The initial concessions by President Obama on the budget proposal is a mistake. Time and time again, the President has pre-emptively made concessions that abet his opponents and demoralize his supporters. Compromise is demanded in politics but leadership cannot be defined by compromise.
The President was dealt a good hand on the tax cuts in 2010, but his pre-emptive concessions dealt away his good hand. He had on his side public opinion, but you cannot just let it sit there: you have to mobilize public opinion with your leadership.
Our system in many ways is rigged to the power of establishment money, to the lobbyists that swamp D.C. everyday, but on the other hand you can provide leadership that lays out a different narrative. We are having this debate about the budget: completely wrong frame, skewed priorities. A budget is not just a set of numbers. It’s a moral document. It’s also a reflection of a nation’s values and aspirations. And if we are a nation that’s going to balance the budget on the backs of the working class and low income Americans to the benefit of the richest and multinational corporations that offshore jobs, then we are a nation—different from what we have seen in the Middle East—in dire need of our own pro-democracy movement to take back this country for the people who have built it and made it strong and take it away from those who have brought us the financial crisis which robbed trillions from people who have worked so hard over these last decades.
We need to understand what we are going to do outside of the White House. It is late for understanding what’s going on inside the White House. We need independent organizing to change the balance of forces, to change the nature of political power, and to find a way to have a different debate, because this President will not lead us to the promise land. These guys aren’t listening to us. They’re cutting from the middle class and giving to the rich, and they keep doing it over and over.
The question is, does the President understand all of this? He’s supposed to be on our side.
The GOP has a blueprint of cruelty in its economic plan. They did not have a mandate that put them in power in Congress. It was a lousy economy and joblessness, not a desire for big spending cuts, that put the GOP in power in 2010. The President is a very intelligent man and he understands all of this, but he is seeking re-election in 2012, and he is charting his own course, a course that has demobilized the base that elected him to the White House. And at the end of the day, we need to lay out alternatives. It’s insanity that military spending is 58% of discretionary spending budget. We have alternatives. Barney Frank and Ron Paul laid out a bipartisan plan that cuts $1 trillion by 2020. $78 billion is not going to do it over five years. And we have an inflation adjusted military budget that is larger than that in the Bush years and the Cold War: this is insanity. And two wars costing $120 billion per year. We can do better, but it’s going to require people outside of Washington working with allies inside Congress, and we can ally with them to stop this disconnect between what’s going in Washington and what this country needs.
We need to redefine the center, because what is defined as the center in Washington is not the true center of this country.