Felicia Muftic: Obama gives the GOP what it asked for
Grand County, CO Colorado
Be careful what you wish. For the past year, the GOP has criticized President Obama for weak leadership and they have stonewalled every attempt he has made to be the adult in the room. They have dared him to take stands on deficit reduction and job creation, hoping his proposals would be unpopular. They openly wished he would fail and they tried to strategize every way they could to fulfill their prophesy.
Obama finally took their bait to take leadership after it became clearer where the center and the left had registered their preferences as reflected in the polls. In the past two weeks he grabbed the GOP hook, providing both long- and short-term proposals, ran away with it, and kicked off a substantive tug of war between a Republican Party captured by Tea Party fanatics and his base to see who could reel in the independents in 2012.
It is no more Mr. Nice guy. While the president challenged the GOP to come up with short-term job-creating solutions, he provided his plan and drew his line in the sand. Republican House Speaker John Boehner immediately dismissed Obama’s job plan as gimmicks. He took tax cuts off the table in advance, and dared the president to present his proposals for long term debt reduction. Monday, the president did just that providing long-term proposals, and he made it clear he would veto any GOP legislation that tried to reduce the deficit on the backs of entitlements without raising taxes on the rich and making their percentage paid equal to the middle class.
The GOP is now left to defend their proposals for job creation and deficit reduction that polls show are not where most of the voters are. Republican proposals may warm the heart of their base, but they need more than the affection of the Tea Party to win in 2012.
The GOP has banked its success over the past year on making deficit reduction a priority. Polls show that voters overwhelmingly place job creation over deficit reduction because that is where their pain is felt and the reason consumer and industrial production demand is lacking. The GOP has gamely tried to tie job creation exclusively to long term deficit reduction plans based solely on cutting federal services and keeping taxes on the rich low. No expert mainstream, independent numbers cruncher believes that is possible.
The GOP claims tax increases are job killers. It isn’t necessarily so, as one Democratic spokesperson pointed out Monday morning. Both Reagan and Clinton increased taxes, and employment figures improved; when Bush cut taxes to the rich, jobs were lost. The burden on the GOP will be to convince voters that tax cuts to the rich will trickle down to create jobs in the short term, not some time in the distant future, if ever.
Both House Republicans and GOP candidates have dug themselves into an unpopular hole by proposing deficit reductions that would cut popular programs such as Medicare, either by raising eligibility ages or requiring future seniors to pay in $6,000 more per year, claiming Social Security was a fraud or unconstitutional, or requiring seniors to risk their Social Security in Wall Street investments.
Letting states fund entitlements is another proposal that is pretty hard to swallow. Many financially strapped states cannot even pay for teachers’ and firefighters’ salaries.
The president on the other hand Monday left Social Security alone, but he proposed alternatives to Medicare that would leave benefits to seniors unchanged by using other cost cutting measures. He still needs to detail a plan to keep Social Security solvent and he promised he would handle it separately since it is not a deficit related issue at this time. We can bet his solution will not be to privatize it or to palm it off to the states.
One thing the GOP cannot claim any more is that Obama is a weak leader. He showed ’em.
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