[Marxism] NYT reporter urges Obama to go full bore against "entitlements"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Aug 10 07:25:13 MDT 2011

(An uncloaked call for Obama to attack "entitlements" by a Times 
reporter born in Liberia. This is like busting down an open door.)

NY Times August 9, 2011
A Test for Obama’s View of a One-Term Presidency

WASHINGTON — It was a year and a half ago when President Obama 
told Diane Sawyer of ABC News in an interview that he would rather 
be a good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.

Now, coming off one of his worst weeks since taking office, Mr. 
Obama is nearing a decision on whether he really meant that. Is he 
willing to try to administer the disagreeable medicine that could 
help the economy mend over the long term, even if that means 
damaging his chances for re-election?

The Federal Reserve’s finding on Tuesday that there is little 
prospect for rapid economic growth over the next two years was the 
latest in a summer of bad economic news. One administration 
official called the atmosphere around the president’s economic 
team “angry and morose.”

There was no word on the mood of the president’s political team, 
but it was unlikely to be buoyed by the Fed’s assertion that the 
economy would still be faltering well past Mr. Obama’s second 
inauguration, should he win another term.

“The problem for Obama is that right now, the United States is 
either at a precipice or has fallen off it,” said David Rothkopf, 
a Commerce Department official in the Clinton administration. “If 
he is true to his commitment to rather be a good one-term 
president, then this is the character test. In some respects, this 
is the 3 a.m. phone call.”

Mr. Obama, Mr. Rothkopf argues, has to focus in the next 18 months 
on getting the economy back on track for the long haul, even if 
that means pushing for politically unpalatable budget cuts, 
including real — but hugely unpopular — reductions in Social 
Security, other entitlement programs and the military.

A longtime Republican strategist echoed Mr. Rothkopf. Charlie 
Black, a senior adviser to Senator John McCain when he ran for 
president, said Mr. Obama “has got two big problems” — the 
unemployment rate and the budget deficit.

“Frankly, there’s not a whole lot he can do about jobs now,” Mr. 
Black said. “But it would help if we got the deficit under 
control, and to do that, you’ve got to reform entitlements.”

For instance, he argued, Mr. Obama should tackle Social Security, 
leaving the system in place for those 55 and older but 
establishing means tests to determine benefits for those under 55. 
If Mr. Obama did that, Mr. Black said, “he could be a hero like 
Bill Clinton was when he negotiated with Trent Lott and Newt 
Gingrich” on the 1997 budget.

If Mr. Black’s take is correct and there is little the president 
can do about jobs, that is more bad news. In a New York Times/CBS 
News poll released last week, 62 percent of those responding said 
that creating jobs was the No. 1 priority, while only 29 percent 
said cutting the deficit should be the top goal.

But whether Mr. Obama focuses on a short-term stimulus like job 
creation or long-range steps like deficit reduction, he will still 
have to beg, exhort and threaten Congress to take action in a 
meaningful way.

“No matter what we do, it still takes two to tango,” said Dan 
Pfeiffer, White House director of communications. “And the 
Republican Party to date has been entirely unwilling to compromise 
in any way, shape or form to actually do the things it takes to 
tackle the big problems.”

According to a traditional story line, Mr. Obama’s hopes for a 
second term could be undercut as he is forced to defend 
politically unpopular proposals in an election year — and end up 
stonewalled by Republicans in the end.

Some of Mr. Obama’s political allies try to spin the story the 
other way, criticizing him for not coming out yet with public 
plans to both cut the deficit and stimulate the economy. They 
argue that the boldness of such steps could actually help him win 
a second term — or at least burnish his place in history. One 
Democratic adviser to the president, speaking on the ground of 
anonymity because he did not want to criticize Mr. Obama publicly, 
said, “He’s got to be willing to let the chips fall where they may.”

So far, White House officials said Tuesday, Mr. Obama has 
repeatedly been putting country over campaign, including canceling 
several Democratic fund-raisers in July when the debt ceiling 
negotiations were dragging on. And, they say, he is not shying 
from politically unpalatable choices, demonstrating his 
willingness during the debt ceiling negotiations to make cuts in 
entitlements and programs dear to the hearts of Democrats.

On Monday night, he did attend two fund-raisers in Washington 
(casting his re-election as an “unfinished project” at one) while 
on Thursday he will head to Michigan to make the case that his 
bailout program helped save the auto industry.

On Tuesday afternoon, the White House announced that Mr. Obama 
would be taking an “economic bus tour” in the Midwest next week, 
with stops in Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. “The president knows 
we must do everything we can to promote economic growth, restore 
confidence in our nation’s future and restore the sense of 
optimism for future generations,” the statement said.

Though the trip is not a campaign event, it could help shape 
voters’ perceptions of whether Mr. Obama is more concerned about 
being remembered for that one good term or whether he wants 
another four years in the Oval Office no matter what.

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