Obama: It’ll be “messy,” but “I am absolutely confident” we can reach a grand deficit deal

posted at 4:01 pm on October 24, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

Ed already recapped the dustup between Team/President Obama and the editors of the Des Moines Register, among the more influential publications in the battleground state of Iowa (which the president also happens to be barnstorming during his campaign travels today), that finally resulted in campaign officials releasing a transcript of the phone interview to the publication. Why an interview meant to potentially bolster an endorsement from the DMR needed to be secretive in the first place remains a mystery, and I’m not sure what the big deal was since — according to the transcript — the chat seemed like just more of the usual bunk and a jumping-off platform for Obama’s lame-by-consensus last-moment second-term agenda.

Q: Great. Mr. President, we know that John Boehner and the House Republicans have not been easy to work with, and certainly you’ve had some obstacles in the Senate, even though it’s been controlled by the Democrats. At the time, whenever — we talked a lot about, in 2008, hope and change. I’m curious about what you see your role is in terms of changing the tone and the perception that Washington is broken. But particularly, sir, if you were granted a second term, how do you implode this partisan gridlock that has gripped Washington and Congress and basically our entire political structure right now?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Rick, let me answer you short term and long term. In the short term, the good news is that there’s going to be a forcing mechanism to deal with what is the central ideological argument in Washington right now, and that is: How much government do we have and how do we pay for it?

So when you combine the Bush tax cuts expiring, the sequester in place, the commitment of both myself and my opponent — at least Governor Romney claims that he wants to reduce the deficit — but we’re going to be in a position where I believe in the first six months we are going to solve that big piece of business.

It will probably be messy. It won’t be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs.

If President Obama is reelected and the status of our executive and legislative branches stays unchanged, I’m not sure how or why O’s hitherto unbeknownst leadership skills will magically mean that everything’s okay, but yes, let’s please do talk about how we’re going to pay for all of this. Because, if hiking taxes on the upper echelons of earners is what’s supposed to make this all possible, er… via the WSJ:

Perhaps you’ve heard that the President wants to raise taxes on the top 2% of U.S. taxpayers. If you haven’t, well, the pamphlet mentions that once or twice. Left unsaid is that this plan increases revenue only between $50 billion and $80 billion a year, a rounding error in the $1 trillion-plus deficit era. Mr. Obama does claim to have a plan to reduce the gap by $4 trillion over the next decade. Mostly this comes from unwinding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are already being unwound and assorted budget gimmicks.

But what about a grand budget bargain? Won’t that be Mr. Obama’s crowning second-term achievement? The pamphlet’s sections on health care and entitlements show that his real budget priority is to preserve all of the government he expanded in the first term.

Also of note in the DMR interview, from the president:

The second thing I’m confident we’ll get done next year is immigration reform. And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community. And this is a relatively new phenomenon. George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America. And so I am fairly confident that they’re going to have a deep interest in getting that done. And I want to get it done because it’s the right thing to do and I’ve cared about this ever since I ran back in 2008.

Well, that’s not much of a secret, either — John McCain did do better with Latinos generally, New Mexico, etcetera in 2008, but I think Obama is winning by default on this one rather than being a grand champion. He somehow never managed to make an issue out of immigration reform during the foreign policy debate, and in an interview with Univision earlier this fall, he told the audience that his “biggest failure” was not passing immigration reform earlier in his presidency… when he was unimpeded by a split Congress.

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