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Saturday, January 05, 2013

Obama the centrist

It's been a while since I checked in on Obama's weekly address. This week, the headliner is another call on Congress not to play chicken with the debt ceiling -- though based on recent polling, he's going to have to do better to explain to the public that raising the debt ceiling does not authorize new spending (not withstanding that poll's limitations).  A few other tidbits caught my eye, though:

1) While Obama paired job growth and deficit reduction, his emphasis again was on deficit reduction. That's partly a function of his focus on looming budget battles, but he still positions himself as a centrist who cuts spending while investing in the future (infrastructure, education, energy). He also invoked the confidence fairy.

2) When talking about cutting spending while preserving essential investments, Obama does not emphasize preserving Medicare and Social Security.  It's no secret to anyone not in the grip of right-wing paranoia that Obama is open to entitlement reform (though his preferred means of Medicare savings would work by squeezing providers and reducing unnecessary care by ending away from fee-for-service payments). He not only aims to transfer wealth from the wealthy to the poor and middle classes, but also, to some degree,  from the (nonpoor) elderly to children, parents of children, and broadly, "the future", via infrastructure and R&D.

3) In short space, claiming some $2.5 trillion in enacted deficit reduction, Obama more or less illustrates Philip Klein's point that he's already hit about 70% of his stated $4 trillion/ten year deficit reduction target (leaving the sequestered cuts as a wild card, crediting some unspecified portion of them).

4) Election over, he mentioned climate change by name as a focus of his energy policy.

I had a hard time carving up the short speech to illustrate the points above one by one. Here are the relevant sections:
But all this [the fiscal cliff tax deal] was just one more step in the broader effort to grow our economy and shrink our deficits.  We still need to do more to put Americans back to work while also putting this country on a path to pay down its debt.  And our economy can’t afford more protracted showdowns or manufactured crises along the way.

Because even as our businesses created 2 million new jobs last year – including 168,000 new jobs last month – the messy brinksmanship in Congress made business owners more uncertain and consumers less confident.

We know there’s a path forward.  Last year, I signed into law $1.7 trillion in deficit reduction.  This week’s action further reduces the deficit by $737 billion, making it one of the largest deficit reduction bills passed by Congress in over a decade.  And I’m willing to do more. 

I believe we can find more places to cut spending without shortchanging things like education, job training, research and technology all which are critical to our prosperity in a 21st century economy.  But spending cuts must be balanced with more reforms to our tax code.  The wealthiest individuals and the biggest corporations shouldn’t be able to take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren’t available to most Americans.

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