Long Overdue

Via the Washington Post:

"President Obama will hit the road this week and forcibly deliver his message that a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes on the rich is necessary to rein in the nation's rocketing debt — a high-stakes effort to rally public support ahead of a series of contentious budget battles in Congress."

Our Commander-in-Chief should be a visionary-in-chief. Just last Monday, I bemoaned that "never has the bully pulpit of the Presidency been so more profoundly wasted than on Barack Obama." There is no question that this is a competent Administration and the President himself thoughtful, intensely analytical and intelligent. But when it comes to articulating where he want to take the country, the President has all too often been missing in action.

It is a welcome news that the President is taking his message out across the country.

The Candid Obama

Via CBS News:

In what he thought was a private chat with campaign donors Thursday evening, President Obama offered the most revealing behind-the-scenes account to date of his budget negotiations with GOP leaders last week.

CBS Radio News White House correspondent Mark Knoller listened in to an audio feed of Mr. Obama's conversation with donors after other reporters traveling with the president had left the room.

In the candid remarks, Mr. Obama complains of Republican attempts to attach measures to the budget bill which would have effectively killed parts of his hard-won health care reform program.

"I said, 'You want to repeal health care? Go at it. We'll have that debate. You're not going to be able to do that by nickel-and-diming me in the budget. You think we're stupid?'" recalled the president of his closed-door negotiations on the bill to fund the federal government until September. 

Mr. Obama said he told House Speaker John Boehner and members of his staff that he'd spent a year and a half getting the sweeping health care legislation passed -- paying "significant political costs" along the way -- and wouldn't let them undo it in a six-month spending bill.

"When Paul Ryan says his priority is to make sure, he's just being America's accountant ... This is the same guy that voted for two wars that were unpaid for, voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for, voted for the prescription drug bill that cost as much as my health care bill -- but wasn't paid for," Mr. Obama told his supporters. "So it's not on the level."

We would all be better served if President Obama were this candid more often and not reserve such insights for those who can afford tens of thousands of dollars for a dinner with the President. No doubt, it is, nonetheless, very refreshing to hear what the President really thinks.

Sober, Serious and Smart

President Barack Obama came to the George Washington University with his Presidency besieged by radical right wing proposals and his liberal credentials seemingly in grave doubt to pronounce his long-anticipated views on the nation's fiscal condition. Despite an opening joke, which frankly fell flat, he gave a sober, serious and smart address that was perhaps short on details but long on a vision speaking to values such as fairness and traits such as unbridled American optimism.

While I suspect some on the left may find aspects on which to quibble and I know that most if not all on the right will denounce his proposal to end the Bush tax cuts in the most vehement of terms, this nearly 45 minute speech interrupted only once by applause was at its starkest a study contrasting two diametrically opposed visions for the country.

Without mentioning Rep. Paul Ryan directly by name, the President lambasted the Wisconsin Republican for offering a vision that would "lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we've known throughout our history."

"A 70% cut in clean energy. A 25% cut in education. A 30% cut in transportation. Cuts in college Pell Grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year. That's what they're proposing. These aren't the kind of cuts you make when you're trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget. These aren't the kind of cuts that the Fiscal Commission proposed. These are the kind of cuts that tell us we can't afford the America we believe in. And they paint a vision of our future that's deeply pessimistic.

"It's a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can't afford to fix them. If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can't afford to send them. Go to China and you'll see businesses opening research labs and solar facilities. South Korean children are outpacing our kids in math and science. Brazil is investing billions in new infrastructure and can run half their cars not on high-priced gasoline, but biofuels. And yet, we are presented with a vision that says the United States of America -- the greatest nation on Earth -- can't afford any of this.

"It's a vision that says America can't afford to keep the promise we've made to care for our seniors. It says that ten years from now, if you're a 65 year old who's eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn't worth enough to buy insurance, tough luck -- you're on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.

"This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. And who are those 50 million Americans? Many are someone's grandparents who wouldn't be able afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down's syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we'd be telling to fend for themselves.

"Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can't afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can't afford to maintain or commitment to Medicare and Medicaid, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about it. In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined. Meanwhile, the top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that's who needs to pay less taxes? They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that's paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs? That's not right, and it's not going to happen as long as I'm President."

It was at this point that the President was interrupted by applause. Obama went to chide the Republican proposal as anything but serious or courageous. "There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires," said President Obama adding that he didn't think that "there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill." In perhaps the opening salvo of the 2012 campaign, he hit the Republican proposal as offering a vision that "is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America."

There's more...

The Long-Awaited Speech

President Barack Obama, in his eagerly anticipated major speech on the Federal budget deficit, proposed $4 trillion in cuts and revenue increases over the next twelve years – about $2.2 trillion less than the reductions proposed by the House Republicans. The President's proposals are more in-line his own deficit commission, the Simpson-Bowles commission, which proposed $3.8 trillion in cuts when it was unveiled last December but the mix of cuts is far different. The critical difference is that the President's plan calls for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

Speaking at the George Washington University just blocks from the White House, the President attacked Rep. Paul Ryan’s deficit plan, saying: “I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry.” President Obama countered Republican budget plans with what he said was a more balanced approach that relies in part on tax increases for the wealthy as well as on spending cuts. “To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms,” President Obama said. “We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.”

The New York Times has more on the President's speech but the major key goals articulated by the President include:

* Reducing the deficit by $4 trillion in 12 years or less

* Curbing deficits to 2.5 percent of GDP in 2015, 2 percent toward the end of the decade

* Ending Bush-era tax rates for the wealthiest Americans

* Seeking $770 billion in savings by 2023 in cuts to non-security discretionary spending

* Saving $480 billion in Medicare and Medicaid by 2023 and at least $1 trillion more by 2033.

I'll have more later but for now here is the full text of the speech as prepared for delivery beneath the fold.

There's more...


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