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President Obama
President Obama (Wikimedia Commons)
Presidents sometimes float trial balloons. They want to gauge public reactions. All modern presidents have done it. Sometimes they're serious about what they're floating, sometimes not. Sometimes it's about creating messaging, sometimes it's about firing up the base, sometimes it's even about razzing the opposition. It's called politics.

We don't know what President Obama really intends on the debt/deficit negotiations. As usual, opacity rules. We do know that he consistently uses right-wing rhetoric when discussing economic issues. We do know that he keeps talking abut the necessity of making deep cuts, even as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the CBO, Paul Krugman and many others warn that deep cuts could undermine any economic recovery. We do know that another economic downturn just as we enter election year could endanger this presidency, despite the cast of embarrassing buffoons that constitutes the Republican opposition. We do know that the president personally chose to elevate the deficit as an issue, when he appointed the Catfood Commission and had it chaired by a cut-and-run moderate and a slash-and-burn conservative. We do know that in the midst of a deep recession or a Lesser Depression he chose to turn the focus from stimulus to deficits, even as many warned about revisiting 1937. But we don't know what he really wants from these debt/deficit negotiations.

Congressional leaders have been very upset with how these negotiations have developed. Democratic Congressional leaders. They have been upset at the White House, they have been upset at what they themselves have heard was being floated by the White House. Maybe it's all been trial balloons. Maybe none of it has been intended to be enacted. We don't know. We do know that whether or not these are trial balloons, it is the responsibility of responsible Democrats to stand up for responsible Democratic values. It is the responsibility of responsible Democrats to stand up for the responsible Democratic values that have defined the Democratic Party since responsible Democratic values dug us out of the Great Depression. And no—World War II did not end the Depression. The turning point began before we entered the war. The turning point started to turn backward just when President Roosevelt got deficit fever in 1937. The turning point started to turn back in the right direction when President Roosevelt got over his deficit fever and again turned to Keynesian spending. All of which took place before the U.S. entered the war.

We don't know what President Obama intends to do with this artificially created debt/deficit crisis. We do know what is being reported and we do know how Congressional Democrats have been reacting. It would be irresponsible for responsible Democrats not to make their voices heard. It would be irresponsible for responsible Democrats not to be very clear about what they consider to be unacceptable outcomes. It would be irresponsible for responsible Democrats not to continue to define what it means to be responsible Democrats. It is never wrong for Democrats to stand up for what is right.

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