Unfortunately, Obama has been playing a waiting game on fiscal issues ever since he became president. He didn’t formulate a plan for long-term solvency partly because he didn’t want to give up the political weapon of Social Security before the 2012 election; he didn’t fully embrace the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan for the same reason. “Too early,” said his aides. He didn’t talk honestly about the deficit problem during the campaign, either. And although Obama finally offered in last month’s discussions with Boehner to revise the cost-of-living adjustment to Social Security, he retreated after the Plan B debacle.
Let’s assume it was tactically smart for Obama to play politics with the deficit issue through the campaign. Having won, Obama should quickly have taken the high ground and urged the fiscal reforms that every thoughtful member of his team knows are necessary. Instead, he chose the small-bore approach of continuing to focus almost entirely on his campaign pledge that tax rates had to go up for the wealthiest Americans. Okay, he got that. Now what?