Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
For perhaps the first time since being sworn into office, President Obama has articulated, in eloquent terms, what it means to be a progressive. In his budget speech last week, he spoke of our obligation to the broader community to provide a basic level of security and dignity. Speaking of programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, he said what every good progressive believes: “We would not be a great country without those commitments.”
He fused a defense of progressive governance with a scathing critique of Paul Ryan’s cruel budget, which all but four Republican House members have now voted for. And he demanded that the rich finally pay their fair share, vowing to let the Bush tax cuts expire. It was a powerful speech, in many ways reassuring to progressives who have been demoralized by a president who appeared missing in action.
But rhetoric and policy are not the same thing. And in this case, as in far too many, the policy agenda the president has laid out is not worthy of, in his words, “the America we believe in.”
To begin with, the president continues to let Republicans define the playing field in almost every instance. Why is the debate we are having not about whether to cut, but how much to cut? Why isn’t it about the urgency of joblessness instead of the perils of deficits? The budget the president proposed is clearly influenced by a discredited conservative economic worldview. It shouldn’t be accepted as the “progressive” alternative in the negotiations soon to come.
What’s worse is that, even on this narrow playing field, the president isn’t fighting harder for those who need government’s support the most.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.