Saturday, February 28, 2009

Obama's Budget and the Fight Ahead (excerpts)

"The New and Improved "Us vs. Them" Narrative" (Al Giordano):
Okay, here's what I think just happened: The President has reframed the narrative from the stale dysfunction of Democrats demonizing Republicans and Republicans demonizing Democrats and stepped over that puddle of slime to create a more authentic narrative: The American people vs. the special interests (and note that the ones he mentions are universally from the corporate sector).

And let's keep in mind that the interests he mentions - "the insurance industry... the banks and big student lenders... the oil and gas companies..." - have their hooks and donations just as deeply into Congressional Democrats as they do for Congressional Republicans. They've all just been put on notice: oppose the reforms he's pushing and be portrayed as siding with those corporate interests against the American people.

This is is quite huge. It hasn't been done by a president since FDR. And the populist campaign rhetoric by Edwards, Clinton and even Obama in 2008 aside did not rise to this level of clarity by a longshot. Really, it hasn't been done this way by any Democratic presidential candidate since Oklahoma Senator Fred Harris ran in 1976.
"Battle Lines Quickly Set Over Planned Policy Shifts--Massive Budget Marks Largest Ideological Swing Since the Reagan Era" (WaPo, page one):
Battle lines are rapidly hardening over the broad policy shifts, massive deficits and tax increases President Obama unveiled last week in his first budget request, a 10-year spending plan thick with political friction points.

Yesterday, the president used his weekly radio and Internet address to declare his budget plan a fundamental reordering of federal priorities that would deliver "the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November."

The budget proposal "reflects the stark reality of what we've inherited: a trillion-dollar deficit, a financial crisis and a costly recession," Obama said. He warned off lobbyists and other critics, who, he said, "are gearing up for a fight as we speak."

"My message to them is this: So am I," he said. "The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long, but I don't."
"Flailing Republicans pray for meltdown" (Andrew Sullivan-Sunday London Times):
Although Obama clearly signaled early on in the transition that he wanted to tackle entitlements that will cripple the US fiscally in the future, his budget showed none of it. The only marginally credible spending cuts were tied to withdrawal from Iraq (an iffy proposition) and the only attempt to rein in the mounting costs of healthcare for the elderly was an increase in premiums for the very rich and . . . cost controls for an expanded public sector in health.

Many fiscal conservatives, prepared to give Obama a pass on short-term spending, felt gobsmacked by this insouciance. No wonder Hillary Clinton was dispatched as her first duty to placate the Chinese. If Obama breaks the bank the way he is intending to, they’d better keep lending the US money or the dollar will fall into an abyss.

Hence the one sliver of Republican hope. They need an epic failure from Obama to give them some chance of regaining power. They need a second Great Depression, intensified by a long-term fiscal failure. It’s just tragic – for both right and left – that the only serious path back from the brink for the Republicans is the implosion of their own country.
"Paul Krugman praises President Obama's new budget proposal" (via CROOKS AND LIARS):
Elections have consequences. President Obama’s new budget represents a huge break, not just with the policies of the past eight years, but with policy trends over the past 30 years. If he can get anything like the plan he announced on Thursday through Congress, he will set America on a fundamentally new course.

The budget will, among other things, come as a huge relief to Democrats who were starting to feel a bit of postpartisan depression. The stimulus bill that Congress passed may have been too weak and too focused on tax cuts. The administration’s refusal to get tough on the banks may be deeply disappointing. But fears that Mr. Obama would sacrifice progressive priorities in his budget plans, and satisfy himself with fiddling around the edges of the tax system, have now been banished.

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