Today we are getting more details about President Obama’s planned speech Wednesday night on deficit reduction. The Washington Post is reporting that the President will use the Bowles-Simpson plan, which failed to be passed by the bipartisan Catfood Commission, as his template for deficit reduction. Throw in a Wall Street Journal article on the administration’s willingness to add deficit reduction provisions to a deal with the Republicans raising the debt ceiling and the White House’s commitment to cutting the deficit through cutting spending should be clear. After all, the President wouldn’t have put together the Catfood Commission if he didn’t plan to use it as a policy vehicle at some point.
I’m sure Wednesday’s speech will be met by a similar range of unthinking Beltway pundits talking about how equally Serious President Obama is next to Congressman Paul Ryan. The outsides of the debate will be set and I’d expect the actual lack of legitimized liberal deficit plans will ensure that whatever the President proposes, we will get something to its right in the end. Digby writes:
The leftward position is tepid market-oriented compromises coming out of the gate. Better than Ryan, of course. But hardly a position that could balance the rightward yank that Ryan and the Simpson Bowles atrocity have given us or serve as an opening ante. The problem, unfortunately, is that when anyone sets forth a truly liberal plan like Cohn proposes, they are not only met with shrieks of horror from conservatives, establishment liberals and Democratic third-way centrists stalk them like a pack of hyenas and marginalize them as outside the “mainstream” and assure everyone who will listen that they are not “serious.” You may have noticed that Paul Ryan’s lunacy is not similarly treated by his own. Indeed, it’s not even similarly treated that way by liberals. Just try to imagine a plan like the one Cohn describes being hailed as “courageous” (even though it surely would be.) Yeah, I know. Shrill.
The fact is that there is no liberal establishment willing to validate liberalism. Indeed, for reasons only they can tell us, they almost always go out of their way to exclude anyone who can readily be identified as a person of the left and rush before the cameras and into print to reassure America that they have no support. I have my theories about why that might be, but suffice to say it’s a fairly easily documented phenomenon. There is simply no space in the establishment political dialog for explicitly left policy or rhetoric.
The key here is that the President is not seeking to change a dynamic that he is perfectly happy with. Again, he pulled together the Catfood Commission. We could have liberal ideas, if the leaders of the Democratic Party wanted there to be liberal ideas. Instead, Third Way, Goldman Sachs, and Citibank are the main pipelines for staff into (and out of) the administration.
I don’t know what the solution here is. In the near term, Nancy Pelosi is likely the most important Democrat in the country for those people who want to stop austerity, stop cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid, and have a shot at stopping tax cuts for millionaires. But the tension between liberals in the House and the President is glaring; the conflict of ideas dramatically reduces the chances that these programs be preserved as-is.