The recent economic contraction — which was driven largely by reductions in defense spending — provides the perfect jumping off point for this case. There’s also the looming sequester cuts, which everyone agrees will scuttle the recovery if allowed to go forward. Obama has at times addressed the true nature of the relationship between government spending and economic recovery, though he sometimes couches it in careful language about having to avoid “self inflicted wounds.” I’m hoping Obama builds a much more extensive case explaining another of his oft-repeated phrases: “We can’t cut our way to prosperity.”
This would entail spelling out with total clarity that the GOP approach to the sequester — to replace it only with spending cuts, and no revenue increases — is not only uncompromising, but is also deeply wrongheaded, a profound threat to the recovery, and completely at odds with the approach to governing that carried the day in the last election.
In this context, it’s good to see, as Politico’s Glenn Thrush reports today, that Obama intends to be aggressive in his State of the Union speech. One person close to the drafting of the speech defined Obama’s approach to it with a 2,500 year old quote from Chinese war strategist Sun Tzu: “Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.”
If Obama makes good on the threat to be aggressive, there will be a great deal of gnashing of teeth among Republicans — and even neutral commentators — about his lack of “bipartisan outreach.” But Obama’s victory demonstrates that there is an emerging majority coalition of minorities, young voters, and college educated whites, especially women, that broadly shares his vision of governing. As Ron Brownstein recently detailed, this coalition is ascendant, and it is in Obama’s interests to keep speaking directly to these voters. His inaugural address, which laid out an expansive progressive vision that was all about reshaping the national debate around this coalition’s core priorities, was mocked by Republicans as too “liberal,” as speaking only to the base. But a majority of Americans, and a majority of self described moderates, ended up approving of it.
Obama just decisively won reelection against a party whose central argument was that we should get our fiscal problems under control with deep cuts to government alone and more tax cuts to wealthy job creators. He defeated that case with an argument for expanding, rather than contracting, government investment in the long term economic security of the middle class. There’s no need to shy away from a very aggressive delineation of the philosophical differences between the two parties — or from the case that the GOP’s only viable remaining course of action is to accept the need for meaningful compromise on the core policy questions at the heart of those differences.
As noted here recently, 16 Republicans who represent districts carried by Obama, and another 15 to 20 who represent suburban or partly suburban districts, are being eyed by Dems as possible backers of popular proposals such as expanded background checks. For too long Dems have treated the gun debate as a certain loser, so it’s good to see them proceeding from the assumption that the politics of it favor them.
Daily reminder: If Obama and Dems pass expanded background checks and a measure to crack down on trafficking, that will constitute getting two thirds of Obama’s gun agenda — a major achievement with or without the assault weapons ban.
* Republicans continue pretending Dems haven’t agreed to spending cuts: As Steve Benen details, the Sunday shows were alive with the echoes of Republicans continuing to claim that, hey, we have already raised taxes; now it’s time to avert the sequester only with spending cuts! I would refer these lawmakers to this chart, which neatly demonstrates that Democrats have agreed to significantly more in concessions towards deficit reduction than Republicans have.
The sequester was clearly an idea advanced by the White House in order to avoid a second debt ceiling showdown in Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. Thus, the sequester was structured to include only spending cuts — and to take effect after the election if the supercommittee was unable to reach a deal. But Republicans agreed to this plan and thus also are equally responsible for the looming across-the-board cuts, absent a bipartisan agreement to delay or change them.
I would add that the whole thing was only made necessary in the first place because Republicans took the step of using the debt ceiling — and the threat of widespread financial disaster — to get what they wanted.
[w]hile Democrats, being human, often read evidence selectively and choose to believe things that make them comfortable, there really isn’t anything equivalent to Republicans’ active hostility to collecting evidence in the first place. The truth is that America’s partisan divide runs much deeper than even pessimists are usually willing to admit; the parties aren’t just divided on values and policy views, they’re divided over epistemology. One side believes, at least in principle, in letting its policy views be shaped by facts; the other believes in suppressing the facts if they contradict its fixed beliefs.