“A thunderclap of a speech,” the editors of the New York Times called it.
The problem for Obama is that all he has is drizzle for a policy. His budget plan, as his Treasury secretary admits, doesn’t solve the country’s long-term debt problem, and was unable to get a single vote in the House of Representatives. His allies in the Senate’s Democratic majority haven’t passed a budget for three years, or even attempted to pass one.
The political bet seems clear enough: Voters may want the budget balanced, but they aren’t going to tolerate the steps needed to get there, and so Obama can win the debate by attacking the Republicans’ proposals and not offering real ones of his own. (It’s the same strategy Republicans have used against Obama’s health-care plan.)
The more interesting question is what Obama’s economic bet is. Could he be counting on having the flexibility to balance the budget in his second term in ways he cannot openly discuss now?