President Obama’s Deficit-Reduction Plan: Neither Bold nor Courageous

The president’s proposal is driven more by politics and pollsters than by a vision for achieving real reform, says Mark McKinnon.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo

Judging from President Obama’s Rose Garden speech today outlining his proposal to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years, there are two groups in America who apparently have job security and are working overtime: his pollsters and straw men.

Deficit reduction and job creation are essential to our economic recovery. And Americans are looking for a leader who can unite the country and the warring factions in Congress on the same path forward. But the president’s new plan, which includes a $1.5 trillion tax increase on upper-income Americans—on top of the tax-rate increases for high earners he called for last week to fund stimulus spending in his jobs bill—does little to address the real problem: real spending, tax, and entitlement reforms.

For a man with such promise, the president’s ideas to cure our economic ills are neither bold nor courageous. His recycled rhetoric and outrage at straw-men opponents appear driven by pure politics and pollsters. A recent Washington Post–ABC News poll found 72 percent of those questioned supported raising taxes on those making $250,000 or more to help reduce the debt. His positions appear well crafted to win political support for his reelection bid.

And he does it well. So well, in fact, that while I don’t entirely agree with his approach to ask the wealthiest to bear an even greater share of the tax burden, I think Republicans would be best served by supporting the “Buffett Rule,” or some other plan to equalize the differential between taxes on earned income and investment income. Republicans can then move on to other, bigger, more important fights on true tax and entitlement reforms, and on regaining the White House in 2012.

President Obama speaks of his connection to Abraham Lincoln. It is from Lincoln’s legacy that the president and the leaders of Congress could learn most. From his words, borrowed from the book of Matthew: a house divided against itself cannot stand.