Why doesn’t President Obama call the Republicans’ bluff? His 2012 budget ducks any significant entitlement cuts, and ignores the recommendations of his bipartisan deficit commission. Obama’s budget director explains that the administration is not willing to make the first move into politically risky terrain. But why not propose meaningful entitlement reform and force the Republicans to take a stand? If Republican-Tea Party rhetoric of fiscal responsibility is mere posturing, a fiscally responsible Democratic plan would force Republicans into the awkward position of arguing against reform that they have paid constant lip service to. But if they truly do mean to rein in entitlement spending, they would (in theory) go along with an Obama proposal to make cuts and would share the political heat. (Of course, Obama himself may not have the slightest interest in cutting the entitlement juggernaut, but still, he has before him a wonderful opportunity to put Republican political rhetoric to the test.)
The Wall Street Journal’s Gerald Seib notes a Pew Research Center poll that suggests that the public ranting over big government is all a show. Only 12% of those polled this month want to cut Medicare or Social Security spending. Looks like the Tea Party has its work cut out for it, assuming that its members are not part of that 12%.