THE GANG OF SIX WILL NOT SAVE OBAMA IN 2012
It's not quite clear what Barack Obama's attitude toward the Gang of Six plan is -- Steve Benen says that, contrary to some reports, the president hasn't really endorsed the plan, just the basic approach. But let's assume for the sake of argument that a Gang of Six-style plan had the president's backing and somehow could pass the House as well as the Senate. You'd think, with its $4 trillion in deficit reduction, it would take the "big spender" issue off the table for Obama in the 2012 election, right? And if you don't think that's the case, the president probably thinks it is, right? He thinks some sort of "grand bargain" will make him seem like someone who's really not a "big spender" -- right?
Well, anyone who believes that is naive. If I've learned anything over the years from watching right-wingers, it's that, according to them, the need to cut taxes and spending is always exactly as great the day after a tax or spending cut as it was the day before. On tax cuts and spending cuts, right-wingers are literally insatiable.
If a grand bargain goes through and spending is cut, do you really think Mitt Romney won't run against Obama as a big spender? Of course he will. He'll just brush off the $4 trillion in deficit reduction as some sort of accounting trick, or he'll say the cuts just scratch the surface, and now we really have to start cutting spending, in order to undo the massive damage done by untold gazillions of dollars spent on "Obamacare" (which is always portrayed by right-wingers as a bottomless money pit), the stimulus, the auto bailout, cash for clunkers, and even Planned Parenthood (and maybe even ACORN).
Do you honestly believe low-information swing voters will look at a $4 trillion cut and say, "Hey, Mitt, I know what you mean about tax-and-spend Democrats, but you've got to admit that $4 trillion is a pretty big cut"? Don't be ridiculous. The low-information public can't wrap its mind around these numbers, and, in any case, doesn't want to.
The public just wants the economy to get better -- and the public assumes that if the economy isn't going well, it must be because of too much spending and taxes. (That's wrong, but it's the only comprehensible explanation the public ever gets.) Do any of you really think the economy will be much better in the summer and fall of 2012 than it is now? We know it will still suck because all the relief has gone to the fat cats, while the rest of us have to swallow neo-Hooverism (and a "grand bargain" will just accelerate that process) -- but the low-info public will be extremely receptive to Romney's argument that the economy still sucks because of too much spending and taxation (especially given the fact that any "grand bargain" would include tax increases). He'll say we have to start cutting now, in his presidency. And much of the public will buy that.
And if (as Steve Benen says) the point of Obama's qualified support for the Gang of Six is just to put Obama on record as supporting big cuts, that absolutely won't work. No low-information swing voter will give him points for good intentions -- those voters won't remember, and wouldn't care if they did remember. They want results. They want the economy to improve -- and when it doesn't, and they don't hear an explanation of why it's not improving that's liberal and Krugmanesque, and they do hear an explanation from the right that blames excessive taxing and spending, they'll believe the latter.
So, politically, this will gain Obama much, much less than he thinks it will.