Press conference

I missed it due to Comcast problems, but here’s David Dayen on today’s White House press conference:

On cutting entitlements, he made his pitch thusly. “Medicare in particular will run out of money and we will not be able to sustain that program… If you’re a progressive who cares about the integrity of Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid, then we have an obligation to make sure we make those changes required to make it sustainable on those terms… We won’t make progress on the values we care about without getting our fiscal house in order. If you care about those things, then you’ve got to be interested in figuring out how we pay for all that in a responsible way.” As for Social Security, which he acknowledged is not the source of any deficit problems, he basically said that, as long as we’re doing a big deal, we might as well throw that in. “The reason to include that in this package is, if you’re going to take a bunch of tough votes, you might as well do it now,” Obama said. He did not specify the changes.

So tactical or not, he’s certainly committed to a big deal that includes trimming benefits and some revenues, in a ratio massively tilted toward cuts. “I would want more revenues, and fewer cuts to programs for middle class families,” he said. “But that’s the point. I’m willing to move in their direction to get something done. And that’s what compromise entails.”

He concluded that getting the deficit conversation out of the way would enable the country to move with a laser focus to jobs and investment. I don’t know why anyone would think that deficits could be taken off the table forever, but that’s his argument.

At times, Obama seemed to acknowledge that there’s a much bigger problem in the country than our deficits. He cited the lack of aid to states as driving a recession in the public sector, with the biggest job losses there. He said that he didn’t think solving the debt problem automatically solves the unemployment problem. He said that a strong jobs agenda would be needed, highlighting the desire for an infrastructure bank. But he simply said that “I’m operating under some political constraints here.” And he seemed to want to box in Republicans with their own rhetoric. “(Reducing the deficit) is the primary solution the Republicans have offered with regard to jobs. This is what they claim would be the single biggest boost to business certainty and confidence. So what’s the holdup?”

So it’s all eleventy-dimensional reverse psychology? By repeating the right-wing Republican descriptions of the problems over and over and over, he’s only strengthened them. That, and his own unwillingness to take them dead on.