I haven’t heard "the speech" yet — you know, the one that the President is giving today on how to deal with the deficit. The talking heads are all a-twitter (can we still say that? or do I have to put "TM" on it?) — I say they are all a-twitter about what he is planning to say. Once again, news is so up-to-date that it hasn’t happened yet. The Republicans are dismissing it, of course, as they would anything that he says — to that point, there’s little to be learned by listening to their criticisms.
But I will say this — the President has already lost.
He should not be giving a speech on the debt crisis, excessive government spending or how to trim the deficit without having first given a speech on what government is here for, what our current condition is, and why government is the only agency that can fix some of this mess.
The Republicans have taken away the agenda and replaced it with "spending cuts". Nothing else matters — not safety, not health, not contracts, not rights, not anything. Cut wide, cut fast, cut deep. Period. Anyone who does not cut is a traitor.
That agenda must be dismissed. That should be the first thing the President says. It’s the wrong conversation. Cutting is one solution to one problem, but that’s not the big problem we face. So all attention is being turned to one solution to the wrong problem. The President needs to turn attention back to the other — the real — problem.
People don’t have enough money to spend on what we produce. Why not? Because they don’t have jobs, because their wages have been cut, because their costs have risen on critically-needed goods and especially services, because the money they saved was stolen by the bank crash, because the nation’s wealth has been corralled by a very small portion of the nation’s people, because someone 30 years ago said that "government is the problem", because we have been stripping away all of the safety-net provisions from government for 3 decades and now an entire generation has grown up believing that "greed is good" and that there is nothing they can, or even should, ask from government.
That problem — the real problem — needs to be attacked and attacked hard. Government is the solution — the only solution, in many cases — to the failures of unregulated marketplaces. Government is the only solution to assurance that the most vulnerable, the "cast-asides", have some safety net to help them not just survive, but to stand tall and push back. Government is the only solution to re-inventing our national priorities, re-defining what is critically needed today for this country, and its people, to participate in the world.
We have government for a reason, and the reason is clearly not just to protect the already well-off and the powerful. The reason is to attend to the needs, the safety and the welfare of the vast majority.
But he is scheduling a speech to reveal a plan that competes with a worse plan to solve a problem that is the wrong problem.
He has already lost, just by engaging in this misguided conversation.