Political Animal


September 19, 2011 10:00 AM POTUS to throw down the gauntlet on revenue

By Steve Benen

President Obama will present his debt-reduction plan in about a half-hour, and by all indications, it’s going to be a pretty ambitious, progressive approach. I’ll explore the plan in more detail once it’s released, but in the meantime, there’s one position in particular that’s worth pausing to appreciate.

President Barack Obama will veto a comprehensive deficit reduction package if it includes cuts to entitlement program benefits but no tax hikes on the wealthy or well-to-do corporations, senior advisers said on Sunday.

The veto threat is an addendum of sorts to a $3 trillion-plus set of deficit reduction proposals that the White House will make to the congressional super committee tasked with comprehensive deficit reduction. But if administration officials are to be believed, it is now a principle by which the committee must act and it raises the specter of gridlock. Just last week, House Speaker John Boehner insisted that tax hikes should be off the table.

“[W]hat the president is saying is he is not doing [beneficiary reforms] if the Republicans are unwilling to ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share,” explained a senior administration official. “What they can’t do is send something to us with the things we propose and without the stuff on the revenue side because we will veto that.”

By all accounts, the veto threat was explicit. This isn’t a White House asking Congress to balance revenue and entitlement cuts; this isn’t a White House urging Congress to balance revenue and entitlement cuts; this isn’t a White House hoping Congress will balance revenue and entitlement cuts. This is the president throwing down a gauntlet: if Republicans want to make entitlements “reforms” that affect benefits, they’re going to have to accept some tax increases on the wealthy. If seniors are going to be asked to make some sacrifices, the wealthy are going to be asked to do the same.

Period. Full stop.

President Obama and his team are generally reluctant to throw around veto threats precisely because they don’t like to close doors to potential areas of compromise down the road. But that’s what makes this all the more striking: Republicans are generally obsessed with establishing the terms of the debate before the process even begins. Today, it’s the Obama White House deciding it’s time to turn the tables.

I sure hope the president’s detractors on the left are watching this: he’s doing what they’ve long urged him to do.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Rochester on September 19, 2011 10:05 AM:

    Better late than never... but why so late? It seems weird that he waited this long to demonstrate strong leadership.

    I kind of miss Hillary. Somebody shoot me for saying that.

  • George Woodard on September 19, 2011 10:06 AM:

    Let's see if he stands his ground. Ron Paul has an ad up showing all the promises Obama made during the 2008 campaign. He gave up on all of them.

  • John B. on September 19, 2011 10:07 AM:

    About time Mr. President. More! More!

  • Mark-NC on September 19, 2011 10:10 AM:

    Yes, he is doing what I want to see him do.

    And, successful or not (he'll have a blanket NO from Republicans - same as when he caves), at least he is making the case and pushing the point, AND educating the ignorant masses that there is another side to the debate.

  • Dredd on September 19, 2011 10:10 AM:

    I really don't see how any economic plans can have meaning unless they explain their position within the plutonomy, which is not the same as "within the economy".

  • bleh on September 19, 2011 10:11 AM:

    Bravo for him! He's finally playing politics instead of doing good governance.

    Perhaps he finally realized he's on the verge of being slaughtered, and a lower-level Maslow imperative has kicked in?

    You can bet the blowback will be fierce! nobody fights back like a bully who realizes he's about to lose face. And they'll use every weapon at their disposal, down to and including how "uppity" he's getting.

    I hope he's prepared for it. I'm sure he won't lack for cheerleading from progressives.

  • JackD on September 19, 2011 10:12 AM:

    Why do you think "the President's detractors" should be impressed with a presidential invitation to Republicans to cut benefits under medicare and medicaid while "demanding" some tax revenue in exchange? It's undermining the Democrats' congressional campaign as well as reminding progressives that compromise for the sake of compromise is the mantra of the administration.

  • just bill on September 19, 2011 10:14 AM:

    i like this obama. but the proof is in the pudding, as they say. we'll see.

  • sjw on September 19, 2011 10:15 AM:

    Yay for class warfare!

    (I sure hope that we don't hear someone on the president's team saying two days from now, "well, if Congress got reasonably close to balancing the two sides, the president would sign it."

  • W.R. German on September 19, 2011 10:22 AM:

    George, you and Ron Paul both need a fact-checker--Obama has kept more promises than you think.

    Healthcare reform? Check.
    Banking reform? Check.
    Setting up a Consumer Protection Agency? Check.
    Credit card reform? Check.
    Rescuing Detroit from bankruptcy AND returning it to the private sector? Check.
    Withdrawing US troops from Iraq? Check.
    Killing Osama bin Laden? Check.
    Winning the Libya conflict WITHOUT putting U.S. troops on the ground? Check.
    Enacting the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act? Check.
    Eduction reform? Check.
    Ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"? Check.
    Saving the U.S. economy from another Great Depression? Check.

    As Bill Clinton told "Face The Nation" this Sunday, economic crises of this magnitude take 5 YEARS to correct. This crisis started in 2008 under Bush's watch. Even Rick Perry can do the math to figure out when this slump will end...

  • zandru on September 19, 2011 10:24 AM:

    Let's Get Behind This

    We lib/pros have been rather picky and sensitive lately. Negative. Wallowing in despair. Defeatist.

    This behavior isn't going to change the government, either now or in 2012. I recommend getting behind the President's "Buffett Tax" proposal. Tell the White House. Tell your elected Reps and Senators.

    Tell your co-workers during break. Talk about it to your relatives. Email articles like you find in Washington Monthly to your crackpot rightwing relatives - and their entire mailing lists. Maybe they'll start catching on; maybe they'll finally drop you from their hatemail lists.

    Tweet. "Like". Post. Blog.

    If you're just sitting out here in the peanut gallery, carping, you're not going to be given a seat at the table. Why should Democrats waste time pandering to the left (those DFHs), if those folks disapprove of everything they do? Give positive feedback - it's warranted here. Join the movement, and you'll get a chance to change its direction.

    Captcha sez "easy. errecep" Well, actually, it will take some work. But a lot of it can be done right where you are now, AT THE KEYBOARD!

  • walt on September 19, 2011 10:32 AM:

    As an Obama detractor, I'm happy his messaging is finally getting halfway to progressive. Should I feel guilty about judging him harshly before his latest conversion? No.

    The truth is progressives were right about this and Obama's shift is the proof. There's more energy, hope, and clarity on the left now than in the previous three years. All that post-partisan bullshit wasted our time and gave comfort to our opponents.

    People like us hate to hear this but it's a truth Republicans understand: politics is war. We're fighting for real things and real people. If we don't fight, real people will die (you don't think health-care policy is important?). That's why we can't reduce this fight to cheering for Obama. We're fighting for liberalism, not a personality. And if we confuse that personality with liberalism, we're cultists.

  • stormskies on September 19, 2011 10:34 AM:

    what zandru said ..

  • c u n d gulag on September 19, 2011 10:34 AM:

    What W.R. German and zandru said!

  • Kathryn on September 19, 2011 10:52 AM:

    Here's hoping he explains that the "Buffet Rule" rate would be the same as middle class rates so how can that be class warfare. He should point out loud and clear that the class warfare is when Buffet et al gets the lower rate while the middle class gets a higher rate.

  • Fleas correct the era on September 19, 2011 10:55 AM:

    "If seniors are going to be asked to make some sacrifices, the wealthy are going to be asked to do the same."

    I keep hearing this kind of garbage.

    Is it your experience that we were all going along happily together, making equal gains over the last 30-40 years, the poor just like the rich, the lower-middle just like the investment banker bonus thieves? And then suddenly things got bad for no conceivable reason so now we all have to give a little back?

    Look at your own damn charts.

    The very, very, very rich have done very, very, very nicely for decades, while the rest of us bailed out our boats as best we could. By now we've damn near sunk (or have sunk, drowned, gone) ... while they're sailing happily along, just the same as always only more so after the bonus bailouts.

    And we've both got to make sacrifices because that's only fair?

    Just what is there left for the 99% of us who don't make twenty years average take-home in any reasonably good bonus month to sacrifice?

  • POed Lib on September 19, 2011 11:04 AM:

    Obama needs to push this strongly. This is the future. It's either the Repukeliscum "turn out the lights and turn off the furnace" version of the future, or it is America. And one further thing - DRAW THE LINES SHARPLY AND CALL OUT THE MOTHERFUCKERS IN THE REPUKELISCUM PARTY.

  • Anonymous on September 19, 2011 11:04 AM:

    Ron Paul has an ad up showing all the promises Obama made during the 2008 campaign. He gave up on all of them.

    And to think that you make this idiotic claim on the day that DADT is gone forever.

    I guess that my child who is married to a same-sex partner who happens to be a federal employee isn't getting health insurance through the spouse -- except he is.

    And my 25-year-old who is finishing grad school isn't really covered for another year on our insurance. Except she is.

    And my mom isn't benefiting from no-copay well-care visits. Except she is.

    And my other daughter isn't covered by the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act. Except she is.

    I could go on all day here, just with ways my family is better off than we were three years ago. But something tells me that nothing is going to sway you so I'm going to go walk my dog and talk to my neighbors. They aren't lost causes.

  • Dave on September 19, 2011 11:19 AM:

    Honestly, I don't know why the left is supposed to be happy about this. So now Obama's for benefit cuts and raising taxes?!?! Whoopee! It may make logical sense, but it sure doesn't feel like something to get excited about. Sorry ...

  • elbrucce on September 19, 2011 11:24 AM:

    no progressive has asked BO to cut SS or Medicare in exchange for asking the rich to finally kick in a few extra $$$.. the poor and the middle class have taken it in the shorts for the last 30 years, while the rich and the corporations continued to pile up the stacks of cash. This is not a reasonable trade-off. it's time for the rich and the corporations to pay back, period. Neither Geithner nor Bernanke cares about jobs. as long as BO keeps them around, it's clear that Obama doesn't care about jobs, either.

  • Sam Simple on September 19, 2011 11:30 AM:

    I still won't vote for Obama again in 2012. Let the GOP take control of government in 2012 - that will only hasten the demise of this corrupt and broken system. When people are eating tree bark to survive, they might actually think about how they were duped into two pointless wars and unnecessary tax cuts for the wealthy. Like an alcoholic, we have to truly hit bottom before we can recover!

  • June on September 19, 2011 11:34 AM:

    If there's one thing Obama's presidency has shown me is that political fundamentalism on the left is almost indistinguishable from political fundamentalism on the right.

  • guest on September 19, 2011 11:49 AM:

    To all those who are not happy with Obama:

    Elect better Democrats. That means a lot of work for ordinary citizens besided their job, career, business, family, kids etc. It means staying informed and being active in the democracy i.e register like-minded voters, convince others, support candidates who are true democrats. Democracy is hard work. Years of sitting on our assess has gives us democrats like Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad and the likes. The rich use their money to fund the tv ads during campaings to influence the ignorant masses and get them to vote against their self-interest.

    It is child-like and lazy to think that electing Obama in 2008 was enough to get the outcomes we want. This fight never stops. Democracy is hard especially in our society that is so individualisitic and everyone seeks instant gratification. So unless people who believe in true Democratic policies are willing to work hard besides everything else that is going on in their lives and do it not for just one election but every single election, things are not going to change much. In fact they will get worse.

  • T2 on September 19, 2011 11:50 AM:

    German...there are still US troops in I Iraq, and they are being shot at.

  • Anonymous on September 19, 2011 11:56 AM:

    "President Barack Obama will veto a comprehensive deficit reduction package if it includes cuts to entitlement program benefits but no tax hikes on the wealthy or well-to-do corporations, senior advisers said on Sunday."

    Ummmmmm, for those of you complaining, exactly where in this statement does it say that "Obama WANTS to cut entitlement program benefits in exchange for increased taxes on the wealthy".

    This is simply a warning to the commission, a shot across the bow, to those who want to further increase the economic gap, that's all.

    And don't you find it interesting that the definition of "class warfare" and "those not paying their far share" depends on who is speaking?

  • jjm on September 19, 2011 12:15 PM:

    What W.R. German and zandru said, and c u n d gulag as well!

    I cannot for the life of me comprehend the nastiness toward Obama and his failure to keep promises. He really has gone about keeping most of them under less than ideal conditions. If he gets a Democratic congress back you can bet that they won't be as picky and snotty as the 2008-2010 was: they hopefully will have learned some lessons!

    The main Ron Paul supporters I notice on other blogs are calling Obama a 'bankster' (!!) and saying he's in the grip of the "Rothschilds" who control the world economy.

    So PLEASE don't give those Paulies any support or you may well be seeing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion made required reading in grade school. Because the people who believe his fairy stories about 'self-reliance' tend to be of the same mentality, evidently, as people who believe that piece of filth.

  • low-tech cyclist on September 19, 2011 1:30 PM:

    I sure hope the president’s detractors on the left are watching this: he’s doing what they’ve long urged him to do.

    Consider it acknowledged. I think this change came a year later than it should have, but better late than never.

    And yeah, you bet I'm calling my Congresscritters about Obama's jobs plan.

    I cannot for the life of me comprehend the nastiness toward Obama and his failure to keep promises. He really has gone about keeping most of them under less than ideal conditions.

    Indeed - he's kept as many promises as he could get through Congress, most notably the Affordable Care Act. My gripe with him isn't about keeping promises, it's more about (a) failure to adapt to the needs of the country (employment!!) more quickly, and (b) failure to anticipate completely predictable GOP strategy.

    He seems to be correcting both of those failures, at long last.

  • Ace Bailey on September 19, 2011 7:22 PM:

    "I sure hope the president�s detractors on the left are watching this: he�s doing what they�ve long urged him to do."

    Seriously? What the President is saying is that he'll accept cuts to Medicare and social security, as long as the wealthy are taxed more. Who on "The Left" is urging the President to cut Medicare and social security???