Democrats and Republicans agree that $4 trillion needs to be slashed over roughly a decade, Obama told a town hall-style event in Virginia. But the two parties disagree on what to cut to get there.
"The big question that is going to have to be resolved is: how do we do it?" Obama told students at a community college. "I don't want to lie to you, there is a big philosophical divide right now."
The president was promoting his plan for cutting the deficit a day after Standard & Poor's threatened to strip America of its prized triple-A credit rating. The Wall Street ratings agency cited concern that Washington's polarized politics would make it difficult to reach a debt deal before the 2012 presidential election.
Obama, who is traveling around the country this week to advocate his deficit proposals, did not show any greater flexibility over his demands that taxes go up for the wealthiest Americans.
Unless by common ground, he means that the two sides agree on the $4 trillion, I don't see how there's common ground here. Republicans are between Iraq and a hard place, needing to make their Teabagger constituency happy without cutting defense spending, Medicare entitlements or raising taxes.
Democrats have the luxury of standing around, tapping their watches and sighing imaptiently.
Lest you think this is another political kabuki, this year's budget is it. This is the whole enchilada for the progressive movement in this nation. If we allow the Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts, then we have no business being a movement.
Sure, there's some posturing involved: I don't think the Republicans can let this budget go without some attempt at face-saving for their centerpiece platform plank of lower taxes, which has proven over the past thirty years to neither create jobs nor improve the economy much. I think even they know it, and that they're shamelessly pandering to the corporatocracy and the orc minions who somehow believe if they're fervent enough, their overlords will shower gelt upon them.
Likewise, much of the "senior scarifying" that the Dems have been doing is a mask to the very real growth of Medicare and what that bodes for the future of the budget.
I'm not suggesting that we have to have entitlement cuts immediately (frankly, I haven't studied the problem enough to have an opinion) but what I am suggesting is, given the current anti-tax climate, it's going to be hard to justify the kinds of benefits we have to pay out in a few years. When does it become enough? At fifty percent of the budget? We're tracking perilously close to that, which means we're sopping up funds for other critical progressive programs like energy reform and infrastructure repair. I would like this not to have to come down to clean air for our children and grandchildren versus keeping me alive on a ventilator.
All that said, this is an urgently important budget coming upon us, because what grows out of it will impact the next decade's worth of budget proposals and likely the economic growth for the next century, and along with it, the income and well-being of every American.
As Ben Bradlee said during Watergate, "Nothing's riding on this except the [...] future of the country.
So if you've been holding onto someone's balls for a rainy day, well, the clouds have gathered.