Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Obama should embrace Simpson Bowles

My column in the Sky Hi News today
As expected the presidential election is coming down to the 5-6 percent who either are not focused on the campaign or who are just plain conflicted.

On many of the major issues and ideology, most voter opinions are already set in concrete. The problem facing both Mitt Romney and President Obama is how to keep the concrete firm and still snag the elusive middle.

The president has some work to do, but his options are not as big as some gambles he has already taken, and embracing Simpson-Bowles debt reduction proposals by name is one good bet.

Obama has a record of taking risks and winning. Reflecting on what has happened this last week regarding the president's endorsement of marriage equality, events moved so quickly he went with his gut, but the gut may be a winner when the dust settles. Like Obama's decision on how best to get bin Laden that gambled his re-election chances, or taking the risk to bail out the auto industry, his gut coupled with good analysis and faith in our special forces and changes forced in business practices turned out to be   gambles that paid off.

Marriage equality is a gamble with only 50 percent in agreement. Evangelicals, Southerners, the LGBT community, and social libertarians had already dug themselves in. Others who were not with him on this issue, like members of the black and Hispanic communities and young voters, are committed to him for other reasons. The gamble is that    Rust Belt blue collar workers who were grateful for the auto bailouts and women would likely put their own economic and health access agendas ahead of marriage equality issues in deciding whom to support.

To appeal to moderates, Obama needs to endorse Simpson-Bowles debt reduction plan by name, because just about everyone in both political parties and in between do feel there is a need to tackle debt. Opinion polls are already showing support, with voters approving Simpson-Bowles. It is not that big of a gamble.

By embracing Simpson-Bowles, the president can put a brand name to his policies. He can then pit Simpson Bowles against the GOP-Ryan plans and make case that Simpson-Bowles is far more fair and balanced when it comes to   who or what gets hit with the cuts and who pays more or fewer taxes.

Obama has already embraced many of the details in Simpson-Bowles. However, there is still left the thousand pound gorilla: “entitlements” and support of Simpson-Bowles implies support of their proposals.

I hate the term “entitlements” because it makes me feel guilty that I am a beneficiary of two of them, Medicare and Social Security., From time to time ill relatives have also been able to live out their lives humanely, first on Medicare and Social security, and later on Medicaid after assets ran out. We had put in our money and time and earned them or desperately needed them. Many on the conservative side  have been or will be beneficiaries as well. That is why  Obama and many on the right pussy foot around the issue, delay decisions for lame ducks to tackle, or exempt from changes current beneficiaries.

Potentially to their downfall, Rep. Paul Ryan, and the House Republicans have proposed a solution that Romney called “marvelous.” However, what policies they propose, especially regarding Medicare, are potentially politically toxic. Obama can bite the bullet and endorse the Simpson-Bowles proposal to raise retirement age to 70. He should contrast that with the Ryan plan to privatize, voucherize, and leave future beneficiaries stuck with higher co-pays when they do get their “entitlements.” After all, fellow retirees, we are so much healthier than our predecessors. The next generations will be able to work a few more years, too. It is a haircut we can more comfortably ask them to take.

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