Plans are a dime a dozen in Washington these days. What really counts is leverage and threats. That’s something Republicans have been very clear on, while the White House has always been wishy-washy. In an era of veto points and polarization, what matters isn’t what you would do if you were unconstrained, it’s what you’re operationally willing to do in order to get what you want.
In that context, the biggest news out of today’s deficit plan from President Obama probably isn’t the plan itself but an ancillary veto threat. We’ve long known that the White House favors higher taxes on the rich, and also that it’s willing to consider agreeing to some very right-wing notions about Medicare spending as part of a grand bargain to get it. Today, though, the president is clearly stating for the first time that he will veto any plan from the super committee or elsewhere that cuts Medicare benefits without raising taxes on the wealthy. That has practical importance and makes it much more likely that we’ll end up getting the super committee trigger cuts rather than a new Democratic rollover.