“[T]he tax issue is finished, over, completed,” said the Kentucky Republican, during an appearance on ABC’s "This Week." "That's behind us. Now the question is, what are we going to do about the biggest problem confronting our country and our future? And that's our spending addiction. It's time to confront it. The president surely knows that.McConnell, having conceded on the tax issue during the first phase, now appears ready to go down swinging. The question is whether the Democrats plan to fight with the same passion. That is a difficult one to answer. Consider this description of the president's stance from Sam Stein:
I mean, he has mentioned it both publicly and privately. The time to confront it is now."
The president has said that he will not make major entitlement reforms or spending cuts during those negotiations unless it is part of a balanced approach.Read that closely and consider the latter phrase -- "unless it is part of a balanced approach" -- and tell me that the Democrats have taken Social Security and Medicare off the table.
And read this, from the transcript of the president's remarks yesterday:
I believe we can find more places to cut spending without shortchanging things like education, job training, research and technology all which are critical to our prosperity in a 21st century economy. But spending cuts must be balanced with more reforms to our tax code. The wealthiest individuals and the biggest corporations shouldn’t be able to take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren’t available to most Americans.More places to cut, he says. And he won't shortchange education, job training, research and technology. Not a word about Social Security. Nothing on Medicare and Medicaid. Well, not this week. Go back a week -- to Tuesday, when he signed legislation the much-lauded tax deal:
I want to make this point: As I've demonstrated throughout the past several weeks, I am very open to compromise. I agree with Democrats and Republicans that the aging population and the rising cost of health care makes Medicare the biggest contributor to our deficit. I believe we've got to find ways to reform that program without hurting seniors who count on it to survive. And I believe that there’s further unnecessary spending in government that we can eliminate.The president has shown a willingness in the past to put the major entitlement programs on the table -- most recently when he signaled a willingness to enact a "chained" consumer price index (this allows for the substitution of cheaper products and slows cost-of-living increases for seniors, which essentially would be a cut in benefits).
The president is a natural conciliator, a compromiser to his core. Unless it can be made clear that his legacy will be damaged by entitlement cuts and unless Democrats more generally are made to fear reprisals, there is a good chance that they will do the wrong thing. Obama has said as much, challenging his base on more than one occasion, using the quotation often attributed to FDR, to make him do it. The left needs to be louder than the Tea Party. It needs to make it clear that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid should not be touched -- unless it means that all three programs are expanded.