The simple fact is that the Federal budget (and the National Debt that goes up every year there is a deficit) has become a runaway train and it will take literally decades to slow down in order to reach a balanced Federal budget and start reducing the overall National Debt. Even the GOP plan presented by Paul Ryan (which makes seriously drastic cuts and changes to some very huge and (in my opinion) important programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) doesn’t predict a fully balanced budget (i.e. including paying the interest payments on the National Debt) until 2063 and doesn't have the National Debt fully retired until 2081. Yes, you read that right, 2063 and 2081, more than FIFTY/SEVENTY YEARS from now).
I think Obama realizes that huge and painful cuts are inevitable/necessary and is not trying to go for short term fixes, he is focused on the long term issues and I think we say that on Wed when his economic plan for the future came out. Unfortunately, the only long term fixes that will work involve spending cuts and, hopefully, tax increases on the upper level income earners. Obama's job is to make any spending cuts and/or tax increases as painless as possible for as many of the most vulnerable that he can, but there is simply no way to prevent any and all pain. We all wish it were otherwise, but it is not. Thirty plus years of living off the country's "credit card" has caught up to us and needs to be dealt with. As painful as it will be, it is still better than the alternative, which is to continue down the path we've been on since Reagan became President.
I've been developing a theory for the past few weeks to explain why the perception that Obama has been caving to/“beaten up by” the GOP lately on a number of fiscal issues (like last fall’s extension of the WBush era tax cuts and the recent cuts to the 2010 budget and the near shutdown) is in fact incorrect. I'm calling it the "Briar Patch" theory and it basically says that all of these concessions by/“defeats” of Obama have been anticipated by him, planned by him and carried out with the unwitting help of the GOP.
If you're familiar with the Uncle Remus/American folk story of "Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch" you know that Brer Fox (the GOP in my theory) hated Brer Rabbit (i.e. President Obama) on account of he was “always cutting capers and bossing everyone around.” So Brer Fox decided to capture and kill Brer Rabbit “if it was the last thing he ever did!" Brer Rabbit eventually was caught by Brer Fox, who wanted nothing more than to make Brer Rabbit suffer as much as possible before he died. Brer Fox threatened to roast and eat Brer Rabbit and then suggested that maybe hanging was the way to go. Thinking quickly, Brer Rabbit cried "Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please. Only please, Brer Fox, please don't throw me into the briar patch." Thinking that Brer Rabbit would be "torn into little pieces!" and suffer greatly before he died, Brer Fox threw Brer Rabbit into the briar patch. Expecting to hear "whimpers of pain", Brer Fox instead heard nothing until a few minutes later when Brer Rabbit appeared on the hill behind Brer Fox and smugly observed that "I was bred and born in the briar patch, Brer Fox. Born and bred in the briar patch." And Brer Rabbit skipped away as “merry as a cricket while Brer Fox ground his teeth in rage and went home.”
Basically, my theory is that Obama is Brer Rabbit and the GOP/Tea Party is Brer Fox and that the GOP threw Obama into the "briar patch" when it comes to both the recent budget bill negotiations AND last fall's extension of the Bush era tax cuts.
Here is why I think that. First of all, the cuts to future budgets are not going to be painless but I thing Obama knows that they need to be done and the amount he "gave up" on the 2010 budget (the one they almost just shut the government down over) still amounts to a 1% cut of the total budget AND the GOP really didn't get ANY of the significant social issue riders that they wanted as part of the deal. In other words, I think Obama was willing to concede on the money issue because he knew it HAD to happen and yet he was able to prevent the vast majority of cuts to specific programs that would have really alienated his base (e.g. EPA, PELL grants, Planned Parenthood, etc).
As for last fall's extension of Bush's tax cuts, not only did Obama provide very little resistance to the extension (because, I think, he knew it was the wrong time to raise taxes of any kind, given the crappy state of the economy), he actually MADE IT BIGGER by adding the SS payroll tax cut, PLUS he got the unemployment benefits extension that he had wanted all along PLUS he gets to blame the increase in the deficit and debt from the extension on the GOP during next year’s election PLUS, next year (when tax INCREASES will be the issue as the Bush extension ends) Obama can tell all "his people" and Independent voters that he opposed the extension of those cuts in 2010 and "this time I will not be deterred", etc. It's a freakin' political gold mine for Obama and a big hole for the GOP. And the best part (according to my theory) is that the GOP (and especially the Tea Party members) did almost ALL the digging and they don't even realize that they were doing what Obama wanted them to do! That's my theory at least. I’d love to hear what people think about it. I might have drank too much of the liberal Kool Aid but I really think I might be on to something…