Monday, July 11, 2011

Notes on "A Presidential Address on the Debt Ceiling Negotiations"

I began writing this on Friday just after hearing the terrible jobs report. The reaction at xpostfactoid was to wonder "Good God, is this the day the Obama presidency died?" I don't know that it died, but it's been made clear that it's in jeopardy. It's time for Obama to go back to the themes of his campaign and show some vulnerability and honesty. The unemployment report really emphasizes the danger of a second recession and should be a wake-up call to everyone involved in the debt ceiling negotiations. It is an opportunity to re-frame the debate and revisit the question of how wise massive spending cuts really are. Of course by late afternoon Eric Cantor said that it was a sign that the deficit had to be reduced solely through spending cuts, so... so much for that.

I wrote this speech realizing that there are a lot of unknowns. Depending on the progress of private negotiations these statements might not make sense to deliver. There's definitely room left in the speech to talk about Medicare and Social Security, either to defend cuts or reject them. The real goal I had was to try shifting the debate. We're hearing a lot of back and forth, without the focus on jobs either party should have. I made the point in a comment on another xpostfactoid post, that Obama's accepted the premise that resolving the deficit is the most important issue. It's not- he should never talk about anything besides the economy and jobs. He's being goaded by Congress, but he's not going to be running against Congress in 2012. Mitt Romney's visiting factories where Obama heralded the stimulus package, and which has since been closed down. The crowds like that don't care about deficits.

A few specifics on the speech itself: I replaced "deficit reduction" and similar phrases with "government spending" when talking about negotiations thus far. The Republicans are refusing to talk about revenue; they don't really care about the deficit (as should be obvious from Boehner walking away from a large deal in favor of a small one), they care about crippling government. Government spending creates jobs and contributes to the GDP, so I think the distinction is important. Also, he shouldn't give this speech alone from the Oval Office or the East Wing. He needs a crowd. Originally I wrote it with a joint session of Congress in mind, but nixed that idea (don't need the potential for any "you lie" nonsense overshadowing the speech). So probably something more like the news conference setting of today's remarks.

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