Tonight’s Speech

There are all kinds of rumors flying around about what the President will say in his budget speech tonight. Naturally, he is already being criticized for what people assume he will say even before he has said it.

That said, I think there are three points he must make —

  • Social Security is not adding anything to the budget deficit, and cutting Social Security won’t reduce the budget deficit.
  • He’s sticking to the plans for Medicare already written into the Affordable Care Act.
  • It’s insane to think we can reduce the budget deficit without also raising revenue. The Bush tax cuts on the wealthy must end.

Beyond that, I agree with Joan Walsh

In the long term, however, as I’ve argued before, Obama has failed to project and execute a vision of Democratic Party policy and values that’s as bold as the challenges the nation faces, marked by Gilded Age levels of economic inequality, as well as economic suffering surpassed only by the Great Depression. Both those periods gave us “big bangs” of social change, in the words of Jacob Hacker; this era has not. So far it produced a healthcare reform plan that’s laudable for putting a stake in the ground toward universal coverage, but whose compromises with the GOP and the insurance industry could ultimately unravel it. Now people are worried that Obama will compromise on two signature programs of great Democratic presidents: Social Security under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Medicare under Lyndon Baines Johnson. I hope he doesn’t do that Wednesday, and I also hope he lays out some broad vision of social justice that begins to reverse the trends of the last 30 years. (Leaking that he’ll be calling for tax hikes on the rich is a little bit encouraging.) He could provide new reasons for people to support the Democratic Party: a progressive vision of fairness and equity that’s up to the challenge of the times.

On the other hand, a lackluster speech that is mostly about reasonable compromise may give him positive overnight poll numbers but no long-lasting support. So let’s see what he goes for.

20 thoughts on “Tonight’s Speech

  1. He might mention that $154 billion/year is being siphoned off into Afghanistan (primarily into the bank accounts of Karzai and associates and private American contractors) and include whatever outrageous sum of money is being siphoned off into Iraq (there are 242,627 private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

    He might also mention that the SS trust fund is $4 trillion to the good adding that unfortunately the money is immediately taken out and replaced with T Bonds which are finally government debts, which is why all the hullabaloo (unfounded) over so-called ‘entitlements’ – a pejorative word to say the least.

    He might also mention that 400 Americans claim half of all the income in the US while the rest of us must share the other half. And perhaps this outrageous imbalance in after-tax incomes might be rectified if the 400 had to pay a bit more in taxes?

  2. I hear that defense spending will be addressed in his speech. I’ll be interesting to see if he’s brave enough to touch the golden calf.

  3. Let’s wait and see what the man says.

    I’m hoping he draws the line in the sand about SS, Medicare and Medicaid. I’m also hoping that he goes for tax increases on the wealthy and on corporations – but I’ll, be honest, I don’t hold out much hope for the tax increases.

    Or, he could just recommend doing nothing, letting the Bush cuts expire (this time for real), keep ACA, and with a few other small tweaks, the deficit will go down on its own by 75% in less than 10 years.
    Ever notice how no one talks about that? And how those tax cuts that were oh so important in December to grow jobs (LOL!), are now, again, adding to the deficit, which is now oh so important to bring down – but without tax increases.

    I do hope he goes down memory lane 10 years, and talks about how the same people who are freaking out about the deficit today, were the ones freaking out about the surplus Clinton left back then.
    2001: ‘A Surplus Oddesey’ – Surplus – OH NO!
    2011: Deficit – OH NO!!!

    OK, Conervative Chicken Little’s make up your minds, which are you more afraid of – the sky falling, or the ground rising.

  4. cundgulag – IF he just said what you said in your second paragraph – we’ll see. Does he ‘get’ that the Republicans have been itching to dump most government programs – from FDR’s to LBJ’s and even RMN, handing them over to the private, profit hungry, greed-infested sector and have finally arrived at a place where government deficit/debt can be shown on paper, never mind that its reality is a fiction?

    I think, finally, that what we want from Obama is the TRUTH. There are a few lone voices in the Senate and House who are telling us the truth, why not Obama.

  5. Didn’t Obama introduce his version of a 2012 budget just a short while back? And why didn’t he address any of these issues then? Why, all of a sudden is he interested in our debt?

  6. Here’s an interesting article on how our Galtian Overlords think that sending this country into another major depression will help them out. It’s pure “Shock Doctrine.”

    And that’s why I have no, or little, confidence in America’s future. There’s no incentive for corporations and the rich to put money back into this country. They can take as much as they want out, and then get the f*ck out of Dodge.

  7. Why, all of a sudden is he interested in our debt?

    Maybe because Private Ryan and the GOP war dogs forced him into issuing a counter budget initiative. If he doesn’t fire back they’ll run all over him with their own nonsense.

  8. Me likey the speech very much.

    Having said that, the devil’s in the details. I want to look at the numbers.

    He did a good job of taking “Privatizing Ryan’s” plan down, saying it wasn’t serious.

    I didn’t like a few of the things he said about SS. But, I’ll wait and see.

    At first blush, there’ll be some things we Liberals won’t like when the details come out, but right now, I think the right has a hell of a lot more reasons to do their usual poo-flinging than the left.

    We shall see…

  9. I think he didn’t do too badly. I liked the way he framed the context as continue to be the great country we have been OR one too cheap to fix the roads and buy medicine for grannie. Throughout he shone a light on the essential stinginess and mean-spiritedness of the GOP plan. There was, finally, some emphasis on giving back to the country that has given you so much, and I was happy to see him slam the “no tax increase’ religionists by pointing out that the rich are the only ones who’ve seen their incomes go up lately.

    I liked his line about the GOP plan giving him a $200,000 tax cut by making six seniors each pay $6000 more for the health care. Democrats don’t talk enough about that kind of tangible, easily understood examples, IMHO.

    That said, there were some scary vague bits, like about reforming taxes and loopholes that could sound good to both sides, but cynics like me read as “getting rolled by lobbyists”. In those areas, there could be a LOT of devil in those details.

    But he did address a few of my pet peeves. He pointed out that things were going pretty well until there were two wars, a drug benefit, and a tax cut that all went unpaid for, though I would have preferred a bit more direct naming of names there. He did spend considerable time reasserting the idea that we all DO have a responsibility to each other, and that patriotism means caring about more than your own damn self. And he did call for the wealthy to start ponying up the $$ to help get us out of this mess.

    The news outlets that I’ve heard have reliably only had right-wingers on so far, who have trotted out the predictable bleats about how the wealthy pay most of the taxes already, and taxing them more will kill- KILL! jobs, etc. (Which reminds me, about these allegedly brilliant entrepreneurs with business income being taxed as personal income, why are they not able to find an accountant who can set them up with a favorable corporate structure? Every time I hear about the alleged small guy who will get hurt by this, I think, well, OK, so it’s a tax on the stupid. Fine.)

    Anyway, the right will bring their predictable nonsense. I sincerely hope the Democrats are prepared to do a full-court-press, banging on the fairness theme, the idea of getting the rich to pay their share and the “are we a great country, or are we cheapskates who expose Grannie on the hillside to die?” framing.

  10. The timing is excellent. Mr. a&&hole Ryan just spewed forth his contract ON America just a few weeks ago. We heard Mr. Boner kick and scream about the “widow’s mite”–NPR spending. Now, let’s hear a potentially RATIONAL budget. Maybe it will resonate. Knock wood….

  11. He lost me as soon as he brought up kids with Down Syndrome. Geez! Can’t liberals sell anything without using starving orphans and grandma thrown out iin the cold?

    • He lost me as soon as he brought up kids with Down Syndrome. Geez! Can’t liberals sell anything without using starving orphans and grandma thrown out iin the cold?

      … and you are …?

  12. I am … very disappointed in this administrations ability to lead. You’re a bright girl with a J school degree from Mizzou. You should be too.

    • I am … very disappointed in this administrations ability to lead. You’re a bright girl with a J school degree from Mizzou. You should be too.

      Ah, now I know who you are. You are a stooge, mindlessly blabbing the Official Republican Talking Points because you can’t think for yourself. Sorry; heard ’em elsewhere. Don’t need ’em here. Good bye.

  13. thc …Maybe this will help you understand how some repug with no knowledge of a real need, and with the stroke of a pen can just blow away a financial problem without concern for the lives it impacts. It’s a real situation because I personally know a women with Down’s syndrome who lives in a group home because her life long caregiver (her mother) just recently died..She’s an orphan now.

  14. I thought that was very well done. Obama is very good at defusing counter arguments. He doesn’t name names because what he’s really doing is saying “if you go down that road, I’m ready for you”. All while being very reasonable.

    But Ryan is saying that Obama poisoned the well by being so partisan. Now Fox will go down the partisan road, but, (like union thugism in WI) the evidence is too thin to get much traction.

    So now the R’s have to find some new arguments that Luntz hasn’t had a chance to test yet, so they’ll be off-message for awhile.

  15. I admit I didn’t watch the speech. It wasn’t televised here, though I’m sure I can find it on Youtube or elsewhere. But I’m not interested.

    I’m sure that the speech was nice. Obama is a great speaker. This is his special talent. It’s what got him elected.

    Unfortunately, Obama’s leadership ability seems to end with his speeches. It’s getting things done where Obama falls down.

    Personally, I’d rather have an ugly president with bad breath and a speech impediment, but knows how to crack the whip on legislation. Someone who’s working for the people on Main Street, rather than Wall Street.

    I’m prepared to give Obama this one last chance. I’m also prepared to be disappointed.

  16. I didn’t see the speech, I’m sure I’ll read commentary about bits and pieces of it down the road.

    Why, all of a sudden is he interested in our debt?

    It’s not all of a sudden. Recall that Obama appointed a deficit commission last year (backed by Pete Petersen and others committed to eviscerating social security). I’ve read – you tell me if true – that the speech was to pull in recommendations from this commission.

    Private Ryan’s “plan” is the opening move in the GOP’s budget negotiations. It’s like giving a ridiculous, lowball offer on a house or car. Of course, many in the GOP think this is a serious offer. This speech is Obama’s counter-offer. It’s just the typical dance people do to negotiate.

    • I’ve read – you tell me if true – that the speech was to pull in recommendations from this commission.

      I don’t think much of the Catfood Commission was reflected in the speech, other than the general concern about the deficit itself.

  17. Yeah, when Obama mentioned that Simpson and Bowles were there, I cringed, expecting the worst.
    But, outside of their framework of concern about the deficit, the only thing I think, if I remember right, that he took, was the idea of taking away some of the itemized deductions away from (what he said) will be the rich, since most middle class people only minimally itemize.

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