What Obama Could Say, But Won't
by Deacon Blues
Reflecting the increasing difficulties he faces, John Boehner just said that no debt ceiling deal is imminent, and that no progress has really been made over the last week. Boehner apparently needed to throw cold water on any talk that he'd been dealing privately with Obama in order to save himself from his own caucus, which wants to hear no talk about additional revenues from closing corporate or high-income tax loopholes unless they are used to finance more tax cuts for those that have already skated these last ten years.
Obama has gone big and decided to tie his wagon to a man who doesn't even control his own caucus. He's done this while risking major trouble with his party's congressional leadership. He has several choices in his messaging now. One includes saying nothing publicly and letting Boehner send his signals and get no public pushback for them. The other is to publicly draw a line in the sand. Although it may not be in his centrist DNA to do so, Obama can placate his party's congressional membership and mortally wound the GOP for next year by drawing that line in the sand now.
If Obama’s team were really politically effective, they would see how things go at the next “summit” meeting on Sunday, while fully expecting the GOP to drag their feet some more and not commit to anything. After all, why would Boehner and Cantor move if they’ve grown accustomed to waiting Obama out for more cave-ins?
A truly effective White House would wait until after the GOP leaves Sunday’s meeting and gives the usual statements about their disappointment over the president’s lack of acceptance of political reality. Once they do, Obama would call a press conference for Monday. At the press conference, Obama would read a statement, and intersperse it with video or other reminders of Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell’s votes in favor of the two wars and the two Bush tax cuts. With visual aids (because the media likes pictures), he would then point out to the media the real source of most of our debt, namely the Bush tax cuts, the Bush wars, and the Bush recession. And then he would express his disappointment that this late in the game, these same Republicans were playing chicken with the debt ceiling and demanding that working Americans pay for the recession and fiscal irresponsibility they themselves caused. And then the White House would hammer that same message all week in response to the GOP outrage at "class warfare", and ask why the GOP is supporting warfare on working Americans.
That’s what a truly effective White House, in full campaign mode, would do.
What could he say? Well, here is a suggestion:
Yesterday, I expressed a willingness to agree to a large debt-reduction deal with Congress, even though my own party is very uncomfortable with the changes to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid that I am willing to support. Yet even after a decade of their support for unpaid-for wars and tax cuts and loopholes for the top 2%, the House Republicans want to continue that fiscal irresponsiblity and have the bottom 98% pay even more of the bill.
Let me be clear: for all this talk about debts and deficits, most of the country's debt was not caused by this administration, but by the fiscal irresponsibility and economic crash during the last administration, which the House GOP seemingly wants to continue further. The American public wants action on jobs, not cuts in programs that help people and not more of the same for the wealthy and corporations.
With great pain to the Democrats, I've offered a more serious debt-reduction package than anything offered by the House Republicans, built upon real savings and shared sacrifice. If House Republicans continue to play chicken with the debt ceiling yet refuse to deal significantly with the debt they claim to be concerned about, then their behavior really isn't about the debt after all, but rather a craven attempt to manipulate a looming deadline to continue the party for the wealthy and corporations and make the bottom 98% pay for it.
My principles are clear: There will be no more games or playing chicken; I want an increase in the debt ceiling that takes us through next year. I want a large debt reduction package: it must eliminate the unfairness in our tax code, but I refuse to make Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid beneficiaries pay for a problem caused in Washington and Wall Street. If the GOP won't address the fiscal irresponsibility and mounting debt they themselves helped create, and if they pass on eliminating $4 trillion in debt even if it means a default, then the American public will at least know who is really on the side of Main Street.
Barack Obama could say those things, but probably only in some alternate universe.