In his press conference today, President Obama acknowledged that our financial situation “means we have to tackle entitlements, as long as we keep faith with seniors and children with disabilities by maintaining the fundamental security that Medicare and Medicaid provide.”
But here’s the kernel of his comments:
“It would be nice if we could keep every tax break there is. But we’ve got to make some tough choices here if we want to reduce our deficit. If we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, if we choose to keep a tax break for corporate jet owners, if we choose to keep tax breaks for oil and gas companies that are making hundreds of billions of dollars, then that means we’ve got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship. That means we’ve got to stop funding certain grants for medical research. That means that food safety may be compromised. That means that Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden. Those are the choices that we have to make.
So the bottom line is this: Any agreement to reduce our deficit is going to require tough decisions and balanced solutions. And before we ask our seniors to pay more for health care, before we cut our children’s education, before we sacrifice our commitment to the research and innovation that will help create more jobs in the economy, I think it’s only fair to ask an oil company or corporate jet owner who has done so well to give up that tax break that no other business enjoys. I don’t think that’s real radical. I think the majority of Americans agree with that….
I think that what we’ve seen in negotiations here in Washington is a lot of people say a lot of things to satisfy their base or to get on cable news, but that, hopefully, leaders at a certain point rise to the occasion and they do the right thing for the American people. And that’s what I expect to happen this time. Call me naive, but my expectation is, leaders are going to lead.
Now I just want to be clear about what’s at stake here: Republicans say they want to reduce the deficit. Every single observer who’s not an elected official, who’s not a politician, says we can’t reduce our deficit in the scale and scope that we need to, without having a balanced approach that looks at everything.
Democrats have to accept some painful spending cuts that hurt some of our constituencies and we may not like it, and we’ve shown a willingness to do that for the greater good, to say there are good programs that are nice to have but we can’t afford them right now. I as the commander in chief have to have difficult conversations with the Pentagon saying you know what, there’s fat here, we’re going to have to trim it out.
…. the question is, if everyone else is willing to do the tough things and take on their sacred cows and do tough things in order to achieve the goal of real deficit reduction, then I think it would be hard for the Republicans to stand there and say that the tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important that we’re not willing to come to the table and get a deal done. Or we’re so concerned about oil and gas subsidies for oil companies that are making money hand over fist — that’s the reason we’re not going to come to a deal. I don’t think that’s a sustainable position.”
I don’t think that position is sustainable either. However, the key to ensuring that it is not sustainable is to keep explaining, clearly and forthrightly, what the Republican position really is.
The president did a good job in laying out the facts today. He has to do an equally good job tomorrow, and the next day. The message is accurate, honest, convincing and important. It just has to be communicated.
– Jay Bookman