President Obama would have this election in the bag, according to a number of leading columnists, if only he would act more like President Obama.
A number of pundits are turning up the volume on demands that the White House offer a jobs plan based on new infrastructure spending, a long-term deficit plan that includes taxes and entitlement cuts and a market-based health care plan, among other requests. Obama will have a hard time taking their advice, however, given that he’s already proposed those very ideas.
In Friday’s Washington Post, Jonathan Rauch penned an op-ed recommending “A plan that offers Obama a fighting chance.” It called on the president to give a speech outlining a new bill that would include “long-term fiscal retrenchment,” ideally a combination of new taxes and entitlement cuts along the lines of the Bowles-Simpson plan, “short-term economic stimulus” and an extension of the debt ceiling without any further conditions. Never mind that the Republicans won’t pass it, Rauch argued, the key is that it will offer up a clear contrast:
Setting forth a boldly enunciated, easily graspable program puts Obama in a stronger position to criticize Romney’s plan as dangerously contractionary. Instead of going for Romney’s capillaries (his years-old record as governor; his even-older record at Bain Capital), Obama could go for the jugular by drawing a contrast that should be at the campaign’s core: The Republicans’ mistimed, precipitous austerity threatens to bring on another recession.
Sounds great, except as the Post’s own Ezra Klein noted, the president is already running that campaign.
Here’s a report from Reuters on a primetime speech Obama gave in September 2011 proposing a bill — with little hope of passing — called the American Jobs Act, a $447 billion stimulus package that the president said should be passed in conjunction with large, balanced deficit-reduction package:
President Barack Obama laid out a $3.6 trillion plan on Monday to cut budget deficits partly by raising taxes on the rich, but Republicans rejected it as a political stunt and made clear the proposal has little chance of becoming law.
Obama vowed to veto any plan that relies solely on spending cuts to reduce deficits, the Democratic president’s recommendations set the stage for an ideological fight with Republicans opposed to tax increases that will stretch through Election Day 2012.
“I will not support any plan that puts all the burden of closing our deficit on ordinary Americans,” Obama said. “We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable.”
Obama attacked in a major economic speech last month what Rauch describes as “Republicans’ mistimed, precipitous austerity threatens to bring on another recession” by advocating the same combination of policies again:
Businesses don’t have customers if folks are having such a hard time. What drags us all down is an economy in which there’s an ever- widening gap between a few folks who are doing extraordinarily well and a growing number of people who, no matter how hard they work, can barely make ends meet. So Governor Romney disagrees with my vision. His allies in Congress disagree with my vision. Neither of them will endorse any policy that asks the wealthiest Americans to pay even a nickel more in taxes. It’s the reason why we haven’t reached a grand bargain to bring down our deficit; not with my plan, not with the Bowles-Simpson plan, not with the so-called Gang of Six plan.
Despite the fact that taxes are lower than they’ve been in decades, they won’t work with us on any plan that would increase taxes on our wealthiest Americans. It’s the reason a jobs bill that would put 1 million people back to work has been voted down time and time again. It’s the biggest source of gridlock in Washington today. And the only thing that can break the stalemate is you.
Rauch isn’t the only one suggesting Obama take a cue from Obama. The New York Times’ Tom Friedman pined repeatedly for a third-party challenger who would espouse many of the those same ideas. In an April column, for example, he wished New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg would run for president, advocating better infrastructure spending, a staple of Obama’s stump speech and a critical part of his jobs plan. Obama’s proposed budget for 2013 calls for nearly twice as much infrastructure spending over the next six years.
In another column last month, Friedman lamented that Obama hasn’t proposed a “three step rehab program” for America of short-term stimulus combined with a long-term deficit plan and a bill that would cut health care costs over time. As Jonathan Chait noted at the time, the Affordable Care Act cut Medicare spending by $500 billion and instituted an independent panel to find savings in the future, among a litany of other proposals aimed at bending the cost curve for health-care spending. You may have heard of it: It’s the part of the bill Sarah Palin now calls a “death panel.”
David Brooks, another New York Times columnist, seemed to reverse engineer the Affordable Care Act last month, suggesting that Obama adopt “Republican” proposals that sound an awful lot like Obama’s own health care plan: legislation that would give the uninsured subsidies to purchase private health insurance instead of being forced to go through an employer. Meanwhile, there’s little evidence Republican leaders are still proposing anything resembling a universal health care plan. The closest one-time Republican bill to the one Brooks described, Wyden-Bennett, is considered radioactive on the right in part because its Republican author lost his Republican primary because of it.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.