President Barack Obama writes in USA Today that he still thinks now is the time to address the deficit in a “big and meaningful” way — even though the president has yet to propose a concrete plan and the debt ceiling deadline is little more than a week away.
In the op-ed, the president’s words sound measured and reasonable, but they gloss over the inconvenient reality that the president said he would veto the only “big and meaningful” plan that was on the table — the Cut, Cap and Balance legislation that had the support of the vast majority of Americans, but still failed the Senate this morning.
The president emphasized the importance of spending cuts and entitlement reform, but he also reiterated his calls for a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction.
Yes, we should make serious spending cuts. But we should also ask the wealthiest individuals and biggest corporations to pay their fair share through fundamental tax reform. Before we stop funding clean energy research, we should ask oil companies and corporate jet owners to give up the tax breaks that other companies don’t get. Before we ask college students to pay more, we should ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries. Before we ask seniors to pay more for Medicare, we should ask people like me to give up tax breaks they don’t need and never asked for. …
A balanced deficit deal that includes some new revenues isn’t just a Democratic position. It’s a position that has been taken by everyone from Warren Buffett to Bill O’Reilly. It’s a position that was taken this week by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, who worked together on a promising plan of their own. And it’s been the position of every Democratic and Republican leader who has worked to reduce the deficit in their time, from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton.
The president’s claims of bipartisanship sound nice, but they’re not perfectly accurate. Bill O’Reilly, for example, has supported closing certain loopholes in the tax code, lowering income tax rates and implementing a sales tax of 1 percent or so — but he hasn’t exactly been on his show night after night arguing for tax hikes.
“I don’t know what President Obama is referring to, but we’ve been pretty consistent in telling everyone the tax code has to be reformed,” O’Reilly said this morning on Fox News in response to the president’s op-ed. “I’m mad at both the left and the right here because they’re both not listening to what I have to say. … [What the president wrote] is not accurate in the sense that I’m advocating any tax rate hikes. They’re parsing. … It’s all a bunch of games. Both sides play games. … We the American people can strengthen the nation by being smart, by surgical revenue enhancers and at the same time drastic spending cuts.”
In general, the president’s op-ed amounts to the same old tired suggestions — and still no real plan. It’d be one thing if the Gang of Six plan had been prepared weeks in advance, if Congress had had time to debate and amend it, if the American people had had a chance to appraise it — then the president would have been perfectly justified in speaking of it as “a promising plan.” The McConnell compromise, of course, isn’t a deficit reduction package at all. As it is, the president and the Senate said “no” to the only plan that was prepared ahead of the deadline (a deadline the president has insisted is hard and fast!).
Update: This post was written before the Senate failed CCB, but published after the Senate vote, so it originally made it sound like the Senate hadn’t yet voted. It has been updated to reflect the outcome of the Senate vote.