My latest is up at FrontPage.com where I take a look at the looming battle over deficit reduction being tied to the vote to raise the debt ceiling.
After mostly absenting himself from public negotiations over the federal budget last week, President Barack Obama has made the political calculation that he must show the voters that he is serious about long term deficit reduction by getting out in front of the issue, and proposing his own broad plan to address the nation’s fiscal woes.
To that end, President Obama will make an Oval Office address on Wednesday night aimed at convincing the American people that despite his record of compiling more debt in two years than all other presidents in American history combined, he can now be trusted to address the massive deficit. And he will be making the speech against the ticking clock of a congressional vote to raise the debt ceiling — a separate but related issue that Republicans plan to hold hostage in exchange for massive cuts in entitlement spending.
It is significant that Obama sent out his number one political advisor, David Plouffe, rather than an administration expert like the budget director, to make the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows to offer a taste of the deficit reduction plan. The White House seems to view the fight over fiscal sanity as a political brawl that it plans to ride all the way to re-election in 2012. The hinge of their strategy is to use the bold deficit reduction plan introduced by Representative Paul Ryan, which will cut $6.2 trillion from federal spending by 2020, to portray the GOP as fundamentally uncaring and intent on “destroying” Medicare and cutting taxes for the rich.
In short, Obama plans to demagogue deficit reduction by offering limited cuts in his own plan while increasing taxes on “the rich” and closing other “loopholes” that he believes benefit the wealthy. Plouffe hinted that Obama will offer his own reform proposals for Medicare and Medicaid, but they will likely be superficial, with token cuts and little in the way of concrete ideas to reduce the cost of entitlements in the long-term.
This will not satisfy Republicans — at least, they are saying as much for now. The GOP has not eagerly embraced the Ryan plan due to its controversial proposal to basically privatize Medicare and end federal responsibility for administering Medicaid. But there is much more in the plan on which most Republicans can agree, including tax cuts, large cuts in discretionary spending, the elimination of several federal departments and agencies, and other common sense proposals many fiscal hawks believe are long overdue.
I’m not sure that John Boehner will be able to stand up to the firestorm that is about to be unleashed by every budget interest group in the country. When you’re talking about trillions in cuts, the effect will be huge on groups that have depended on the federal government for decades. Obama will portray himself being on their side, Democrats will demagogue the issue till the cows come home, and more moderate Republicans will bolt fairly early.
Expect a big win for Obama and the Democrats in deficit reduction that may not even be tied to the debt ceiling vote.