Obama’s Veto Threat

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Realistically speaking, there’s not much chance that Congress will pass either Obama’s jobs bill or his new deficit plan. To a large extent, both things are more about political positioning than they are about actually passing legislation. Matt Yglesias spins this out:

In that context, the biggest news out of today’s deficit plan from President Obama probably isn’t the plan itself but an ancillary veto threat. We’ve long known that the White House favors higher taxes on the rich, and also that it’s willing to consider agreeing to some very right-wing notions about Medicare spending as part of a grand bargain to get it. Today, though, the president is clearly stating for the first time that he will veto any plan from the super committee or elsewhere that cuts Medicare benefits without raising taxes on the wealthy. That has practical importance and makes it much more likely that we’ll end up getting the super committee trigger cuts rather than a new Democratic rollover.

If Obama sticks to his veto threat, this is true. And I suspect he will stick to his veto threat. After all, if this is mostly about political positioning, then the position Obama very clearly wants to monopolize is that he’s the guy who defends middle-class entitlements while demanding that the rich pay their fair share. A veto threat is a good way to dramatize this, and an actual veto would be even better.

The next step is for congressional Democrats to rein in their parochial interests and back this up loudly and completely. I don’t know if they’re smart enough to do this, but if they do, it would be pretty good branding. Republicans are the party of low taxes on millionaires even if it means a higher deficit; Democrats are the party of fiscal prudence and making millionaires pay the same tax rates as the rest of us. If they can really stick to this, every scrap of polling evidence suggests it would be pretty popular.


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