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September 2010, Week 2

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Wed, 8 Sep 2010 22:55:36 -0400
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Has Obama Finally Given Up on Bipartisanship?

Jonathan Cohn
The New Republic
September 8, 2010
http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-cohn/77530/obama-v-the-republicans-here-we-go

I think it's safe to say that President Obama has given
up on bipartisanship, at least for the foreseeable
future.

The White House just released prepared text of his
economic speech to the City Club of Cleveland. A few
weeks ago, House Minority Leader John Boehner gave a
speech there, outlining his economic agenda (or, at
least, what he claimed to be an economic agenda).
Today, Obama is using the platform to remind people of
what he wants to do for the country, as well as what
he's already done, and why he thinks it's superior to
the Republican approach.

He's not mincing words:

A few weeks ago, the Republican leader of the House
came here to Cleveland and offered his party's answer
to our economic challenges.  Now, it would be one thing
if he admitted his party's mistakes during the eight
years they were in power, and was offering a credible
new approach to solving our country's problems.

But that's not what happened.  There were no new
policies from Mr. Boehner.  There were no new ideas.
There was just the same philosophy we already tried for
the last decade - the same philosophy that led to this
mess in the first place:  cut more taxes for
millionaires and cut more rules for corporations.
Instead of coming together like past generations did to
build a better country for our children and
grandchildren, their argument is that we should let
insurance companies go back to denying care to folks
who are sick, and let credit card companies go back to
raising rates without any reason.  Instead of setting
our sights higher, they're asking us to settle for a
status quo of stagnant growth, eroding competitiveness,
and a shrinking middle class.

No, this isn't the first time Obama has attacked
Republicans. But, as far as I can tell, this argument
is more emphatic than it has been at any time since the
presidential campaign. I haven't done a word count. But
it looks like a third of the speech, maybe more, is an
explicit critique of Republican policies.

That includes, by the way, a vow to hold firm on
opposing tax cuts for the wealthy:

    ...he and his party believe we should also give a
    permanent tax cut to the wealthiest two percent of
    Americans.  With all the other budgetary pressures
    we have - with all the Republicans' talk about
    wanting to shrink the deficit - they would have us
    borrow $700 billion over the next ten years to give
    a tax cut of about $100,000 to folks who are
    already millionaires.  These are among the only
    folks who saw their incomes rise when Republicans
    were in charge.  And these are folks who are less
    likely to spend the money, which is why economists
    don't think tax breaks for the wealthy would do
    much to boost the economy.

    So let me be clear to Mr. Boehner and everyone
    else:  we should not hold middle class tax cuts
    hostage any longer.  We are ready, this week, to
    give tax cuts to every American making $250,000 or
    less.  For any income over this amount, the tax
    rates would go back to what they were under
    President Clinton.  This isn't to punish folks who
    are better off - it's because we can't afford the
    $700 billion price tag.  And for those who claim
    that this is bad for growth and bad for small
    businesses, let me remind you that with those tax
    rates in place, this country created 22 million
    jobs, raised incomes, and had the largest surplus
    in history.

Note the phrasing here: He's accusing Republicans of
holding the middle class tax cut "hostage" to their
insistence on tax cuts for the wealthy.

I have no idea if this is good politics or bad
politics. But I'm certainly happy to see him framing
the political debate in such stark terms.

More soon.

Meantime, here is full text of the speech, as prepared
for delivery:
http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-cohn/77530/obama-v-the-republicans-here-we-go

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