I’m glad to say the budget speech met my criteria from the last post. Here’s a transcript if you missed it. I like that he called out the Ryan plan —
Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can’t afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about it. In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that’s who needs to pay less taxes? They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that’s paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs? That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.
The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. As Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. 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. 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.
I especially liked this part —
In December, I agreed to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans because it was the only way I could prevent a tax hike on middle-class Americans. But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. And I refuse to renew them again.
“I refuse to renew them again” — I hope he realizes he’s going to be held to that.
Paul Krugman said he was mostly pleased with the speech and said he could live with it, although he added —
I should probably say, I could live with this as an end result. If this becomes the left pole, and the center is halfway between this and Ryan, then no â€” better to pursue the zero option of just doing nothing and letting the Bush tax cuts as a whole expire.
This is the big joke on all of us — with all of the talk of sacrifice and what not, the truth is that if Congress does absolutely nothing for the next few years, allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, this would close the budget gap by 40 percent over the next 20 years. All by itself.
Some of the bashbots are using this to argue that the President shouldn’t address the deficit at all; I think that would be politically stupid. And I don’t think Obama wants to eliminate the tax cuts on the middle class, not only because of politics, but because this is not the time to slow consumer spending.
Krugman also notes that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that the President’s proposal is still too weighted toward budget cuts instead of revenue increases. The President is vague about where some of these cuts will come, but defense is on the table.
There are lots of good comments already, but I was taken with this one by Hendrik Hertzberg. It begins:
One of the mysteries of the Obama Presidency has been Obamaâ€™s inabilityâ€”or disinclination, Iâ€™m not sure whichâ€”to give sustained emotional sustenance to a certain slice of his supporters. I donâ€™t mean the â€œDemocratic base,â€ especially the institutional â€œinterest groupâ€ base. And I donâ€™t mean the disillusioned left, which is easily, almost perpetually disillusioned because it has such an ample supply of illusions. (A lot of lefties, notwithstanding their scorn for â€œthe system,â€ seem to have an implicit naive faith in the workability of the mechanisms of American governance. Hence their readiness to blame the disappointments of the Administrationâ€™s first two years mainly on Obamaâ€™s alleged moral or character failingsâ€”cowardice, spinelessness, insincerity, duplicity, what have you.) Mainly, I guess, the slice Iâ€™m talking about is of people like me: liberals who continue to respect and admire Obama; who fully appreciate the disaster he inherited and the horrendous difficulty of enacting a coherent agenda even when your own party â€œcontrolsâ€ both Houses of Congress; who think his substantive record is pretty good under the circumstances; who dislike some of the distasteful compromises he has made but arenâ€™t sure we wouldnâ€™t have done the same in his shoes (etc.â€”you get the idea); but who are puzzled that our eloquent, writerly President seems to have done so little to educate the public about his own vision and to contrast it with that of the Republican rightâ€”which is to say, the Republicans.
I’m keeping that bit in parentheses about the illusions of liberals and repeating it for all the Obamabashbots. But I agree with the part about not educating the public. I think that may be the President’s biggest failing.
Hertzberg gave the speech high marks, even comparing it to FDR’s fireside chats. Clive Crooks, on the other hand, found the speech “a waste of breath.” But Crooks seems to take the Catfood Commission seriously, so … so much for Crooks. His opinion is a waste of keyboarding.
I also agree with Steve M. that Glenn Greenwald is, um, confused. I’m sorry, but I’ve had it up to here with the hysteria that Obama is actually succeeding by losing to the Right deliberately, because it was the plan all along. See Hendrik Hertzberg above.
See also Ezra Klein.