We’ve all had one of those “once in a lifetime” moments. Today was mine. I was invited to the White House to attend President Obama’s first public speech since election night. The topic: the economy and the fiscal cliff.
Countless bipartisan “gangs” of experts have told policymakers what they need to do to balance the budget: cut spending and raise revenue. It’s no secret; “it’s arithmetic,” to quote President Clinton. But this isn’t math, it’s politics. The last two years we’ve been witness to lots of political posturing. And very painful cuts to discretionary programs totaling $1.7 trillion—programs, incidentally, experts agree are not driving the annual deficit and debt.
Today, fresh off the campaign trail President Obama urged policymakers to “get to work” on reducing the deficit in a meaningful way and averting the fiscal cliff. As a first order of business, he urged the House next week pass the Senate’s bill extending the Bush era tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 a year.
President Obama today reaffirmed he will accept nothing less than a balanced approach to reduce the deficit, as recommended by independent experts. Anything less than a balanced approach put forward and he’s prepared to go over the cliff—let the Bush tax cuts expire and let sequestration’s indiscriminant cuts take effect. He has a plan, but he’s “not wedded to every detail.” He is open to compromise, but it has to be balanced. As he notes, “we cannot just cut our way to prosperity. We have to combine spending cuts with revenue.” Those who can afford it should “pay a little more” to bring our nation’s fiscal House in order.
While some may argue that the 2012 election doesn’t give the president a clear mandate, he certainly has the upper hand after Tuesday’s election. Already, Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor have said publicly they are open to “considering” revenue. They are in a very different place than they were just last week. And public polling shows that the majority of Americans support the “rich paying their fare share” to reduce the deficit.
President Obama has invited House and Senate leadership to the White House next week to begin work on a balanced deal. With the 2012 election behind us, will they come together and do the right thing (…before they start thinking about 2014)?
Senior Vice President