The most important political event yesterday didn't occur in Wisconsin, but in Washington, DC, where Barack Obama signaled that spring training is over and threw out the first pitch of the political. Mitt Romney took yet another step toward mathematical certainty in his quest for the nomination with his triple win, but Rick Santorum refuses to sing, so it's Groundhog Day for the Republicans: Once again, it's over, but not finally. Meanwhile, Obama gave a great speech at the Associated Press luncheon where he laid out his general-election message.
It is worth reading not because it will be read and remembered by even a fraction of the American people in its entirety, but rather, it contains many individual pieces of Obama's argument that he will recycle in interviews, rallies and ads for the rest of the campaign.The president was relaxed and funny, even delivering some good digs at Romney's elitism when he noted that the former governor had called Paul Ryan's budget "marvelous." The president noted, dryly, that "marvelous" isn't a word you hear very often describing a budget, or even a word you hear at all very often.
The president laid out his vision for a balanced approach, eliminating regulations that don't work, while preserving those that protect workers and the environment; cutting wisely and raising revenue to reduce the deficit while investing in education, research and infrastructure to grow the economy and ensure opportunity. He contrasted this approach with that of the Republicans, as outlined in the Ryan budget, which recently passed the House. After saying that today's Republican mainstream economic ideas make the "Contract With America" look like the New Deal, the president said this:
For much of the last century, we have been having the same argument with folks who keep peddling some version of trickle-down economics. They keep telling us that if we’d convert more of our investments in education and research and health care into tax cuts — especially for the wealthy — our economy will grow stronger. They keep telling us that if we’d just strip away more regulations, and let businesses pollute more and treat workers and consumers with impunity, that somehow we’d all be better off. We’re told that when the wealthy become even wealthier, and corporations are allowed to maximize their profits by whatever means necessary, it’s good for America, and that their success will automatically translate into more jobs and prosperity for everybody else. That’s the theory.
Now, the problem for advocates of this theory is that we’ve tried their approach — on a massive scale. The results of their experiment are there for all to see. At the beginning of the last decade, the wealthiest Americans received a huge tax cut in 2001 and another huge tax cut in 2003. We were promised that these tax cuts would lead to faster job growth. They did not. The wealthy got wealthier -- we would expect that. The income of the top 1 percent has grown by more than 275 percent over the last few decades, to an average of $1.3 million a year. But prosperity sure didn't trickle down.
The president is no longer the chosen one. He has a record that has some real achievements and some disappointments. He has been too timid at times in driving the vision that he outlined so eloquently yesterday. But he has been given a gift, the gift of a Republican Party that has doubled down on failure.