policies).
Common people, who cling to religion and guns, will never understand hope and change.
I single-handedly created the tea-party response to my policies. Republicans gave Democrats a shellacking in the 2010 elections and took over the House.
Soon after those elections, the Simpson-Bowles commission released a blueprint for tax and entitlement reform – solid ideas that both parties could find common ground on.
It gave me a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate real leadership to bring both parties together to reform taxes and entitlements and contribute mightily to badly needed growth.
But I didn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. Truth be told, this is the hardest job in the world and I really have no clue what I am doing.
As the economy stumbles, unemployment is high, revenues are flat, spending is out of control and our deficit is frightening, my only hope of a second term is to confuse, obfuscate, point fingers and change the subject.
In any event, Class of 2012, here is my advice as you enter the worst job market in years: Good luck because you’re going to need it.
And despite the fact that your generation will be saddled with years of high taxation and sluggish economic conditions thanks to my policies, I thank you for your continued support.
Tom Purcell, a freelance writer is also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune- Review. Email Tom at [email protected].