I have to add my voice to those complaining that the media are portraying the ongoing budget battle as a clash between the Obama plan on the left and the Ryan plan on the right. What this view ignores is that the Congressional Progressive Caucus has put out something called the People's Budget, which should be seen as the true progressive alternative, while the President's plan should be seen as moderate. (In fact, noted economist Jeffrey Sachs thinks that the People's Budget should be portrayed as the moderate plan, the President's plan as a center-right alternative, and the Ryan proposal a far right agenda. A number of other economists and organizations have also praised the People's Budget as the most fiscally responsible plan on the table, as well as the most humane.) If the media thinks it is appropriate to marginalize the Progressive Caucus budget, then it seems to me just as legitimate to marginalize the Ryan plan as the radical right wing alternative. The Ryan plan is not popular with most people, and even Republicans are starting to distance themselves from it.
before, we must recognize that this debate is not about the debt or the deficit. It is mainly about spending priorities, and also about appropriate levels of taxation.
I am not going to criticize the President for offering a middle of the road budget plan, even though I might also personally prefer the People's Budget. (People who read my blog know I make it a rule not to criticize the President here. He gets enough of that elsewhere.) It is probably a smarter move for him both politically and as a matter of negotiating strategy to advocate a balanced and moderate plan, rather than to play into the hands of his conservative detractors by putting forward a more traditional tax and spend Democratic alternative. Besides, the President is supposed to represent all of the people, so he has some obligation to offer a plan that appeals to his entire constituency, namely the whole country.
But if critics on the left want to do something constructive, instead of just criticizing the President for being too moderate, it seems to me that it would not hurt for them to increase awareness of and to advocate the priorities included in the People's Budget. That will help make people understand that the President's plan is truly moderate and reasonable and should appeal to a wide spectrum of public opinion, and that we should not be looking for a "compromise" somewhere halfway between the Obama plan and the Ryan plan. The Obama plan is already the compromise. (See this Robert Reich column making a similar argument.) The media should also make more of an effort to balance the massive coverage they have given to the radical Ryan budget plan, with at least a little attention to the more liberal alternative being put forward by the Progressive Caucus.