Obama: Explain how can we afford government
Don Taylor makes a good point about liberals and the deficit:
In the end, I think Progressives have more at stake on the deficit than do Conservatives, because Progressives believe that government does have a key role to play in modern life. Conservatives are happy to cut taxes but not spending and then say the inevitable deficit proves government doesn't work. Progressives must take up the cause of developing a long range balanced budget or else there will be no room for government action where it is needed in the years ahead. Hopefully the President will begin making the Progressive case for sensible deficit reduction in the State of the Union.
It's a running irony in Washington that some liberals instinctively resist any reform of entitlements that are set to spend themselves into oblivion. (See, for example, my post last year on Rachel Maddow, who argued that one need only ask beneficiaries to determine whether Medicare or Social Security works. Sure, they'll give you an uncolored view of whether the government must spend less on them.)
But, as Taylor notes, projected deficits are -- right now -- directly harming the political viability of social spending, too, years before insolvency itself demands punishing funding reductions. The Republican Study Committee's deficit-cutting plans already involve massive cuts to domestic discretionary spending. And until someone makes the long-term outlook less depressing, the Republican argument Taylor describes gets stronger.
Even if you agree with Paul Krugman -- who has argued that long-term deficits need not concern us now, as the economy slowly recovers -- this political dynamic should spur progressives of all types to get in front of the issue, to become more credible than Republicans on long-term taxing and spending. On policy terms, this is very doable, given the contents of some GOP proposals. (Ruth Marcus takes down the Republican Study Committee here.) But calling for entitlement reform and revenue increases will also be tough politically. The Democrats need a good pitch, too.
President Obama is sure to discuss America's long-term fiscal situation Tuesday night, as Taylor suggests. But the president often insists on the importance of more careful budgeting. The question really is: Will Obama start to explain more successfully what deficit hawkery looks like when you favor a robust social safety net -- including both entitlements and worthy domestic discretionary spending? Because the GOP is winning on the politics of the deficit, and they may begin winning on the policy, too.
| January 24, 2011; 5:28 PM ET
Categories: Stromberg | Tags: Stephen Stromberg
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