President Barack Obama is beginning the salesmanship of his far-reaching $3.6 trillion budget with a populist blast at powerful interests he says will fight it – all but challenging his opponents to bring it on.
“I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak,” Obama said in his weekly radio address Saturday.
“My message to them is this: So am I.”
It’s a return to the sort of rhetoric he deployed in his anti-status-quo presidential campaign, and it reflects the pivot Obama has made since spending his first few weeks in office reaching for bipartisan consensus.
Having faced almost unanimous Republican opposition to his stimulus plan, the president is now embracing confrontation over conciliation. Republicans already are tagging him with the “tax and spend” label, for his proposed $1.3 trillion in higher taxes over 10 years and broad expansion of a government role in health care and other areas.
But Obama made clear he doesn’t consider it merely a partisan fight, taking on some of the capital’s most politically muscular groups in some of his most pugilistic rhetoric, a preview of battles ahead.
“I know that the insurance industry won’t like the idea that they’ll have to bid competitively to continue offering Medicare coverage, but that’s how we’ll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs for American families,” he said.
“I know that banks and big student lenders won’t like the idea that we’re ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, but that’s how we’ll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won’t like us ending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that’s how we’ll help fund a renewable energy economy that will create new jobs and new industries.”
It’s a strategy undergirded by the poll-reinforced assumption that Americans are inclined to side with the popular new president over not only the weakened GOP but also entrenched interest groups.
As if to remind people he believes he won a mandate last year, Obama told listeners on the broadcast that his proposals represent “the change I promised as a candidate for president.
“It is the change the American people voted for in November. And it is the change represented by the budget I sent to Congress this week.”
“The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long, but I don’t,” he said. “I work for the American people.”
Obama’s plans to expand health care coverage, develop cleaner energy and spend more on education by raising taxes on the wealthy and businesses are unmistakably bold, at least the most ambitious since President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society.
Though his rhetoric is carefully calibrated to blur such big government activism, Obama was candid about his audacious goals.
“I didn’t come here to do the same thing we’ve been doing or to take small steps forward, I came to provide the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November,” he said.
LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN!
Live your values. Love your country.
And, remember: TOGETHER, We can make a DIFFERENCE!