Tentative initial signals from Washington on the shameful budget impasse should be disturbing to every patriotic American: Obama appears unable to escape from the errors of the past. The news that he is again entering negotiations with House Speaker Boehner, as though the guy were an equal of the President, sends all the wrong signals.
Obama should be President, not the negotiator dealing with the Congressional obstructionists of the party he just defeated. Reid could do that…or Elizabeth Warren, a Senator who actually knows something about budgetary issues and elite corruption and their social implications. Obama should be speaking to the country, laying out with crystal clarity and brutal honesty the danger of continuing to coddle the rich with such forms of welfare for the rich as a 15% tax rate on unearned income and a historically minimal level of income tax progressiveness. Obama should be speaking publicly and be focused on principles, e.g., the principles of fairness, social justice, and making the selfish rich step up and help their country.
The Republicans, of course, still exist, but only about 15 of them in the House matter – the first 15 Obama can recruit to support his program. Obama wasted four years trying to join the opposition. When will he learn that the opposition does not want him? Rather than empowering Speaker Boehner, who has already spoken clearly about his continuing refusal to stop protecting the rich, Obama should focus on splitting the opposition. All 233 House Republicans are of course up for reelection in two years. Obama has two years to convince their district voters that they are blocking economic recovery. Getting 15 votes out of 233 should not be beyond Obama’s powers of persuasion. That requires a clear message to the public, however, not a picture of the President of the United States cutting some unprincipled deal with a defeated Republican lackey of the rich. Right now is Obama’s last chance to demonstrate his willingness to lead.