As you begin talks on the budget cuts your strong statement about not getting involved in a debate over the debt ceiling is great but you need to use the power and clout that comes with being the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to win both your elections with over 50 percent of the vote to make that statement real. Responding to the recent outrageous public remarks by Mitch McConnell and John Boehner regarding the budget cuts and debt ceiling, the time has come to take off the kid gloves and become the smart street brawler. Being the brilliant constitutional scholar you are and trying to stay above the fray may be more genteel but it won't always work.
Now that you are back from your well-earned Hawaiian vacation bring the Democratic congressional leaders into the White House and tell them what you are willing to do to bring the budget under control. What your line in the sand is. Remind them you are not out to be the leader of either the liberal or conservative camp but rather the president who will find a way to curb runaway spending while still having the money to meet your goals of stimulating the economy; funding education and research; and building a solid economy for the future. Tell them what your plan is and ask them to bring the majority of Democrats along.
Then invite Senator McConnell to the White House, since Speaker Boehner has said he doesn't want to negotiate with you, to try to avoid having the nation come close to the abyss again before the next deal is reached. Let McConnell decide if he wants the discussion to be public or private. If you take the debt ceiling off the table as a debating point urge McConnell to promote the plan he floated last year giving you authority to raise the ceiling. Tell him you want that power included in a bill and are willing to take the heat for it. The McConnell plan was that you would go to Congress with the request to increase the debt ceiling and they could only block it with a veto-proof super majority.
Mr. President, you have achieved the goal of creating chaos in the Republican ranks of the House of Representatives. The old Congress couldn't agree on a plan to balance the budget in a rational way and the slightly smaller Republican majority in the House this time won't be able to either. When the Republican leadership team in the House voted against each other it was clear you have the upper hand.
Everyone agrees there must be a major effort to rein in long-term spending and you have clearly signaled you will do that. If you place your balanced plan on the table now you control the debate. They may fight over your plan but you have shown you can bring the public along. Continued campaigning may be the way to do that. People voted for you and have shown they will follow when you lead. Business will also follow as you are now the president they have to deal with for the next four years. They might not like it but the fact is all their money didn't defeat you. They were wrong and you were right.
One of the things that should be off the table is Social Security. It has the potential to be an easy fix. If anything it should be put to the same kind of joint commission that Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill put together which kept it solvent for more than 30 years. It can be kept solvent for the next 75 with minor changes and taxing income above the current limits.
Medicare is a different story and we need to rein in spending. We can start doing that with indexing of benefits for higher earners and a series of steps including competitive bidding where appropriate. That doesn't mean that every area is appropriate for competitive bidding. One that isn't would be complex orthotics and prosthetics while off-the-shelf orthotics such as those that can be bought at the local pharmacy could provide cost savings if competitively bid.
As you have eloquently said the time has come to balance the budget in a way that doesn't stymie the economy. America needs to continue to spend money on education and research if we are too keep pace with a changing world. We will need to spend money rebuilding our current infrastructure and renewing it with such innovations as high speed rail if our economy is to keep up with nations like China and Japan.
All of this is eminently doable and the American people will support you when you lead and explain why you believe that the plan you put forward is the right one for the future. We put our trust in you for four more years, now is the time to show that the trust wasn't misplaced. Mr. President, you hold in your hands the key to a brighter future for America.