Folks, there is an adult in the room. In outlining his long-term budget proposal, No Drama Obama dropped the hammer on the Republicans and put the focus of the debate right where it needs to be: what kind of country are we?
The president didn’t just put tax increases and entitlement reforms on the table. He put values on the table too--fairness, responsibility, accountability and compassion absent from the Republican/Ryan plan. Paul Ryan himself seems to be in rather a huff about being called out. Welcome to the arena, Congressman. You are accountable for your ideas, and outside Fox News or Morning Joe, people don’t like them very much. But thanks for putting your own party in a box. GOP House members are suddenly coming to grips with actually voting to eliminate Medicare so they can lower taxes for millionaires. Good luck with that back home. [Vote now: Should Paul Ryan's budget plan become law?]
The American people, by substantial margins in every reputable poll, favor exactly the kind of balanced approach put forward by the president. Raise taxes on the wealthy; close loopholes that allow corporations and millionaires to pay a pittance or evade taxes altogether; sensible, meaningful reforms of Medicare that preserve core principles. And he wisely refused to grant the false premise that Social Security is in “crisis.”
It’s bold. It’s progressive. And it’s responsible. Plaudits ought to be rolling in. But we are Democrats, so there is the usual handwringing about changes to Medicare, armchair strategic theorizing about “frames,” and far too much rhetoric that “deficits don’t matter” from some who perhaps haven’t spoken with very many independent or moderate voters.
Look, I’m a liberal and I care about fiscal responsibility, deficits and debt. I see no contradiction. For decades Democrats have ceded this ground to Republicans and suffered the consequences with independent and moderate voters. The irony is that Democratic administrations have been far more fiscally responsible than Republican ones. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons about the budget and the deficit.]
Obama’s move is right out of the Clinton playbook that few argue wasn’t good for the country. Remember the surplus? Good times. We need a plan to bring them back. Either we make shared sacrifice actually ... you know ... shared, or we impoverish the many to massively enrich the few. The president has brought this choice into sharp relief.
What is needed is a grand bargain to move America forward, past the tragic mistakes of the Bush years toward a more prosperous future. The president has risen to this challenge while John Boehner blusters that tax increases on the wealthy are “off the table.”
For the last two years, Republicans have essentially opted out of governing (when Tom Harkin says he misses Trent Lott, you know it’s bad). That can’t continue. Tax increases, as part of a balanced solution, may be off the Tea Party kiddy table, but it’s time for the GOP to come to the grown-up table and work with the president for the good of the country. Our future depends on it. [Check out editorial cartoons about the Tea Party.]