Full speech transcript here.
This didn’t feel like a policy speech, even though it was sprinkled with policy ideas. The main focus and the meat of the speech came from Obama’s attack on the Ryan plan and the Ryan budget.
This felt like a rehearsal for 2012. The assumption is that whoever the GOP nominee is, that they will have to run on defending the Ryan budget, and that what the GOP wants to do is sacrifice old people in a draconian way to balance the budget.
Many on the both the right and the left have been hoping for these sorts of explicit comparisons to be made, both believe they can win on these issues.
There were hints of triangulation language, but Obama is not going to make running against his own party a key part of his campaign message.
Obama lays out his timeline, Biden will start meeting with congressional leaders and aim to get a proposal of out by June.
That might be optimistic.
Obama closes off arguing that even those who disagree with him at least want to do the right thing for the country. Pointed and strong critiques of the Ryan plan stills stand.
Liberals can be happy with his line on tax cuts: “I don’t need another tax cut, Warren Buffet doesn’t need another tax cut.”
But Obama does some triangulation, notes that some in his party don’t wan’t to cut spending at all in. Obama doesn’t really critique this wing of the party beyond saying [paraphrasing] “we have to do something about this problem.”
So there goes the Krugman endorsement.
Here is the comment from the speech itself:
But doing nothing on the deficit is just not an option. Our debt has grown so large that we could do real damage to the economy if we don’t begin a process now to get our fiscal house in order.
In the tax section, Obama states that he like some tax exemptions, such as the ones that let you own a house, but he doesn’t like the ones that millionaires and billionaires use.
This is not ideal policy. Not good for a President to come out and say “I am for subsidizing home ownership”.
Obama wants to have a Defense Department “review” of “America’s role in the world”. Coming after what has happened in Libya, this seems like this should lead to a much larger geo-strategic policy discussion. What are the reasons that the US will intervene in a foreign country? This is a question that wants a coherent answer.
On healthcare, Obama runs through a series of proposals for “reducing wasteful subsidies”, and also talks about “changing the way we pay for healthcare”. He also announces a new independent commission to look at ways to increase efficiencies.
Despite some of these policy proposals, much of Obama’s speech focuses on contrasting his efforts with Ryan and the GOP.
Obama: “There is nothing serious” about the Ryan tax cuts.
Says the Ryan plan is “not courageous” for making cuts to those who don’t have representation on capitol hill.
If the GOP wanted to compare and contrast their approach with Obama’s, then they got it. DNC operatives are probably very happy with this.
Obama begins laying into the Ryan plan, he is not mincing words. His focus is on medicare, describes the Ryan plan as a voucher program and argues that the GOP is essentially leaving old people without care in order to balance the deficit.
Again, more rhetorical ammo for liberals, but will they actually like his proposals?
As a side note, there are some odd rhetorical choices being made in the speech. Obama credits Brazil for having cars that run on ethanol, but that is not an entitlement problem, thats an agricultural policy problem. (One that Tom Coburn is trying to fix.)
Here are the lines that pundits will like: Obama says that foreign aid “takes up only 1% of the budget”. Obama goes on to state how entitlements and interest on the debt takes up most of the budget.
This is a section that liberal commentators are calling an “adult conversation” from the President.
Conservatives would likely point out that Ryan began tackling those sacred cows first, and more forthrightly.
Obama gives his speech a historical framing. Briefly summarized, the view is:
-In the 80′s we started to go into debt.
-So in the 90′s we got serious about it.
-But then in the 2000′s, we lost our way.
-And when I came into office, I had to spend to deal with the financial emergency.
It is a critique of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush but Obama avoids calling them out by name, even though that is who he is referring to.
Obama gives a short explanation of why the problem should be solved, cites how in 2025, interest on the debt and entitlements crowd out all other spending. A similar point has been made by Paul Ryan.
Obama begins his speech by making the case for government as a means to deal with unforeseen externalities. Says Medicare, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, etc. all are meant to deal with the unforeseen in people’s lives.
He says “We’re a better country because of these commitments.”
So that must be the necessary rhetorical bone to the left before he has to say how he plans to keep those programs financed.
Obama begins by citing the “outstanding” members of the fiscal commission who are in the audience. (Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson)
An endorsement of their work? To prepare for endorsing some of their proposals?
(Update: Bowles-Simpson does not get cited by name in the speech.)
Sam Stein tweets at 1:43pm that “the presidential motorcade is making its way down penns. avenue right now.”
We will be liveblogging the President’s debt reduction speech from the FrumForum offices. The speech is expected to lay out a plan for entitlement reform coupled with tax increases. The speech starts at 1:30pm.
We will be watching to see how Obama will contrast his proposals with the GOP budget presented by Paul Ryan.
Details will be presented as they are made, but we already know that the President aims to cut $4 trillion from the deficit over 12 years.