For over a year, the White House has been laying a trap, attempting to force Republicans into embracing entitlement reforms so that President Obama and Democrats would have a giant target to attack. But with the release of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget today, that strategy could backfire. The White House strategy dates back to at least January 2010, when Obama singled out Ryan at a House Republican retreat, referencing his bold “Roadmap for America’s Future” fiscal reform plan that would overhaul entitlements. Though the plan was little known outside of Washington policy circles before then, it soon became a focal point for Democratic attacks. For much of last year, Obama and his allies taunted Republicans, alternatively, either for embracing Ryan’s plan or running away from it. The White House hoped to goad the Republican leadership into adopting its ideas. No doubt, Obama’s political team is foaming at the mouth in excitement now that their strategy has paid off, and the House GOP’s official budget, authored by Ryan, contains major reforms to Medicare and Medicaid. But this could be a major miscalculation on the White House’s part. The problem Obama faces is that he himself has said that current entitlement costs are unsustainable. “I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans," he declared in his 2010 State of the Union Address, in which he established a bipartisan Fiscal Commission. For a whole year, whenever he was asked about long-term deficits, he’d point out that he was waiting for the commission to report back. Yet ultimately, he ignored their proposals and produced an unserious budget that did not address entitlements. Obama was able to get away with it as long as Republicans offered only rhetoric and symbolic measures, but no serious proposals to do anything about the fiscal crisis. Yet whether you agree or disagree with his approach, it’s clear that Ryan’s budget is a serious deficit-reduction plan that grapples with the problem. If Obama responds to Ryan with his own deficit reduction plan that confronts entitlements, his liberal base will go apoplectic. Yet if he doesn’t offer anything, then all his talk about being the kind of president who would set politics aside to deal with the nation’s challenges looks even more empty than it already does. In 2012, as Obama is up for reelection, the federal deficit is slated to be $1.1 trillion, according to the White House’s own estimates. If he is opposing Ryan’s budget, but not offering any serious counter-proposal of his own, he’ll have his work cut out for him. And this time, it’ll be hard to skate by simply by blaming George W. Bush.
Has Ryan’s budget boxed in Obama?
Get Digital Edition
More By michaelfavia