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Blog buzz: Reviewing Obama's speech


After President Obama’s tough speech today on the House Republican budget, bloggers on the left lauded his critique, and those on right called his speech hallow.

Townhall.com's Guy Benson, a conservative, called the speech "Obama's worst speech yet."

"Today we witnessed something truly remarkable. Barack Obama managed to out-do himself by uncorking what very well may have been the most dishonest, demagogic, and bitterly partisan speech of his presidency."

Conservative blogger Nash Keune of The Corner says that Obama wildly misinterpreted and misrepresented the House Republican budget.

•    The president accused the House Budget Committee of breaking the Budget Control Act agreement by allocating $1.028 trillion for discretionary spending, $19 billion (or 1.8 percent) below the BCA cap. But, as Speaker Boehner noted a few weeks ago, according to Webster’s Dictionary a “cap” indicates “an upper limit” or “ceiling.” Apparently some interpreted this BCA maximum spending level as a minimum.

•    Obama said that, if the House budget passed, by the middle of the century we would have to cut spending on non-military discretionary spending (characterized as teaching, law enforcement, etc.) by 95 percent by the middle of the century, assuming that cuts are spread evenly. But this is not what the Ryan budget proposes. The House Budget details specific cuts which can be made to achieve its overall budgetary target.

•    The Ryan-Wyden Medicare plan “is a bad idea and it will ultimately end Medicare as we know it,” according to the president. Of course, this prediction is recycled from last year, even though it was named the “Lie of the Year” by Politifact. And, as Yuval Levin pointed out, the new Ryan budget is even less vulnerable to this charge than it was last year.”

(Note: What was Politifact's Lie of the Year was "Republicans voted to end Medicare," not with the additional qualifier "as we know it" -- which is an important distinction.)

On the left side, Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine argues that Obama’s speech tied Mitt Romney to the House Republican budget plan, which will frame the elections as a choice of priorities:

“Do Americans really want to undergo the fiscal pain that would be required in order to maintain the low tax rates demanded by Republicans? He has every reason to believe the answer is no...The Republican strategy has real strengths. The party’s sheer bloody-minded refusal to compromise, and its devotion to ever more radical policy agendas, has helped it to shift the terms of the debate steadily rightward. Even keeping tax rates at Clinton-era levels is now a position too left-wing for Democrats to advocate.”

Igor Volsky, of left-leaning Think Progress agrees with Obama -- saying the GOP budget would end Medicare as we know it.

“As a result, under their budget, CBO projects that average spending would rise to only $7,400 in 2030 and to only $11,100 in 2050. Since the Republican budget would convert Medicare spending into vouchers, these dollar amounts would be the amounts of the vouchers, on average...The Republican budget never specifies how it plans to enforce its cap on Medicare spending and in the absence of any other enforcement mechanism, it’s likely that the cap would be enforced by limiting the amount of vouchers provided to beneficiaries. After all, we know that capping the vouchers is the clear policy goal of Republicans—we need look no further than the budget they proposed last year. The vouchers, therefore, would likely be capped at CBO’s projected spending per beneficiary under the Republican budget: $7,400 in 2030 and $11,100 in 2050. And since these amounts would be much lower than actual costs, beneficiaries would be left to pay the difference.”

Greg Sargent, a liberal opinion blogger for the Washington Post, outlines how be believed Obama squashed the House Republican budget:

“1.Obama cast the Romney-Ryan-GOP approach as not only radical and extreme, but as a proven failure.

2. Obama defended government activism as not just morally right, but as a way to faciliate economic growth

3. Obama framed the choice as one over who sacrifices to fix the deficit....

In sum, the political case he made is threefold: The GOP approach has already failed us. In its current, more radical iteration, it’s a departure from longtime consensus about government’s proper role in spurring economic growth and in guarding against the excesses of unfettered capitalism. And that addressing inequality and tax unfairness isn’t just morally right; it’s the only way to secure the country’s future.”