There is a myth that has developed on the left that President Obama somehow abandoned his Democratic leanings this year and suddenly took up the Republican message about austerity. The trouble is, if you go back to the beginning and look at what he's said, the need to reduce spending and make government more efficient has always been there. Once again, let's look at what he said when he accepted the Democratic Party nomination in Denver:
Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime: by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow.
But I will also go through the federal budget line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less, because we cannot meet 21st-century challenges with a 20th-century bureaucracy.
Or how about his first State of the Union Address in 2009 (yes, at the height of the Great Recession):
There is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children. And that is the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay. With the deficit we inherited, the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to ensure that as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this deficit down.
In the midst of talking about the need to invest in jobs and this country's future, President Obama has always included the fact that we need to tackle the issue of deficit reduction over the long term.
So lets also look at the presence of a populist message in the midst of talking about deficit reduction. Perhaps folks will remember the important speech President Obama gave last April on fiscal policy. It came just after Rep. Ryan had released his infamous deficit reduction plan.
Now, to their credit, one vision has been presented and championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party’s presidential candidates. It’s a plan that aims to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years, and one that addresses the challenge of Medicare and Medicaid in the years after that.
These are both worthy goals. They’re worthy goals for us to achieve. But the way this plan achieves those goals would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we’ve known certainly in my lifetime. In fact, I think it would be fundamentally different than what we’ve known throughout our history...
I believe it paints a vision of our future that is deeply pessimistic. It’s a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can’t afford to fix them. If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can’t afford to send them...
And worst of all, this is a vision that says even though Americans can’t afford to invest in education at current levels, or clean energy, even though we can’t afford to maintain our commitment on Medicare and Medicaid, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about that.
In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. That’s who needs to pay less taxes?
They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs. That’s not right. And it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.
Notice the reference to the 1%? That was last April folks...long before the Occupiers started using that lingo. Perhaps they got it from him :-)
What we see is that President Obama was striking a populist tone even while he talked about deficit reduction.
As I said, those twin goals have always been there. The left doesn't like the one about deficit reduction and the right doesn't like the part about the need for investments in our future. But I suspect that as long as he's President, Obama will be embracing both.