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.