Finally there's some tough love in the Oval Office. President Obama came out swinging on Monday, heeding the advice of his critics in taking a firm stand on his positions for fixing the economy and reducing unemployment in the face of intense, unyielding opposition from Republicans. He boldly declared that there would be no cuts on spending without an increase in taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations, and issued a veto threat to back up his new found mojo.
Speaking from the Rose Garden, Obama was uncharacteristically uncompromising as he set his bar high while confidently warning House Speaker John Boehner and his merry band of GOP obstructionists to play ball or face being branded as the party of millionaires:
"The speaker says we can’t have it ‘my way or the highway and then basically says my way — or the highway," Obama said, adding, "I will not support — I will not support — any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans. I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share."
As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote, "At last, the president hasn’t conceded the race before the starter’s gun, hasn’t opened the bidding with his bottom line, hasn’t begun a game of strip poker in his boxer shorts."
Obama put forth a plan to cut an additional $3-trillion in spending cuts--in addition to the $1-trillion proposed during the debt ceiling debate--to help close the budget deficit. His speech certainly made Democrats and progressives happy. While his plan of attack calls for $320 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts, that's much less than what Republicans have sought. And, he removed a proposal to slowly raise the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 from 65. He also took Social Security cuts off the table, and seeks the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more the $250,000. Additionally, his proposal would cap itemized deductions and some exclusions for these same taxpayers. And as he proposed last week, his "Millionaire's Tax" would seek to end the inequity in the tax code and force the richest Americans to carry their fair share of the nation's tax burden, thus reversing a gap that has widened precipitously during the past thirty years of largely Republican control of Washington.
"It is wrong that in the United States of America a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million," he said.
It's good to see Obama finally drawing his proverbial line in the sand with his enemies. With his poll numbers tanking, Americans' confidence in his economic stewardship evaporating, and with a Republican Congress hellbent on making him a one-term president by rejecting every single thing he proposes including tax cuts, what he's now done is clearly warn them, "Get real and work with me or else." And it's damn nice to see Obama doing the threatening for a change.