Monday, September 19, 2011

Obama's winning politics on deficit reduction

It's all about politics at this point. Well, it always is, but especially now, with the 2012 campaign well underway.

Today, President Obama will, according to The Hill, "unveil his vision for deficit reduction and tax reform in the Rose Garden, threatening to veto any bills that don't raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations":

The $3 trillion in deficit reduction is made up of money saved from ending the war in Iraq and drawing down in Afghanistan, raising taxes for the wealthy and corporations and cutting about $540 billion in Medicare and Medicaid, administration officials said Sunday night.

The proposals represent the president's vision for the path he thinks the supercommittee should take; not the elements of compromise Obama sought with House Speaker John Boehner in a "grand bargain" in July.

Of the mandatory program cuts, Obama will propose $248 billion in cuts and reforms to Medicare -- 90 percent of which would come from reducing overpayments -- and $72 billion in Medicaid and other healthcare programs, all over 10 years.

A senior administration official said that "there will be both provider and beneficiary policy changes," but declined to say what cuts those would include.

There is no proposed raise for the Medicare age, administration officials said, because the plan is the president's vision and not an effort to win votes in the House and Senate as was the case in July.

There it is. We'll have to see what's in the details, if anything other than the devil, but it won't really matter, at least not in terms of anything actually getting done.

The key will be for the president, and for Democrats generally (those who aren't "Republican"), to be able to draw clear policy distinctions with the Republicans and to have appealing campaign fodder, to independents above all, heading into 2012.

Progressives won't be happy that Obama has Medicare and Medicaid on the table, and I would agree, but he'll be able to make the case that he's serious about deficit reduction at a time when Republicans refuse to make any concessions at all, particularly around taxes. It remains to be seen if Obama, who has become deeply unpopular (if not loathed) in some corners of the progressive world, can win back those on the left (or center-left) who have abandoned him (or at least those who are questioning their previous support for him), but it would appear that the White House, or rather the Obama re-election team, is banking on winning enough independents and moderates to offset any losses on the left, with most Democrats, and liberal-progressives generally, voting for the president if only because the other side is so horrendous.

So it's all just a vision -- but not so much a vision of a realistic policy agenda, even if this is precisely what Obama would want in a world where such compromise were possible, but a vision of just how the lines will be drawn in 2012. Which makes sense, given that tax increases for the wealthy, for both individuals and corporations, even just increases back to reasonable levels, are extremely popular.

And of course Republicans will oppose the president's vision. They're even calling the sensible plan to establish a minimum tax rate for the wealthy (so that those making over $1 million are taxed at least at the same rate as those making less), the so-called Buffett Rule, "class warfare," as if asking the rich to pay their fair share, particularly at a time of fiscal restraint that inevitably targets the poor and others who are most in need of government help, amounts to warfare. So predictable, Republicans are.

But you can already see how Obama is setting Republicans up, providing them with the opportunity to counter his independent-focused approach with their usual right-wing extremism -- and how, unable to resist, they're already playing right along. Remember, this is how he does politics, whether it's with the GOP on Capitol Hill or with other extremists like, oh, say, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Position yourself in the middle, seemingly prepared to make reasonable concessions to get a deal done, then allow the other side to expose its extremism and thereby to lose credibility and support.

In this case, no deal will get done, at least not until after the election (should Obama win), but the point, again, is to force Republicans to articulate and defend deeply unpopular positions -- in other words, for Republicans to expose themselves for what they are. Those who pay attention already know this, sure. The challenge is to make sure everyone else knows.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share


  • Listening to Fox complain about "class warfare" would be hilarious if it didn't inspire the urge to have them all horsewhipped.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 9:22 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home