The Plank

Obama's Grand Bargain

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It didn't make as much news as the stimulus comments or the torture discussion or his coolness to investigating Bush-era crimes--or, for that matter, the labradoodle--but I think this was one of the most interesting exchanges from Obama's "This Week" appearance yesterday:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me press you on this, at the end of the day, are you really talking about over the course of your presidency some kind of a grand bargain? That you have tax reform, health care reform, entitlement reform, including Social Security and Medicare where everybody in the country is going to have to sacrifice something, accept change for the greater good?

OBAMA: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And when will that get done?

OBAMA: Well, the -- right now I'm focused on a pretty heavy lift, which is making sure that we get that reinvestment and recovery package in place. But what you describe is exactly what we're going to have to do.

What we have to do is to take a look at our structural deficit, how are we paying for government, what are we getting for it, and how do we make the system more efficient?

STEPHANOPOULOS: And eventually sacrifice from everyone.

OBAMA: Everybody is going to have to give. Everybody is going to have to have some skin in the game.

I know there have been murmurings in Obamaland about long-term entitlement reform, but I've never heard Obama sign on so explicitly to the idea of a grand bargain. It's a bold move, and one that I suspect will be pretty controversial on the left. If nothing else, I'd have expected him to hedge a bit since, as he says, we've got to take care of this stimulus thing first.

On the other hand, maybe "grand bargain" is precisely what the people in the center and on the center-right--the votes he's looking for in the Senate--want to hear at this point. (They're the gettable people whose biggest concern is the long-term budget picture.) So it could be pretty a savvy pronouncment. And, for that matter, maybe costless. It's not like he committed himself to any specifics on Social Security or Medicare...  

--Noam Scheiber

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