Heartland Institute Experts Comment on President Obama’s Press Conference

January 14, 2013

President Barack Obama today held the final news conference of his first term, fielding questions on the debt ceiling debate, taxes, the federal budget, relations with Congress, and gun control.

The following statements from public policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at jlakely@heartland.org and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 312/731-9364.

“On guns, President Obama said we need to enact measures to keep our children safe and reduce the incidence of gun violence. At the same time, he said he favors stronger background checks, limiting high-capacity magazines, and a renewed assault weapons ban. It’s all worth it if only one child’s life is saved, he said. With all due respect, what the president said is complete nonsense.

“The three measures he advocates would do absolutely nothing to keep children safe and reduce gun violence. What he ought to advocate is armed security in schools, just like his daughters have at their school. And he ought to launch countermeasures against armed gang violence in Chicago and investigate ways to keep guns out of the hands of criminals there and elsewhere. Successive tightening of measures against the law-abiding is an empty endeavor.

“About 550 people, most black or Hispanic, were shot dead in Chicago in 2012 alone, many of them in the neighborhood the president has called home for decades. He should hang his head in shame for abandoning them.”

Maureen Martin
Senior Fellow for Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute

“There is no evidence anything short of a full gun ban will do anything to reduce school shootings, and that remedy is unconstitutional and would infringe on the liberties of millions of Americans. The best commentary I saw on the topic was from a California school board member asking for the freedom for each individual school district to decide its own protection policies. Some families are comfortable with and want armed guards in schools or the freedom to arm teachers. Other are not. As was tradition in the United States, school policies should be decided locally.”

Joy Pullmann
Research Fellow, The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, School Reform News

“Raising the debt limit does not enable us to pay the bills we have already racked up. It just racks up more bills that will have to be paid, just like raising the credit limit on your credit card and borrowing still more does. That is why America’s credit rating has already been downgraded under President Obama for the first time in American history and will be again if the counterproductive policies of this thoroughly confused president are not reversed.”

Peter Ferrara
Senior Fellow for Entitlement and Budget Policy
The Heartland Institute

“I find it ironic that President Obama recently told Speaker John Boehner the government does not have a spending problem, and today he whined about being forced by Congress to spend money. And has President Obama never heard of presidents vetoing spending bills? Has he never heard of an amended budget?

“Congress routinely passes and presidents routinely sign bills to add spending, for everything from economic stimulus to bank bailouts to emergency storm damage relief. Congress and the president could reduce spending in some areas to free up money to pay the government’s interest on its debts, eliminating the need to raise the debt ceiling.

“Federal spending 10 years ago was about $2.2 trillion. Now it’s about $3.6 trillion. Surely in that astronomical increase in spending over 10 years, there is some money that could be put to better use by putting it toward the national debt.”

Steve Stanek
Research Fellow, Budget and Tax Policy
The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, Budget & Tax News

“The presidential agitprop and disinformation hit a new high, or low, depending on your perspective, at this latest press conference. At the end fiscal year 2013, the publicly held debt of the U.S. will be two-thirds (five trillion dollars) higher than it was four years earlier, and the debt-to-GDP ratio will hit a historic modern high. This was presided over by a Democratic president aided half the time by a Democratic Senate, yet we are told the Republicans are totally irresponsible and Obama is the voice of fiscal reason.

“While the Congressional Republicans are far from fiscal saints, they are not the biggest problem, and giving Obama his way on the debt limit is the fiscal equivalent of letting an alcoholic alone overnight in a liquor store – a very bad idea. When will the lies, half-truths, and hypocrisy stop? Can’t we have a president who is more honestly straightforward than the average used-car salesman?”

Richard Vedder
Professor of Economics
Ohio University
Policy Advisor, Economics
The Heartland Institute

“It looks like the Republicans have been outflanked again. They raised our taxes without getting budget cuts. It must be the case that they really don’t want to cut spending.”

Mark Thornton
Senior Fellow and Resident Faculty Member
Ludwig von Mises Institute

“The president sets up the American people by asserting that Republicans in Congress don’t want to pay the bills for their spending. He uses an analogy of dining at a restaurant and walking out without paying the bill. To eat an expensive and profligate meal and refuse to pay is illegal, he tells us.

“The correct analogy is that his political constituencies enjoy the meal and someone else is forced to pay the bill. (Shades of Mimi in the opera La Boheme.) Viewed in this light, the diner’s profligacy is explained and there is no incentive to change.

“I sent a gift certificate for a specific amount to my brother and his wife for a dinner on their anniversary. If they spent more the money came from their pockets. Clarity was achieved on all sides and unpleasant surprises foreclosed.

“Without limits and believing they are tapping an unknown millionaire or billionaire for a dinner that costs a small fraction of the taxpayers’ wealth, the rational person is going to order oysters, lobster, and expensive champagne.

“The other fatal error that weaves throughout the president’s world view is that growth comes from government. He says that the government can’t cut spending without severe damage to the economy. Instead, let’s require greater tax payments from corporations (by closing loopholes). That would, of course, reduce corporate spending. Somehow reduction in government spending hurts the economy. Reduction in corporate spending helps the economy? Demonstrably and dangerously backwards thinking.

“We all know that economic growth must be the central dynamic to pull us out of our charge to fiscal disaster. If the president doesn’t understand where that growth comes from – worse, if he thinks it comes from government – we are in big trouble.”

Christine P. Ries
Professor of Economics
Georgia Institute of Technology

“Today President Obama appeared to be thoroughly annoyed that the U.S. Constitution provides for three separate branches of government. The Founding Fathers enshrined a checks-and-balances system by designating presidential, legislative, and judicial branches. The president’s comments today included repeated references to his doing the will of the American people who elected him.

“In our representative form of government those elected are entrusted with making sound choices for the benefit of all, even if such choices might prove unpopular with some of the electorate. He attempted to make the Republicans the bad guys because they resist his budget-balancing formula of more taxes rather than less spending.

“He made no mention of the Democratic Senate failing its mandated duty of generating a formal budget. He repeated the noncommital phrase ‘have a conversation’ rather than offering to openly negotiate in reference to balancing the budget.

“He was correct on one point: Major reductions in the budget deficit will have to come from the entitlement programs.”

Charles Battig
Policy Advisor
The Heartland Institute

The Heartland Institute is a 29-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.