Obama Moved to the Center on Budget Compromise

Tuesday, 12 Apr 2011 01:48 PM

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Last week's budget negotiations in Washington, D.C., about the current year’s budget, was an overwhelming victory for the Republican right wing, aka the 80 tea party members of the House of Representatives.

Originally, the Democrat negotiators — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama — offered a $4 billion reduction in the current budget in their initial talks with the Republican negotiator, House speaker John Boehner. The final figure appears to be a reduction of $38.5 billion.

Despite Republican gains in the 2010 elections, the federal government is still two-thirds in the hands of the Democrats (president and Senate) and one-third (House of Representatives) in the hands of the Republicans. The original figure demanded by the Republicans for budget reduction was about $40 billion. Seems to me that the Republicans got almost all they wanted.

Worse still is what happened to the residents of Washington, D.C. According to The New York Times of April 10: “District of Columbia officials expressed outrage on Saturday about two provisions of the budget deal between Democrats and Republicans, saying they dictate how the capital should spend money. One bans it from using its own locally raised funds to pay for abortions for poor women.

The second is a federally financed school voucher program, which city officials said was unnecessary because 40 percent of students already go to public charter schools.” These federal impositions upon D.C. portend even bigger and scarier collapses by the Democrats in the future.

Why did the president and the House and Senate Democrats agree to the deal to throw the people of the nation’s capital under the bus, providing the Republicans with an additional victory? These changes did not involve the federal budget, but money to be provided by the citizens of the capital for abortion services they may wish to provide for poor women. That the Republicans are capable of such meanness did not surprise me.

It does surprise me that Democrats would be no better and go along. Does anyone think the Republicans and John Boehner would have nixed the entire deal and allowed the government to shut down if the Democrats had held their ground and protected the poor women of D.C.? Again, shameful.

Nevertheless, notwithstanding the many reasons that President Obama has disappointed his supporters — of whom I am one — the odds are overwhelming he will be re-elected in 2012 because the Republicans simply have no outstanding presidential contender to offer who can bring back the independents that both parties need to win.

At this point Obama has less than 50 percent of the electorate in his column. But Democrats will rise in the polls as economic conditions improve and improve they will.

We live in a capitalist economy that is cyclical by nature. We have come through one of the longest periods of recession, which began back in 2007. There will now be a steady expansion of the economy, notwithstanding occasional dips, possibly created by Wall Street operators to take their interim profits. The next election will allow the president to point to a thriving America.

President Obama did politically what he should have done even earlier. He turned to the center. Something tells me former President Clinton may have recommended this change of strategy, which served him well. America is basically moderate in its philosophy: the philosophy of the middle class. Almost everyone wants to be thought of as part of the middle class, either aspiring to join it if poor or identifying with its values if rich.

When I served as mayor of New York City from 1978 through 1989, the radicals on the left accused me of being the middle-class mayor, thinking that was a negative description which I would reject. I laughed at the time and reveled in that description, referring to myself as a liberal with sanity.

This country has millions of liberals with sanity and we always hope the Democratic Party will ultimately deserve that encomium once again. Under Hubert Humphrey, Scoop Jackson, and Pat Moynihan, it did.

One way President Obama could enhance his middle-class credentials is to go after the criminals who nearly brought this country to its financial knees in the Great Recession. When I watched the Oscar show this year, Charles Ferguson, the director of the documentary “Inside Job” received his award and said "Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong." I applauded him.

Mr. President, order your Attorney General to go after those who committed illegal acts and profited from the financial destruction of so many Americans who had put so much of their financial resources into the stock market, not knowing it was rigged against them. They suffered the fate of “the little people,” whom Leona Helmsley said were the ones who pay taxes. They got creamed.

Since the debacle, many of the wealthy have gotten even wealthier. Many who violated the law have bought their way out of punishment, paying civil fines to the SEC or states’ attorney generals and not even being required to admit guilt. Mr. President, please do your best to send some of them to prison. Justice is a middle class value.

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