For those who insist that President Barack Obama is a “progressive” or at least a “liberal,” please allow me to remove the scales from your eyes. The man has called himself a “moderate Republican.” In context, he said that if he were president 25 years ago, his economic policies would make him a moderate Republican.
During an interview with Noticias Univision 23, Obama responded to the accusation by some of south Florida's Cuban-American and Venezuelan communities that he believes in and intends to implement a “socialist” economic system in the U.S. Specifically, the president said he does not know that many people actually believe that, because, as he put it:
"The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican." (Emphasis added).
Of course, these remarks are being made by the president in order to distance himself – once again – from his many promises to leave intact those social benefit programs which so rankle….Republicans. In an effort to resolve the so-called, self-induced deficit and debt debacle (the "fiscal cliff"), reports are rampant that Obama is prepared – again – to cut the Democratic Party’s signature program for retirees, Social Security, in order to – again – provide a smaller tax increase for the very wealthy.
Why is he doing this? From the beginning, Obama has been labeled by the rabid right wing as a socialist whose ultimate goal is to redistribute and redirect the wealth of rich people to poor people. The Affordable Health Care Act is their “Exhibit A.” They see it as an overweening and ultimately debilitating increase in the size of the federal government, an act which will eventually bankrupt America, and render it into a “third world country.”
Obama wants to eradicate that image and belief among Republicans. He believes that by putting Social Security “on the table” for a second go-round that he will ultimately be congratulated and complimented for his “bipartisanship,” for his astute political skill in reaching a compromise that satisfies most, if not everybody concerned. (Recall that he unilaterally, without prompting, put Social Security on the infamous "table" early in his first term during budget negotiations).
"What I believe in is a tax system that is fair. I don't think government can solve every problem. I think that we should make sure that we're helping young people go to school. We should make sure that our government is building good roads and bridges and hospitals and airports so that we have a good infrastructure," he said. "I do believe that it makes sense that everyone in America, as rich as this country is, shouldn't go bankrupt because someone gets sick."
For their part, of course, Republican leaders continue to largely reject tax-rate increases by declaring that Obama is not “serious” about reducing the federal budget deficit and “reforming” so-called “entitlement” programs.
"The president's plan to avert the fiscal cliff still does not meet the two standards that I laid out the day after the election," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday. "His plan does not fulfill his promise to bring a balanced approach to solving this problem. It's mainly tax hikes, and his plan does not begin to solve our debt crisis. It actually increases spending."
Half-heartedly, Obama has replied to Boehner: "We also need to reduce our deficit in a responsible way, that means revenue, asking the wealthiest to pay a little bit more taxes, protecting middle-class families. Then cutting out some programs that we don't need, passing responsible spending cuts. And I hope that we can get this resolved," he said. "We just need, you know, for Speaker Bohner and the House Republicans to step up and say they are ready to get going."
Many, myself included, have long argued that the president's policies, as opposed to his words, closely resemble moderate Republican views from the 1980s and 1990s. The author Ezra Klein of the Washington Post made the argument in a 2011 column. In it, he pointed to Obama’s embrace of the the individual health insurance mandate, an idea developed in conservative think tanks, as prima facie evidence of Obama’s “moderate Republican” status. I would add that his immediate and out-of-hand rejection of the “public option” also qualifies him as more Republican moderate than Democratic liberal. Will Saletan of Slate made a similar argument this year.
And so, again, we need to quit fooling ourselves about this man. The betrayals and backsliding that we saw in his first term were only warm-ups for what’s about to happen now. He knew then and he knows now exactly, precisely what he is doing and why. Hopefully, we all do now as well.