The Obama strategy of bipartisanship is starting to make itself a little more clear. The President wants the GOP to be no where near a room where decisions are made on what he thinks will be popular programs and initiatives, but if it's going to be something unpopular, or require an unpopular action, he'd like the cover of bipartisan support.
That was the idea behind the Deficit Reduction Task force. It was to be made up of a group of Senators and Congressmen from both parties, slightly weight to the Democrats and their majority. The group would come up with a list of budget fixing ideas, vote on them with a bare majority needed to pass the group, then present them to Congress as a "bipartisan fix".
The reason for the task force is easy, the Democrats, specifically the President, want the cover of bipartisanship before they present a laundry list of tax increases they believe are necessary to fix the budget.
The President's problem is that the Senate Republicans saw through that smokescreen and said no, and probably shockingly to the President, the left is balking also. It seems they don't want the GOP involved in any negotiations on how to fix Social Security and Medicare, which have to be on the table to fix the budget.
Welcome to reality Mr. President, and your lack of gravitas in the Congressional arena is beginning to show. It appears that the reality that you can't freeze discretionary spending and balance a budget that's off by a trillion bucks has set in. Now, faced with a tough choice on how to do it, instead of making a decision and presenting it, you've once again tried to defer to others, this time though, they aren't so willing to do your bidding.
The truth is health care reform is going to seem like a walk in the park compared to fixing the structural imbalance in our budgets. While Pelosi and Reid are more than happy to be your point folks on health care, that's because that project can be spun as a positive, even with it's tax increases.
Fixing the budget, though, can't be spun that way. Tough cuts have to happen, and tax increases, especially the payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security, will probably have to be part of the equation. Along with them is a likely cut of some sort in benefits. Pelosi and Reid can already see the commercials come election time, and don't like them, so they won't be giving you the cover you want.
So what should the President do? Well, Wednesday he's got the bully pulpit of his State of the Union address. That would be a good place to challenge Congress to come up with a plan for fixing the budget. His proposed freezes starting in 2011 are a nice gesture, but they aren't enough to do any real good. He should propose a few specific cuts in the budget as places to start.
My guess is he won't. Mr. Obama has proven one thing his first year in office, when it comes to talking he's got a huge game. When it comes to leading, making decisions, and getting the ball rolling in the right direction, he can't do it, and won't be pushed into it.
Labels: Barack Obama, Budget, Congress, Deficit Spending