In it, but not of it. TPM DC
The President's "Buffett Rule" proposal will not appear in his official budget, set to be unveiled Feb. 13. Nor is it packaged as legislation and scored by the Congressional Budget Office. Instead, one senior administration official said, it's a principle the President will advocate forcefully in the months ahead -- both as an action Congress should take and a rallying cry for an electorate increasingly concerned with economic equality. Politically, it serves as a cudgel to wield against the GOP, capitalizing on the argument that they support a tax code that's rigged in favor of the rich.
Obama wants to satisfy the federal 30 percent tax rule with comprehensive tax reform that includes eliminating breaks for millionaires and billionaires, including on mortgage interest, health care, retirement, and child care, a senior administration official said, explaining that the President sees no need to sustain those tax benefits for the wealthy.
The senior White House official denied that the speech was implicitly aimed at Romney, but the subtext nevertheless points to one of the former Massachusetts governor's major political weaknesses in a general election.
The underlying themes of Obama's speech Tuesday involve bolstering a middle class that has been left behind economically, and re-tilting policies that benefit upper earners in the other direction -- with individual and corporate tax reform, as well as major investments in rebuilding American infrastructure paid for with savings drawn from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also proposes stricter oversight of Wall Street, including the establishment of a Financial Crimes Unit with elevated penalties for financial fraud.
As part of this broader effort, Obama will also seek to impose a minimum tax rate on U.S. companies that do business internationally while creating new incentives to create jobs and home, such as cutting taxes on domestic manufacturers.
It is a bouquet of themes President Obama and Democratic leaders hope will shape the 2012 elections. And the new push suggests a growing confidence on their part that the public has tired significantly of the anti-government themes of 2010 and 2011 like slashing federal programs and shrinking the size of the federal government. They represent a populist turn for a Democratic incumbent, suggesting a recognition that these views have gone mainstream, and that the political zeitgeist does not require a reactionary, election-year shift to the center. The prescriptions lay out a decidedly progressive vision of government and embrace ideas Obama resisted in 2011 in an effort to find common ground with Republicans -- an effort that proved to be a fool's errand.
Obama and members of both parties know that 2012 will yield little in the way of major legislative accomplishments for either party. That's why defining what's at stake in the upcoming election in November -- an election that could potentially yield a mandate for one of the two parties to implement its vision -- is such a critical goal for both Democrats and Republicans.