What About Protecting The Poor, Mr. President?

I can’t be the only one worried that President Obama keeps talking about making sure the middle class comes out O.K. from the national fiscal debate. Here he is again, in a statement from his Hawaii vacation:

Obama vows to do more to reduce the deficit but continues to insist that any future spending cuts must be balanced with tax reforms.

“The wealthiest individuals and the biggest corporations shouldn’t be able to take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren’t available to most Americans,” he says.

“If we focus on the interests of our country above the interests of party, I’m convinced we can cut spending and raise revenue in a manner that reduces our deficit and protects the middle class,” he concludes. “These aren’t just things we should do, they’re things we must do.  And in this New Year, I’ll fight as hard as I know how to get them done.”

What about the poor people, don’t they need protecting even more than the middle class do? I also worry about who the President thinks (rather than says) qualifies as “middle class” exactly. A chart in Matt’s post on New Year’s day suggests that President Obama’s “middle class” sweet spot may be somewhere around the region of those earning $300,000 to $400,000 a year – they got more of a tax break than those earning less than $50,000, by a considerable margin, from the end-of-year deal with Republicans. I’d suggest if you’re earning $300k a year you really don’t need all that much protecting.

The Republican party is a divided shambles right now, with Tea Partiers vowing to primary every Republican who voted for the deal with Obama. But if Obama says “cut spending” and means “not protecting the poor” by making cuts to Social Security, Medicare or other safety net programs in a mostly-stagnant economy, then he’s in for a divided party himself.

1 comment to What About Protecting The Poor, Mr. President?

  • Cheryl Rofer

    Ah, if it were only so simple!

    The fact that the Republican party is divided doesn’t mean, unfortunately, that it is without power. The lunatics in the House, and the leadership that is terrified to do other than their bidding, can stand in the way of all legislation, which is their stated purpose.

    This has to be a big part of Obama’s calculations. Not just what I just said, but how to bring some legislators around to his goals. I suspect that that “sweet spot” is more happenstance from the variety of things wrapped into this deal than an intentional target.

    In addition to the President, the object of the hatred of the lunatics in the House is the poor. If Obama explicitly crusaded for the poor, that would be the end of any and all legislation for the next two years. And, cynical, yes, the middle class vote much more than do the poor, and there are many more of them than the rich.

    I would also look at the absolute circumstances up and down the economic scale more than the relative enhancements of this latest legislation. Not that the poor are doing all that well by definition, but the relative approach may make things look worse. I don’t know those numbers, just prefer to look at overall situations rather than increments.

    But, whatever we might prefer, I just don’t see another legislative strategy than working at the margins. It’s a strategy that can be quite effective.

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