President Obama's speech hit all the right notes. He provided a background and context for the debt challenge. He laid the blame for this challenge squarely where it belongs, most recently on the disastrous Bush administration and its accompanying Republican Congresses, but he also referenced the Reagan-era debt follies that had to be rescued by President Clinton.
He described the real damage to real people and to the nation the Republican ideological program would lead us. He correctly stated that higher tax rates on the wealthy were not a punishment but a fair return to the country and system that provided them the opportunity to become so wealthy. He recalled that tax rates paid by the upper crust were at historical lows. He contrasted his vision of the future with the apocalyptic future the Republican budget guaranteed.
Most importantly, he spoke of America's economic greatness as a mix of individual and collective (i.e., government) actions. The president's answer to laissez-faire was not government programs alone, but a mix of the private and public sectors. That is how our economy has hummed in the past. He spoke of our embracing the twin themes of individualism and collective (i.e., government) actions as our historical social contract.
But it was not only his speech, but its timing and its underlying strategy that were also perfect. By waiting until the Republicans had committed to their ridiculous, draconian budget, he has Congressional members pinned down, with those supposedly running for president providing at least conceptual approval.
Now, Senator Reid, bring the Ryan Budget to a vote in your chamber. Just do it, dammit. Act strategically. Let the country witness how many of the Republican Senators will vote for it. I will supply the popcorn.
It is critical that the president and Congressional Democrats apply the pressure. Hit the campaign trail. Hold rallies. Remind people not only that Medicare is critical for health care for the elderly, but that it also frees their children from the crushing financial burden of paying for their parents' health care when they, inevitably, become ill. That is, it is a benefit to all generations, not just those who are currently covered.
There should be no talk about concessions to Republicans to raise the debt ceiling. None. The Republicans' Wall Street paymasters will get the debt ceiling raised.
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