A reader writes:
I am fan of your writing and of how you usually approach public policy and political issues. I have to say that I am really surprised that you seem to have blown your stack about the Obama budget. A couple of things that I wanted to highlight:
1. I find it pretty funny that you are taking Daniels so seriously considering that he was the Bush budget director under whom the Medicare part D passed and who was part of the cabal who put the wars off the books. How is it possible to overlook that lack of seriousness regarding the federal budget?
2. It seems completely unlikely that if Obama had put out a plan in the budget for addressing entitlements that he would get anywhere at all. He does not have credible partners on the other side of the aisle and does not have critical support from his own side. What's the use of making those types of proposals if there is no chance for them to even be seriously debated by the body who needs to implement them?
Obama is not a dumb man, and his closest ally in the Senate, Dick Durbin, has been charged to sit at the table with some Senators to see what might be possible to do in terms of addressing long term entitlement issues. This seems to me to be completely consistent with Obama's way and with his strategic thinking. Inserting himself in the discussion at this time basically makes it impossible for Congress to do anything serious. That is just a fact.
I think that you are overreacting. I understand why that's the case and I feel very strongly that something needs to be done around entitlements in the long-run. I would however refrain from calling the President names (weak, etc...). I think that it makes you seem irrational and temperamental.
I would much rather you offer a plausible way forward where something could PRACTICALLY be accomplished on this topic that you so obviously care very much about. What is the political reality and how do we get from here to where you want to be? That seems a more constructive use of valuable space on your blog.
I am similarly disappointed in the president’s lack of courage here, but I would have been SHOCKED if Obama had truly taken the axe to defense and entitlements. Republicans would have pounced ("weak on defense" "wants to kill your grandmother") and Democrats would have wailed and gnashed their teeth. It would have likely been the end of his presidency. We’ve seen how harsh truth-telling is rewarded in America (see Carter, James.)
Could he have done it anyway and been regarded as a hero by .1% of Americans espousing intellectually honest fiscal conservatism? Sure. And gotten his brains beaten in and seen his hard work undone by a Republican in 2012-16. If we’ve learned nothing else about Obama, it’s that, like it or not, he gets things done half-measure by half-measure. You are often the one to remind us of this.
This is still the most responsible budget in 10 years, despite its relative hollowness. One cannot turn an aircraft carrier around in a day, and one cannot slash and burn budgets, Tory-style, in American politics.