Jonathan Rauch has some advice for how President Obama could save his reelection:
A big legislative proposal can frame the issue and paint Obama’s intentions in bold colors. It should include three elements:
1) Long-term fiscal retrenchment. The easiest and best way is to adopt the Simpson-Bowles deficit plan. The Simpson-Bowles commission’s recommendations have been established as a credible bipartisan solution. Adopting its plan outright would signal that Obama is not playing partisan games and would redress the (justified) criticism that he has finessed the deficit. Not least, Simpson-Bowles compares favorably on grounds of balance, economic plausibility and public appeal with the budget of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), which Romney endorsed.
2) Short-term economic stimulus. Republicans will howl about more spending. Let them. Stimulus measures make sense when unemployment is high and the world is teetering on the edge of a second recession. And provided they are coupled with a credible long-term retrenchment, they are politically and economically defensible. Such measures have a further political advantage: Obama and the Democrats would be running on what they believe is the right answer, instead of running away from it.
3) A two-year debt-limit extension. Declare that another debt-limit fiasco is unacceptable and demand that the issue be taken off the table. Let Republicans explain why they want to hold a gun to the economy’s head.
Here’s the thing: The White House already released this plan. It was called “Living Within Our Means and Investing in the Future: The President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction.”
They sent it to the Special Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction — better known as ‘the Supercommittee’ — back in September 2011. It included a large short-term stimulus in the form of the American Jobs Act, a longer-term fiscal retrenchment component based loosely on Simpson-Bowles, and, because the ‘Supercommittee’ was empowered to raise the debt ceiling when it greenlighted a plan, an end to further debt-ceiling shenanigans. You can read the whole thing here (pdf). The White House continued to push this proposal in its 2013 budget, which included most of the stimulus and deficit-reduction proposals included in this plan.
Rauch’s broad argument here is correct: Obama would be better off if the American people had a clearer sense of his policy agenda going forward. And the Obama campaign agrees: That’s why they’ve repeatedly tried to get both voters and the media to pay attention to these proposals — the American Jobs Act was launched in a prime-time speech to a Joint Session of Congress, for instance. But they haven’t had much success. Even very smart, very plugged-in members of the political media don’t seem fully aware of what the Obama administration has proposed.
Why that’s the case is an interesting – and bipartisan — question. At his news conference this morning, Mitt Romney evinced a very similar frustration, scolding a reporter who asked why his campaign has been light on policy specifics but evinced no knowledge of the 87-page jobs plan Romney released back in September 2011.