Obama Promotes Republican Framing
The President has taken several steps to revive the credibility of failed Republican economic strategies. Together, this has blurred understanding of how these strategies increased unemployment, worsened inequality, and caused a colossal economic calamity.
- Obama created a bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Deficit Commission, despite polls at the time showing the public was not concerned about deficits.
- He caved in to Republican demands that tax cuts comprise a significant portion of his stimulus package, despite the incredible political momentum he and Democrats had early in his presidency.
- He put cuts to Social Security and Medicare on the table, despite little support for this approach among Democrats.
- Obama’s unilateral announcement freezing the pay of federal workers for two years lent credence to Republican attacks on public employees nationwide. It also undermined a constituency that includes a higher percentage of African-Americans than the overall workforce, and which strongly backed Obama in 2008.
- His controversial deal extending tax cuts for the rich, defended by many Democrats as essential to also helping the long-term unemployed, played exactly into the Republican Party’s budget-cutting strategy. Now we have the President proposing major cuts in Community Development Block Grants, home heating oil assistance, Community Service Grants and other programs that most progressives believe should instead be increased.
Obama could have defiantly refused such domestic cuts, or at least not set the goal posts where a 7.5% cut in CDBG is not the starting point for negotiations. But having worsened the budget deficit by his tax-cut deal, he had to find money somewhere.
Unfortunately, that place is not the bloated military budget, where the massive Bush spending increases and the costly war in Afghanistan continues to take priority over under-funded domestic programs. The type of programs strongly backed by those walking the streets and making phone calls for candidate Obama in 2008.
In 1995, the United States was on the verge of a “dot-com” boom that boosted government revenues and reduced the federal deficit without reducing domestic spending. Absent a similar technological boost, President Obama’s own emphasis on cutting spending ensures even worse domestic budgets in future years.
So when we wonder why Americans would back a failed Republican economic strategy over one that Democrat Clinton proved successful, the buck stops at President Obama. Instead of constantly distinguishing an economic policy focusing on jobs and investment from one centered on tax and spending cuts, Obama has almost relentlessly blurred the difference.
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