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Posted at 08:53 AM ET, 09/19/2011

The Morning Plum

* Obama’s opening supercommittee bid sets stage for 2012 clash of visions:

As a number of us have argued, Obama’s continuing demand that Republicans pass the whole American Jobs Act — and his willingness to take it straight to the American people — represents a new approach by the White House. Rather than signaling a willingness to give early ground on core liberal principles in the name of compromise as a desirable end in itself, Obama and his advisers laid down some hard lines at the outset in a manner designed to increase leverage in the battles ahead.

The initial reports about what Obama will propose as his opening bid today for the deficit “supercommittee” suggest that they are sticking with it.

The key details, per Zachary Goldfarb:

* A new minimum tax rate for millionaires as part of an overhaul of the tax code — called the “Buffett rule,” after the billionaire who asked Congress to raise his taxes for the good of the country — and a rollback of various loopholes and deductions.

* Despite liberal fears to the contrary, Obama will not propose raising the Medicare eligibility age. He will propose $320 billion in savings, and benefits reductions of some kind appear likely, though they would not begin until 2017.

* Crucially, Obama will vow to veto any entitlement cuts if revenue increases are not part of the solution.

That last one is key — a veto threat is a line the White House was unwilling to draw during the fall of 2010, when the battle over extending the Bush tax cuts was in full swing.

These proposals are certain to be opposed by Congressional Republicans. But this is precisely the point — Obama is not allowing Republicans to set the parameters of the debate, as he has in the past, and is instead laying down a set of principles that Republicans are likely to reject, a clear effort to sharpen the contrast between the parties heading into next year. The devil will be in the Medicare cut proposal’s details, and it remains to be seen what sort of follow through we’ll see as the supercommittee process grinds on, but this is an encouraging opening bid.

As one administration official puts it: “It’s his vision and not a legislative compromise being crafted to garner some number of votes in the House and the Senate.”

Make no mistake: If this approach holds, we’re seeing a major reset.

* White House to slam GOP for coddling millionaires: Relatedly, the White House talking points on the emerging proposal contain this preview of the new message:

“Unfortunately, Congressional Republicans believe the burden of deficit reduction should only come from spending cuts to critical programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, and refuse to ask millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share to get our fiscal house in order and reduce the deficit.”

Note the direct attack on Republicans, rather than on “Congress” in general. Republicans have regularly argued that Obama’s push for extending the high end Bush tax cuts would raise taxes on “small businesses”; the new millionaire’s tax will draw a sharper line that Republicans will have a tougher time blurring.

* Will Obama manage to calm panicking Democrats? As E.J. Dionne notes, the new approach is also about staving off the real possibilty of defections among Congressional Democrats, who — Dionne says — shouldn’t play into GOP hands by getting caught up in disagreements over his supercommittee proposals:

The president’s broad idea — short-term stimulus coupled with long-term deficit reduction — is sensible and in principle, at least, should unite the center and the left. Yet if Democrats focus more on their areas of disagreement, more time will be lost, and Obama’s jobs campaign will be stalled again.

* This is what progressives have wanted all along: Relatedly, Matthew Yglesias adds a key point:

Some critics will focus on the relatively small changes to federal health care programs here, but the President is essentially doing what progressives have been urging him to do for months — abandoning the strategy of pre-compromising, and planting his flag in a way that draws strong contrasts.

* Paul Ryan to Obama: Sorry, we’re the only ones allowed to draw hard lines: GOP Rep. Ryan, responding to Obama’s call for tax hikes on the rich:

“I thought we had a shot at bipartisanship; this new info leads me to second-guess myself ... We should hold our expectations down on the select committee.”

Wait, didn’t John Boehner also draw a hard line for the deficit supercommittee by ruling out tax hikes? Why yes, he did.

* What’s driving Obama’s newfound aggressiveness: Steve Kornacki says it’s all rooted in the expectation that Obama won’t be able to get any policies passed that will turn the economy around in time:

Since he can’t enact policies that will generate economic momentum in the next year, Obama’s only recourse is to do everything he possibly can to convince swing voters that their anxiety is mainly a product not of his own stewardship but of Republican obstructionism.

* DNC uses jobs bill for Hispanic outreach: The Democratic National Committee is up with a new Spanish-language TV spot in select markets in Nevada and Colorado that touts the American Jobs Act’s efforts to create jobs in the Hispanic community.

The spot targets Republicans for blocking his job-creation efforts, which is to say the Obama political operation is already working to stymie any efforts at GOP outreach to Latinos — and to stave off the defections some are predicting — in advance of 2012.

* Are Hispanics deserting Obama? As Chris Cillizza notes, Hispanics may be drifting from Obama’s fold precisely because they are among those hardest hit by the faltering economy. Hence the new ads.

* Dems eying Rubio for Veep: The stepped-up Hispanic outreach is also probably a reflection of the fact that many Republicans see Marco Rubio as a very likely Veep candidate choice.

* And the folly of austerity: Great line from Paul Krugman, on the fundamental absurdity underlying austerity as economic policy:

Somehow, businesses and consumers seem much more concerned about the lack of customers and jobs, respectively, than they are reassured by the fiscal righteousness of their governments. And growth seems to be stalling, while unemployment remains disastrously high on both sides of the Atlantic.

What else is happening?

By  |  08:53 AM ET, 09/19/2011

 
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