POTUS TAKES HIS MESSAGE ON THE ROAD…. President Obama’s debt-reduction speech last week was fairly well received by much of the left, in large part because it helped establish a series of contrasts. Congressional Republicans offered a right-wing budget vision, and the president offered a forceful condemnation. The GOP rejects progressive governance, and Obama delivered a spirited defense. Republicans want to eliminate Medicare, and the president ruled out the possibility.
But one speech only helps lay a foundation. It’s imperative that Obama keep reinforcing the message, using his bully pulpit and showing the necessary follow through.
To that end, the president hosted a town-hall event in Annandale, Virginia, yesterday. If there were any fears he’d start to back down from last week’s stance, they were quickly assuaged — the contrasts Obama drew last week have become his principal message.
The president again blamed Republicans for the budget mess:
“For a long time, Washington acted like deficits didn’t matter. A lot of folks promised us a free lunch. So I think everybody needs to recall, we had a surplus back in 2000, 11 short years ago, but then we cut taxes for everybody, including millionaires and billionaires. We fought two wars and we created a new and expensive prescription drug program, and we didn’t pay for any of it.”
And demanded tax increases on the wealthy:
“We can’t just tell the wealthiest among us, ‘You don’t have to do a thing. You just sit there and relax, and everybody else, we’re going to solve this problem.’ Especially when we know that the only way to pay for these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more for their health care, or cutting children out of Head Start, or doing away with health insurance for millions of Americans on Medicaid — seniors in nursing homes, or poor children, or middle-class families who may have a disabled child, an autistic child. This is not a trade-off that I’m willing to make. It’s not a trade-off that I think most Americans think is fair, no matter what party you belong to. That’s not who we are as a country. We’re better than that.”
I saw someone suggest the other day that the president seems to have “found his voice” again. I hope that’s true, and it certainly seemed to be the case yesterday.
At the same event, the presiednt went on to explain the value in investing in infrastructure:
“So, yes, we’re going to have to save wherever we can; and my proposal makes some tough cuts to some worthy programs and services that if we were in better times I’d continue to fund. But I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do. We’re not going to reduce the deficit by sacrificing investments in our infrastructure. We’re not going to allow our roads and our bridges to grow more and more congested while places like China are building new roads and new airports and thousands of mile of high-speed rail. If we want businesses to locate here in the United States of America and create jobs here, we’ve got to make sure that America is built to compete. We’ve got to have the best roads. We’ve got to have the quickest trains. We have to have the fastest broadband networks. That’s who we are.”
And ruled out GOP demands for education cuts:
“Finally — and I know this is near and dear to your hearts — we’re not going to reduce our deficit by cutting education and eliminating college scholarships. In a world where our students face stiff competition from students from other countries, why would we make it harder for you to compete?”
And again denounced the Republican plan to eliminate Medicare:
“The House Republicans just passed a proposal, and their main plan to reduce our long-term deficits and debt is to turn Medicare into a voucher program. What would happen would be that right now seniors, when they get — once they’re on Medicare, you basically are able to get the care that you need and Medicare covers it for you. What would happen under this proposal is you’d get a set amount of money; you could then go out under the private market place and buy insurance, but if the voucher you were getting for $6,000 or $7,000 and the insurance company said it’s going to cost you $12,000, well, you’re going to have to make up that difference. And so it’s estimated by the Congressional Budget Office, which is an independent, bipartisan sort of referee in Congress that determines these things — they figure that seniors would end up paying twice as much for their health care as they are currently. At least twice as much.”
And endorsed raising the Social Security payroll tax:
“The point is, for the vast majority of Americans, every dime you earn, you’re paying some in Social Security. But for Warren Buffett, he stops paying at a little bit over $100,000 and then the next $50 billion he’s not paying a dime in Social Security taxes. So if we just made a little bit of an adjustment in terms of the cap on Social Security, that would do a significant amount to stabilize the system.”
Obama will remain on the road, by the way, participating in a facebook town hall in California today, and another event in Reno, Nevada, tomorrow.
I’d recommend he stick to this message.