Thoughts on Obama’s SOTU speech
Whenever I would ask folks at the White House about how they planned on dealing with America’s long-term debt problem, they would more or less tell me the same thing: “Wait for the deficit commission.” Well, Obama’s panel has come and gone. And in his speech last night, he failed to explicitly endorse any of its budget-cutting recommendations. This part particularly frosted my pumpkin:
The bipartisan Fiscal Commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I don’t agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress. And their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it – in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending and spending through tax breaks and loopholes. … To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.
What, did Obama not check his in-box? His bipartisan commission gave him a Social Security fix, not to mention a host of other ideas. Now perhaps this is all about some grand negotiating strategy. But it sure seems like the White House has clearly decided that a “pro-growth” message will serve Obama well in his 2012 reelection bid, with the Sputnik space race reference meant to evoke the can-do 1960s. To hammer home the point, Obama emphasized the need to keep investing in the “Apollo projects” of today. In other words, let the GOP be the Party of Austerity and root-canal economics. Except, sunny and smiling Paul Ryan refused to play the role. He gave a common-sense perspective on the budget deficit, an issue which the 2010 midterm results suggest is a big one with many Americans.
Yes, the corporate tax cut stuff was pretty good. But nothing in the speech hinted at any sweeping tax and spending reforms on the horizon. Maybe with Obama’s approval ratings back over 50 percent, the White House thinks it can afford a cut-and-paste agenda and squeeze out a 51-48 victory in 2012. A nod to tort reform here, more R&D investment there. More to come later …