SF Chronicle Hails 'Obama's Centrist Approach' to Budget

"Obama aims for the middle on taxes and spending."

That's the headline the San Francisco Chronicle gave Washington bureau staffer Carolyn Lochhead's write-up this afternoon following President Obama's "belated embrace of his commission's recommendation to cut $4 trillion in deficits over the next 12 years."

"Even as he reached back to his 2008 campaign lodestar with a reference to Abraham Lincoln, Obama pivoted sharply to a new mantra of 'balance' and 'shared sacrifice,' citing his Democratic predecessor and budget-balancer, former President Bill Clinton," Lochhead gushed.

Two paragraphs later Lochhead noted that "Obama threw down the gauntlet to Republicans, vowing, 'I refuse to renew them again.'"

How exactly is that centrist rhetoric?

Lochhead contrasted the president's vision for taxes and spending with critics from his left in his own party:

Before his speech, Bay Area liberal Democrats Lynn Woolsey of Petaluma, Barbara Lee of Oakland and Mike Honda of San Jose laid out a competing deficit plan that would slash defense spending and sharply raise taxes, while significantly increasing domestic spending. Woolsey and Lee have fasted for a day as part of a protest against GOP budget cuts agreed to by Obama.


Woolsey said she was "encouraged" by Obama's speech and his promise to defend Medicare from GOP plans to turn it into a voucher program.


"Our base Democratic voters are saying to us, 'Why is he moving so far toward the Republicans,' " Woolsey said. "He's beyond centrist at this point" with Friday's agreement on domestic spending, she said, "but his words today were very, very matter-of-fact and most Democrats could support all of it, but the devil is in the details."

But why the dramatic reversal in course from the president? Lochhead noted that Obama had "spurned as recently as February the recommendations by deficit commission chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson in his 2012 budget" but now his "sudden shift acknowledges the stark political and economic realities of soaring U.S. debt."

Between then and now Republicans have unveiled an ambitious budget plan that aims to cut $6.2 trillion over 10 years and lays out specifics about how they plan to do so.

Yet according to Lochhead, Obama has specifically said whom he'd like to soak with more taxes, but has failed to lay out where he plans to cut spending:

On taxes, Obama called for $1 trillion in additional tax revenues that would come not just from rolling back the Bush-era tax cuts on high-income groups but from scaling back spending programs in the tax code as the deficit commission recommended.


But Obama did not identify which spending programs he would accept. The biggest of these are such hot-button tax breaks for the middle class as the mortgage interest deduction and the tax exclusion for employer-provided health care.

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