[Marxism] Rightward Tilt Leaves Obama With Party Rift

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jul 31 05:57:46 MDT 2011

(A revealing article but one that does not consider the possibility that 
Obama's "rightward tilt" was no tilt at all. Just read "Audacity of 
Hope" with its glowing account of the Reagan presidency and you'll 
understand what makes Obama tick. People voted for what they thought 
might be a reincarnation of FDR but they got Herbert Hoover.)

NY Times July 30, 2011
Rightward Tilt Leaves Obama With Party Rift

WASHINGTON — However the debt limit showdown ends, one thing is clear: 
under pressure from Congressional Republicans, President Obama has moved 
rightward on budget policy, deepening a rift within his party heading 
into the next election.

Entering a campaign that is shaping up as an epic clash over the 
parties’ divergent views on the size and role of the federal government, 
Republicans have changed the terms of the national debate. Mr. Obama, 
seeking to appeal to the broad swath of independent voters, has adopted 
the Republicans’ language and in some cases their policies, while 
signaling a willingness to break with liberals on some issues.

That has some progressive members of Congress and liberal groups arguing 
that by not fighting for more stimulus spending, Mr. Obama could be left 
with an economy still producing so few jobs by Election Day that his 
re-election could be threatened. Besides turning off independents, Mr. 
Obama risks alienating Democratic voters already disappointed by his 
escalation of the war in Afghanistan and his failure to close the 
Guantánamo Bay prison, end the Bush-era tax cuts and enact a 
government-run health insurance system.

“The activist liberal base will support Obama because they’re terrified 
of the right wing,” said Robert L. Borosage, co-director of the liberal 
group Campaign for America’s Future.

But he said, “I believe that the voting base of the Democratic Party — 
young people, single women, African-Americans, Latinos — are going to be 
so discouraged by this economy and so dismayed unless the president 
starts to champion a jobs program and take on the Republican Congress 
that the ability of labor to turn out its vote, the ability of activists 
to mobilize that vote, is going to be dramatically reduced.”

While Mr. Obama and Republicans have been unable to agree on a debt 
reduction plan for spending cuts and revenue increases to cut $4 
trillion in the first decade, on Saturday they were negotiating a deal 
with fewer spending cuts that would ensure the government’s debt ceiling 
would be increased into 2013 to avoid another deadlock in the heat of 
campaign season.

No matter how the immediate issue is resolved, Mr. Obama, in his failed 
effort for greater deficit reduction, has put on the table far more in 
reductions for future years’ spending, including Medicare, Medicaid and 
Social Security, than he did in new revenue from the wealthy and 
corporations. He proposed fewer cuts in military spending and more in 
health care than a bipartisan Senate group that includes one of the 
chamber’s most conservative Republicans.

To win approval of the essential increase in the nation’s $14.3 trillion 
borrowing ceiling, Mr. Obama sought more in deficit reduction than 
Republicans did, and with fewer changes to the entitlement programs, 
because he was willing to raise additional revenue starting in 2013 and 
they were not. And despite unemployment lingering at its highest level 
in decades, Mr. Obama has not fought this year for a big jobs program 
with billions of dollars for public-works projects, which liberals in 
his party have clamored for. Instead, he wants to extend a temporary 
payroll tax cut for everyone, since Republicans will support tax cuts, 
despite studies showing that spending programs are generally the more 
effective stimulus.

Even before last November’s election gave the Republicans control of the 
House, Mr. Obama had said he would pivot to deficit reduction after two 
years of stimulus measures intended first to rescue the economy and then 
to spur a recovery from the near collapse of the financial system. With 
Republicans’ gains in the midterm elections, that pivot became a lurch. 
Yet Congressional Republicans say Mr. Obama seeks a debt limit increase 
as “a blank check” to keep spending.

“The Republicans won, and they don’t know how to accept victory,” said 
Robert D. Reischauer, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office.

In his budget proposal in January, Mr. Obama declined to suggest a plan 
along the lines proposed by a majority of his bipartisan fiscal 
commission, which in December recommended $4 trillion in savings over 10 
years through cuts in military and domestic programs, including Medicare 
and Medicaid, and a tax code overhaul to lower rates while also raising 
more revenue.

Even though Mr. Obama was widely criticized, administration officials 
said at the time that to have embraced that approach then would have put 
him too far to the right — where he ultimately wanted to end up in any 
compromise with Republicans, not where he wanted to start.

But by this month, in ultimately unsuccessful talks with Speaker John A. 
Boehner, Mr. Obama tentatively agreed to a plan that was farther to the 
right than that of the majority of the fiscal commission and a 
bipartisan group of senators, the so-called Gang of Six. It also 
included a slow rise in the Medicare eligibility age to 67 from 65, and, 
after 2015, a change in the formula for Social Security cost-of-living 
adjustments long sought by economists.

“He’s accommodated himself to the new reality in Washington,” said Tom 
Davis, a former House Republican leader from Virginia. “That’s what 
leaders do.”

But Congressional Democrats and liberal groups objected.

“The president’s proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare has the 
potential to sap the energy of the Democratic base — among older voters 
because of Medicare and Medicaid and younger voters because of the lack 
of jobs,” said Damon A. Silvers, policy director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. 
“And second, all these fiscal austerity proposals on the table will make 
the economy worse.”

Mr. Obama’s situation has parallels with the mid-1990s, when President 
Bill Clinton shifted to the center after Republicans took Congress and 
battled them on deficit reduction and a welfare overhaul. Many Democrats 
were angered by his concessions, by a sense of being left out of 
negotiations and by a fear of alienating Democratic voters. Mr. Clinton 
was re-elected in 1996.

But Mr. Obama is likely to face the voters with a weaker economy and 
higher unemployment than during Mr. Clinton’s era. Still, his advisers 
express confidence that voters will reward Mr. Obama either for winning 
a bipartisan deal, if that were to happen, or for at least having a more 
balanced approach that does not remake Medicare and Medicaid and asks 
for more revenue from the wealthy. And they suggest another potential 
parallel with the Clinton years of divided government: that Republicans 
risk a voter backlash with their uncompromising stands.

“Democrats created Social Security and Medicare, and we have fought for 
decades against Republican attempts to end these programs,” said Dan 
Pfeiffer, Mr. Obama’s communications director. “And President Obama 
believes that now is the time for Democrats to be the ones to step up 
and save Social Security and Medicare.”

Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster, said polling data showed that at 
this point in his term, Mr. Obama, compared with past Democratic 
presidents, was doing as well or better with Democratic voters. 
“Whatever qualms or questions they may have about this policy or that 
policy, at the end of the day the one thing they’re absolutely certain 
of — they’re going to hate these Republican candidates,” Mr. Mellman 
said. “So I’m not honestly all that worried about a solid or 
enthusiastic base.”

Binyamin Appelbaum contributed reporting.

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