My CBPP colleague Bob Greenstein provides an important warning here about how the President’s entry in the current budget negotiations risks rightward drift. The key point: the compromise position must NOT be taken as a new pole staking out one side in the debate. It must be taken as what it is…a compromise between existing poles.
…if one sets up a playing field where the new Obama budget is one pole and the current Republican no-tax, deep-spending-cut position the other — and presents the halfway point between them as a logical compromise — the result is to ask President Obama and the Democrats to accept an outcome well to the right of Speaker Boehner’s offer in December. That won’t happen, and it shouldn’t happen if policymakers are to produce a fair and balanced package.
Operationally, a lot of what happens next—or more likely, doesn’t happen—depends on the White House sticking to their position that what they’re offering on Wednesday is not a menu of options. It’s a package. You want entitlement cuts, you give on revenues. And I believe they will stick.
I fully understand and genuninely share some of my fellow political travelers’ negative reactions to what’s been leaked of the admin’s budget. As one friend said this weekend, “we don’t need Democrats to cut entitlements; we’ve got Republicans for that.” But the fact is that team Obama wants a) a “grand bargain” where D’s get new revs and R’s get cuts to social insurance, and b) to move the debate out of the fiscal crisis mode that’s been the norm for years now.
I’m not sure you can get there—to “b,” i.e., out of crisis mode—from here with this budget and these players, but that’s the right destination. And to avoid being too much of a wuss, I should say that I don’t necessarily agree with my friend. There are cuts that could be made in such a way as to protect vulnerable beneficiaries. That said, a) I wouldn’t lead with them, b) I probably wouldn’t try to go there with this Congress (I just don’t trust them a whit to protect social insurance), and c) re Social Security, I’d raise the earnings cap before I put benefit cuts on the table.