With $580 billion in cuts to mandatory spending, $1.1 trillion in savings from the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, and $1.5 trillion in tax increases on the wealthiest Americans, President Obama’s recommendations to the Super Committee – unveiled this morning in a speech at the White House – are the most liberal deficit-reduction proposals in a debate dominated by demands for deep spending cuts.
In practical terms, this ensures that it will never pass Congress. Between the Republican Study Committee and Representative Paul Ryan’s budget proposals, House Republicans are committing themselves to dismantling entitlements, slashing discretionary spending to the bone, and spreading the wealth to the richest Americans. These Republicans, and their colleagues in the Senate, would never accept a proposal that calls for the rich to pay their “fair share.” Indeed, as far as congressional Republicans are concerned, a return to Clinton-era tax rates amounts to “class warfare” on high-income earners. “Class warfare will simply divide this country more. It will attack job creators, divide people, and it doesn’t grow the economy,” said Rep. Paul Ryan last night on FOX News Sunday.
Of course, with his constant demand that the rich must pay their fair share, it’s clear that President Obama is less concerned with passing a bill through Congress and more interested in drawing sharp contrasts with the GOP in preparation for the 2012 election. For Obama, lawmakers who pledge never to raise taxes on the rich “should be called out. They should have to defend that unfairness.” To ask the wealthy to pay higher taxes after a decade of tax cuts isn’t an unreasonable burden -- “This is not class warfare,” Obama said, “it’s math.”
It helps that voters want Obama to stand strong against Republican extremism. In a recent survey, the Pew Research Center found that 37 percent of Americans want Obama to challenge the GOP more often. As a whole, Democrats are desperate for the president to stand up to the GOP – 57 percent want him to be more forceful. To that end, President Obama has entered this battle with more than just words – in his speech, he pledged to veto any deficit reduction plan from Congress that cuts entitlements without also raising taxes on the wealthy, “We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable.”
In other words, the question for this proposal isn’t whether it will pass Congress (it won’t), but whether it will bolster Obama’s standing with Democratic voters, and move public opinion in his direction. The poor economy suggests otherwise, but given the deep unpopularity of the Republican Party, this might push Obama’s approval in the right direction.