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The Budget Battles on Which His Reelection Depends

There are many grounds on which liberals have good reason to be frustrated with Obama (not rank-and-file Democrats, among whom he remains pretty popular, but Washington-centered liberals). Many were disturbed before he even became president—that is, during the campaign—when he pledged that he would not raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000, which ensured that the deficit conversation would be carried out on largely Republican terms. One can understand the political position he was in at the time, but if he had somehow found a way to communicate that intention without making it quite so ironclad, he would have more options today—raising the cap on the Social Security payroll tax, for example, which currently ends at $106,900. But to propose that now would open Obama up to Republican charges that he is breaking his 2008 vow.

In any case, the question can’t really be avoided much longer. He will have a showdown with Republicans that could force him in 2012 to risk letting taxes go up across the board. Fate has tapped Obama on the shoulder in any number of unhappy ways, and in the future, it appears that it will designate him the Democrat charged with exorcising the ghost of Mondale.

April 28, 2011

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