The Wall Street Journal has some scoop on what Obama plans to offer in his speech on deficit reduction later this week. He will reportedly outline changes to entitlement programs, presumably on a far smaller scale than those put forward by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan. He’ll also put Social Security on the table, something many Democrats adamantly oppose. However, don’t expect those items to comprise the bulk of the speech. As White House adviser David Plouffe indicated Sunday on Meet the Press, the president is intent on rehashing the tax debate from last year’s lame-duck session, and then some:
In a speech Wednesday, Mr. Obama will propose cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, and changes to Social Security, a discussion he has largely left to Democrats and Republicans in Congress. He also will call for tax increases for people making over $250,000 a year, a proposal contained in his 2012 budget, and changing parts of the tax code he thinks benefit the wealthy.
“Every corner of the federal government has to be looked at here,” David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser, said Sunday in one of multiple television appearances. “Revenues are going to have to be part of this,” he said, referring to tax increases.
Until now, Mr. Obama has been largely absent from the raging debate over the long-term deficit. The White House has done little with the recommendations of its own bipartisan deficit commission. And Mr. Obama’s 2012 budget didn’t offer many new ideas for tackling entitlement spending, among the biggest long-term drains on the federal budget.
Obama’s 2012 budget already called for eliminating the Bush-era tax rates on high earners and raising more than $1.5 trillion in new taxes. Plouffe, without a hint of irony, said the president’s plan would attempt to reduce the deficit in a way that “doesn’t compromise our ability to grow the economy and create jobs.”
Apparently, Obama didn’t even bother to tell members of his own party, potentially undercutting the work of House Democrats, who, led by Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), were planning to release an alternative budget this week, as well as the members of the ’Gang of Six’ working group on deficit reduction, who were also planning to release a plan in the very near future:
The White House move caught Democrats in Congress off guard, according to aides, and details of the president’s proposals were sketchy. Mr. Plouffe said the president will name a dollar amount for deficit reduction, although the White House wouldn’t provide specifics. Introducing taxes into the discussion has the potential to complicate the resolution of coming budget fights, specifically the need to raise the debt ceiling, a move needed to prevent the U.S. defaulting on its debt.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, expressed concern Sunday that the news of the president’s forthcoming proposal was announced “not by a substantive policy official such as his budget director or Treasury Secretary but by the President’s top political adviser.”
Obama’s 2012 budget, Sessions said, was “the most irresponsible spending plan any president has ever put forward,” and suggested that if the president has finally come to terms with reality and had a change of heart on the matter of fiscal responsibility, simply reading from a teleprompter would not suffice.
“The president’s vision, whatever it is, must be presented in a detailed, concrete form,” Sessions said. “CBO must be able to score it and I and the Budget Committees in the House and Senate must be able to scrutinize it.”
“The Republican House proposed last week the most serious effort I have seen during my career to address our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges,” he continued. “I anxiously await an equally serious proposal from the Democrat Senate and White House. Another Washington-style tax-and-spend plan will not be acceptable.”