The White House's strategy here isn't to appear so reasonable that Republicans can't help but cut a deal. They feel they tried that during the debt-ceiling debate, and it failed. The White House's strategy here is to produce a popular plan that strikes directly at Republican vulnerabilities on taxes and Medicare. If that scares the GOP and makes them more interested in coming to an agreement in the supercommittee process, then great. If not, it gives the White House a message to base its reelection campaign off of.
Compared … with the proposals of Obama’s own deficit-reduction committee at the end of 2010 or with the audacity of the Tea Party, these initiatives are modest. And that may be the most significant weakness. The jobs bill proposed, at less than $500 billion, is modest for a $15 trillion economy. The budget reductions of $3 trillion over the course of a decade—modest. The rhetoric is bolder, but the underlying actions aren’t.
[T]here’s no real chance of implementing this idea. Yet as a statement of vision it sets up the contrast with the opposition quite clearly. House Republicans want to repeal Medicare in order to make tax cuts for the rich affordable, President Obama wants to tax the rich in order to make Medicare affordable. Some critics will focus on the relatively small changes to federal health care programs here, but the President is essentially doing what progressives have been urging him to do for months — abandoning the strategy of pre-compromising, and planting his flag in a way that draws strong contrasts.
[Obama's] offering the sharpest left turn since Teddy Kennedy’s challenge to Jimmy Carter in 1980. The President’s new brainwave is a stunt that threatens the country’s long-term prosperity and growth. The lapse of the Bush tax cuts plus a new millionaire tax bracket thrusts us back to the high rates of the 1970s.
[W]hat we have here is the makings of a reelection strategy, one rooted in redirecting swing voters’ intense anxiety, frustration and anger away from Obama and onto the GOP. Obviously, there’s not much inspiring about this, but it’s probably Obama’s best bet for winning a second term — and maybe then having more leverage to actually enact some of his preferred economic policies.
[T]he idea is to get a promise to raise taxes in exchange for spending “cuts” achieved by ending two wars when they’re planned to end and some Medicare savings that will begin toward the end of the next presidential term and phase in over the next two terms after that? Sweet. I get that this isn’t so much a plan as a campaign strategy. But even by that standard, this is pretty silly.
[T]here’s a ton of commentary out there today to the effect that this new posture is about nothing more than appealing to the Dem base. But that’s thoroughly bogus: Whether they’re right or wrong, Obama and his advisers have also decided that this is a good way to appeal to independents, too. Polling shows that while indys marginally disapprove of Obama’s jobs plan, and are deeply skeptical of his performance on the economy, solid majorities of them support his actual jobs-creation prescriptions.
Obama is actually right that the current tax code is a mess. The American economy would be better off with a simpler system that isn’t riddled with complications and special exceptions. A simpler system would also allow for lower across-the-board rates. But the president's proposal, which merely selects a handful of politically convenient carve-outs for elimination, wouldn’t simplify the system in any way that really matters in the broader scheme of things. If anything, the administration is using the tax code’s complexity to its own advantage, framing targeted tax hikes as a form of tax-code simplification.
It’s as much a political statement as a policy one. It is a statement about how the president views Medicare and how he intends to defend it. The message of his proposal is this: Medicare requires change, but that change should be within, not to, its current structure. The big news is that changing Medicare’s fundamental form is itself grounds for debate.
[T]he question for this proposal isn’t whether it will pass Congress (it won’t), but whether it will bolster Obama’s standing with Democratic voters, and move public opinion in his direction
Earlier thoughts here.