This afternoon, President Obama delivered a much anticipated speech explaining his plan to reduce the debt in the long term. He called for $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 12 years through cuts to discretionary spending, limiting growing health care costs, and raising $1 trillion by eliminating tax loopholes and other tax expenditures.
Many progressives have expressed concern that Obama would even consider giving such a speech, arguing that a progressive president should be focusing on job creation and investment, instead of promoting anti-stimulative spending restraint.
ThinkProgress and handful of other bloggers spoke with a number of progressive lawmakers at the Capitol this morning who expressed similar consternation with the White House and criticized the president for being too quick to concede to Republican demands during last week’s fight over funding the government. Speaking before Obama’s speech, they also expressed concern about what he would say:
REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D-OR): [Asked about Obama’s negotiating strategy] What strategy?! … I mean the normal thing in negotiations is, you know, I stake out my best position, my best offer, they stake out their best position, their best offer, and we end up somewhere in between. The way it’s worked so far is Republicans stake out their best position, their best offer, the president accepts it and says, ‘what else do you need?’
REP. CHELLIE PINGREE (D-ME): I think many of us who are progressive wish the president would stake out a slightly more progressive position. … I do think the president has to push back a little more on the importance of making sure we continue to make investments in this country, not eliminating the safety net, not going down the path of what the Ryan bill is doing the Medicare and Social Security.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): [Asked if he was disappointed in how Obama negotiated the CR] Yes, I was very disappointed. He stayed above it, he talked about the Democrats and the Republicans as if we were squabbling little children, squabbling over not much, which were in fact very principled things. I was particularly disappointed when he described the result as a great victory. It’s not a great victory when we cut the budget more than Republicans initially requested, from a low base. It should have been said that we made the best deal we could, but they were willing to blackmail the whole country by threatening to shut down the government, but this is not a victory.
Meanwhile, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and MoveOn.org each launched email petitions earlier this week to pressure Obama on retaining social safety net programs. “We need the president to forcefully denounce [Ryan’s] proposals, to show the American people whose side Democrats are on,” the MoveOn petition reads. “Starting negotiations by endorsing a plan that would further weaken the middle class is all wrong. But there’s still time for the president to change course.”
In his speech, Obama did forcefully denounce Ryan’s budget and his plan to “end Medicare as we know it.” “I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry,” Obama said.
Video produced by ThinkProgress intern Kevin Donohoe.