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The Progressive

Obama Wrong to Prioritize Deficit Reduction

I'm worried that President Obama is going to focus too much on the deficit in his State of the Union speech this week and in his actions throughout this year.

I'm worried because such a focus will make it less likely that he'll be able, or even inclined to, pass the kind of massive jobs bill we need to bring down unemployment.

Not to push such a bill through would be a moral failing of the highest order: We can't let 15 million people languish on the unemployment lines. And it would also be a political failing: He's setting a trap for himself here because if he doesn't solve the jobs problem, Democrats will face a debacle in November.

I'm also worried because the obsession with the deficit will give ammunition to those who want to shoot holes in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security-the programs that largely make up what remains of our safety net, especially for the aged and the disabled.

Obama himself is in favor of a Congressional bill establishing a bipartisan commission to study-and all but order--ways to cut costs in these so-called entitlement programs.

But I can't stand that word "entitlement." It makes us sound like we're spoiled little brats to want the retirement funds we've already paid for, and the health care that should be our right to have.

There's always trillions for war and bank bailouts, but when we come to claim what is ours, all of a sudden the cupboards are bare. If you're concerned about the budget deficit, stop averting your eyes at the pricetags dangling from the Pentagon and Wall Street.

Also, the idea that Obama is still tilting at the bipartisan windmill is not a good sign at all.

Nor is it a good sign that the Democratic bill would fast-track any recommendations that this commission comes up with-providing no ability to amend or filibuster it. (See Dean Baker's excellent commentary here:

During his presidential campaign, Obama accused his opponent, John McCain, of wanting to cut Social Security.

If Obama and Congressional Democrats empower such a commission to justify that cut and then ram it through, this would be a huge double cross.

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Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is senior editor of The Progressive magazine.

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