Tom Friedman writes in The New York Times
Obama has proposed his own 10-year budget. It is much better than Ryan’s at balancing our near-term need to revitalize the pillars of American success, by cutting, taxing and investing. But it does not credibly address the country’s long-term fiscal imbalances, which require cuts in Medicare and Social Security.
Said the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget: “The president’s budget [is] a step in the right direction on deficit reduction, but not nearly sufficient. The president’s budget would stabilize the debt as a share of the economy through the second half of the decade, but would do so at too high of a level and without the necessary entitlement reforms to bring down the debt over the long-run. ... It is highly disappointing that the president didn’t go further in his proposals and offer a plan that is large enough to deal with the nation’s fiscal challenges in the medium and long term.”
Or as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner testified to Congress: “Even if Congress were to enact this budget, we would still be left with — in the outer decades as millions of Americans retire — what are still unsustainable commitments in Medicare and Medicaid.”
So the president, too, lacks a long-term plan to cut, spend and invest at the scale we need in a way to win enough bipartisan support to make it implementable. This gets to my core difference with the president’s strategy. I believed he should have accepted his own Simpson-Bowles deficit commission because it offered a plan to cut and tax that was at the scale of the problem and enjoyed at least some G.O.P. support, had the overwhelming backing of independents and even Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, now says she felt “fully ready to vote for that.”
If Obama had embraced the long-term deficit commission, he would have had a chance of combining it with some near-term stimulus — investments in infrastructure — that would have helped the economy and grow jobs. Without pairing it with Simpson-Bowles, Obama had no chance of getting more stimulus.
Obama says his plan incorporates the best of Simpson-Bowles. Not only is that not true, but it misses the politics. Republicans will never vote for an “Obama plan.” But had Obama embraced the bipartisan “Simpson-Bowles,” and added his own stimulus, he would have split the G.O.P., attracted gobs of independents and been able to honestly look the country in the eye and say he had a plan to fix what needs fixing. He would have angered the Tea Party and his left wing, which would have shown him as a strong leader ready to make hard choices — and isolated Romney-Ryan on the fringe.
Instead, Obama is running on a suboptimal plan — when we absolutely must have optimal — and the slogan “I’m not Mitt Romney.” If he’s lucky, he might win by a whisker. If Obama went big, and dared to lead, he’d win for sure, and so would the country, because he’d have a mandate to do what needs doing.