Galston Calls on President Obama to Lead on Deficit
Today, Bill Galston of Brookings wrote a public letter in The New Republic arguing that, while there are many pressing national issues, deficit reduction should still be one that President Obama focuses on. Further, rather than demonizing Ryan's budget next week, President Obama should lead the charge for negotiating an alternative deficit reduction package. As Galston writes:
As soon as the FY2011 budget fight concludes, Congressman Paul Ryan, the chair of the House Budget Committee, is all but certain to propose an FY2012 budget that addresses major issues outside the narrow ambit of discretionary domestic spending. If that proposal tracks his prior thinking, it will contain many ideas that you and most Democrats (including the author of this letter) will find unacceptable. (And if past Republican reaction to Ryan's "Roadmap" is any guide, many of them will have cold feet as well.)
However it is received, the publication of Ryan's proposal is your moment of truth. One option will be to denounce his plan as an assault on seniors and on all that is holy. This is a play that our party knows how to run, and we could probably gain significant yardage if we do. Many outside the White House (and no doubt some inside) will be urging you to do just that. If you do, any chance of progress on basic fiscal issues before next year's presidential election will vanish. Maybe that's what you want; I hope not.
Your other option, the road less travelled, is bolder and riskier. You could respond by saying that while Ryan's proposal is unacceptable, it raises some issues that we must now take up. You could endorse the sentiments that 64 senators and 10 former chairs of the CEA have expressed, and you could declare your willingness to participate in the bipartisan discussions they recommend once the necessary preparatory work has been done. And you could begin the process (which only you can do) of educating the people about not only the dimensions of the fiscal challenge we face, but also its principal causes. The sooner they understand that we can't regain control of our fiscal destiny by cutting appropriations for foreign aid and NPR, the better.