Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Obama's Homerun?

"There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires," Mr. Obama said of budget proposals put forward by Republicans in the House. "There's nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don't have any clout on Capitol Hill. And this is not a vision of the America I know."

In his remarks, delivered at George Washington University, Mr. Obama offered an impassioned defense of the popular Medicare and Medicaid programs against Republican proposals for sweeping changes in them. "We are a better country because of these commitments," he said of the programs. "I'll go further - we would not be a great country without those commitments."

See. I told you this would happen. Of course, this also happened.

Anticipating criticism of his plan from his Democratic supporters, Mr. Obama pleaded for understanding as he pursues cuts to government spending and seeks changes to programs like Medicare.

"If we truly believe in a progressive vision of our society, we have the obligation to prove that we can afford our commitments," he said.

Rather than change Medicare to a voucher program, Mr. Obama proposes broad reforms that he says would save hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 12 years and more than $1 trillion in the following decade.

But again, as I said earlier, this is the consequence of divided government. There has to be some give and take. But thankfully, President Obama avoided a huge demoralizing moment by sticking to his commitment to protect America's social safety net.

And really, Obama is playing smart politics here. By offering a realistic deficit plan, albeit one that isn't ideal for progressives looking for more effective ways to encourage more economic recovery and job creation while tackling real waste in military spending, he looks to be above the fray of the messy warfare in Congress. And if House Republicans really follow through on their threat to initiate a global economic catastrophe if they don't get their way on impoverishing millions of American seniors, they only stand to lose radically.

Jed Lewison of DKos probably sums it up best.

My quick take: it was a terrific speech, and offered a credible approach to long-term fiscal policy. It did an effective job of making the case for not just a progressive revenue stream, but a progressive government, and properly framed the GOP proposal as antithetical to the vision of America shared by most of the people in this country. He framed fiscal policy, properly, as being the way by which we fund government so that it can do what we want it to do, in contrast to the GOP's vision of fiscal policy, which seems to mean nothing but "cut government." Obviously, the true test here isn't just President Obama's speech today, but also what he manages to accomplish in the coming months and years as this debate unfolds. But at least in my view, today was a great way to start.

Thankfully, Obama hit it out of the park today. He rightfully blasted Paul Ryan's dreams of more bailouts for billionaires while working families die on the streets as anything but "courageous". He explained beautifully the need for tax fairness, then turned the tables on Republicans by demanding they come to the bargaining table after he's already been negotiating and compromising with them. Now this is the way to take on both the deficit and Republican intransigence!

If this is the Barack Obama we see in the next five months as debt and deficits are being debated, then we're in much better shape than I had originally imagined.

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