President Obama will address the nation Wednesday night, offering an outline of his approach to budget and deficit issues. The president, who has already bent too frequently and too far to satisfy the demands of CEOs and bankers who want to balance the budget on the backs of working Americans, will send the clearest signal yet about whether he is going to give Wall Street what it really wants — the so-called "entitlement reforms" that would begin processes of privatizing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
He will also signal whether he plans to run for reelection in 2012 as the candidate of the Democratic Party of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman or as a "post-partisan" centrist who will abandon basic premises of the the party and its political base. The latter prospect worries Congressman Pete DeFazio, who says that Obama needs to "act like a Democrat."
DeFazio is especially concerned that Obama will abandon principles of progressive taxation that demand the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share. Recalling that the president backed off his 2008 campaign commitment to let the Bush-era tax rates on the wealthy expire in order to cut a December deal with congressional Republicans, DeFazio says: “Remember, the president did run on that, and he did cave on it in December.”
DeFazio says congressional Democrats need to put more pressur on Obama to stand on principle against the likes of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin; and their corporate paymasters.
“There are a number of us in the caucus now pushing back very hard on our leadership,” says DeFazio. “Who knows where they’ll end up, but maybe we can take enough D’s with us to make them uncomfortable and to make them stick with making the president act like a Democrat."
DeFazio’s concerns are legitimate. But others worry that Obama will go further to the right, not just by embracing Reagan-era trickle down economic strategies but by actually going along with calls for radical charges in how Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid operate.
A key union, the 160,000-member National Nurses United, anticipated the president’s speech with a blunt message with regard to the budget debate.
“America is not broke, it’s just deficient in political courage and leadership,” argues Jean Ross, RN, an NNU co-president. “It’s time to tell Wall Street and the politicians they finance in Washington and state governments that the American people have sacrificed enough. There can be no more cuts in healthcare programs for seniors, the disabled, and the disadvantaged, and no reductions in retirement security.”