President Obama opened his prime-time speech Monday evening by reminding the American people that George W. Bush’s irresponsible deficits are crippling the nation’s economy. Sure, he racked up a “little credit card debt” saving the economy, but not to worry, he assured us, it’s a problem that can easily be solved. “Rich” “corporations” make too much money. Unfortunately, a radical cadre of House Republicans is standing in the way of a “grand bargain” to reduce Bush’s deficit by not “seeing eye-to-eye” with the president on the need to raise taxes. Call your elected representatives, Obama implored. Tell them to agree with me.
Raising the debt ceiling is just not that big of deal, he explained. Every president has done it (though he voted against it as a Senator). He just needs an extra $2.5 trillion in debt to pay the bills that have already been “racked up by Congress.”
But we also need to reduce Bush’s deficit. Unfortunately, the “cuts-only” approach being championed by House Republicans “doesn’t solve the problem,” and is simply unacceptable. The cuts-only proposal put forward by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) on the other hand, is “a much better approach” because it absolves lawmakers from having to relitigate the issue at a later date (when there are important reelection campaigns to consider).
“We all agree,” he said, even House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and plenty of Senate Republicans, on the need to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion, and the need to raise taxes by $1 trillion on “patriotic Americans” who are “willing to pitch in.”
“They’ve done it before,” he said. Indeed, argued the president, when congress has raised taxes in the past, the American people have tended to pay them. Did you know that Reagan raised taxes? I’m just like Reagan, he assured us. He’s perfectly willing to make “tough decisions” on entitlement reform, but only if “the burden is fairly shared.”
“We’re left at a stalemate,” Obama concluded. Therefore, he has decided to take the lead, by demanding that congressional leaders come up with a “fair compromise” that can pass both houses, so he can sign it (and take credit for it). The American people, he said, are “offended” by “a town where compromise has become a dirty word.” What is this great country of ours, if not a “grand experiment in compromise?”
In terms of blatant, cynical, political demagoguery, the speech was par for the course. Substantively, Obama threw his support behind Harry Reid’s proposal in the Senate, but did not explicitly threaten to veto a short-term debt increase (as outlined in Boehner’s plan). Either way, it’s a little late in the game at this point to try to reframe the debt debate, especially with the looming apocalypse the White House insists will ensue if nothing is done by August 2. Should be an interesting week.
Full transcript here.