August 1, 2011


Obama's Deficit Bargain Lost Out to 2012 Politics With Shifting Priorities (Margaret Talev and Mike Dorning, 8/01/11, Bloomberg)

As late as last week, President Barack Obama was still calling for one, broad debt agreement that included cuts, entitlements and taxes.

That's not what will go before Congress this week, and Obama's strategic positioning contributed to the missed opportunity for a potentially historic bipartisan deal, said Democrats, retired lawmakers and former White House advisers with experience in bipartisan negotiations. [...]

As Gergen sees it, Obama made an early error when he failed to adopt the findings of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The Obama-appointed commission headed by Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, and Erskine Bowles, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, in December recommended a combination of spending cuts, entitlement program adjustments and tax changes to cut $3.8 trillion from the deficit.

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley told CNN on July 28 it was clear House Republicans weren't willing to accept the Simpson-Bowles recommendations.

Gergen said the prospects of Republican resistance may have been only one factor in the White House decision. "I suspect that the politics of 2012 had a lot to do with it," Gergen said. "He wasn't anxious to tie himself, I'm sure, to some aspects of entitlement reform that would have stirred up his base."
Ryan Budget

The president waited to release his own deficit-reduction proposal until House Republican Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin unveiled a 10-year plan that cut spending on Medicare -- drawing accusations from Democrats that Republicans would weaken health insurance coverage for the elderly. Though that helped Democrats politically, it narrowed the time window for a large-scale deal, Galston said.

The White House defends its handling of the Simpson-Bowles report. By forcing Republicans to write their own deficit reduction plan, Obama gained more negotiating leverage when the public rejected it. Had Obama endorsed the commission's recommendations, Republicans would have simply seized on the proposed cuts and forced negotiations on the commission's recommendations rather than revealing their own intentions.

"OK, so he smoked them out," Galston said. "What did it get him? If your objective is to be a president who achieves transformational change, then I'm not sure waiting from December to mid-April is wise," Galston said.

He didn't support the Commission because he didn't support entitlement reform yet. By the time he decided he could he and his party had already demagogued the issue and he couldn't get the toothpaste back in the tube.

Posted by at August 1, 2011 7:15 AM

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