Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Obama's Challenge

As of today, the basic case developing against Obama is:

- we are not better off compared to where were we four years back and
- Obama essentially squandered an opportunity to focus on Economy, instead went for Health Care Reform which kind of instigated GOP and from there we were all on a slippery road. (Charlie Cook of National Journal was the latest to make that case few weeks back.)

The hard part for Obama to argue is how indeed we are NOT worse off than where we were four years back. As Biden talks about a bumper sticker - "OBL is dead and GM is alive" (to which one can add - there are no more American Troops in Iraq); that can be one formulation. But more mundane and truthful answer from Obama will be "we are better off than where we were four years back, but surely not where we wanted to be". He seems to answer that way. The challenge is to explain the truth here - for 3 summers in row, we got American Economy gaining momentum in Spring to loose it in Summer. Some of that was due to Euro crisis whereas clearly in 2011 it was because of the shenanigans of GOP in Debt ceiling increase crisis to push American and Global Economy over the brink for the pure political calculations of bringing down Obama at any cost. That is the challenge for one of the most articulate politicians of our era - to explain with dexterity how blind political opposition trumps the basic duty of GOP to join Dems in service of American people. 

The second argument is even harder to answer properly. Basically it will consist of two parts - first and far most Obama needs to articulate policies he wants to pursue in his second term and basically needs to reassure Americans that he will stick to that domestic policy framework. In other words Obama needs to commit that he is unlikely to make the mistake of 'big bang governance' - that his Administration can pursue all hot issues with equal importance simultaneously as it tried in the first two years. Not only does Obama need to dispel any lingering feelings with American People that he can be waywardly in pursuing ideologically driven policies howsoever desirous those are (like ObamaCare); but he will stick to the netting and simply focus on core economic challenges our nation faces - reinvigorating growth, deficit control and tax reforms. 

The second part of the response will be Obama to retread 'selling of ObamaCare'. He did not do that part well earlier, but he needs to still do that - Medicare and Health Care Costs to Fed are main drivers of our deficit (apart from reduced tax receipts during recessionary times). Through ObamaCare, Obama attempted to set in motion 'provider side' reforms without reducing individual benefits of current or future seniors (unlike GOP which is advocating Voucher Care). The only way 'provider side' adjustments were sale-able was by expanding the coverage so that Providers get a larger customer base to cushion themselves. On top of it, it is an humanitarian case to cover more Americans in health care insurance market. It provides the necessary safety net to a larger population and collectively we all are better off in controlling emergency health care costs as well as more Americans are in positions to undertake more business risks as they have now increased availability of health coverage. Sure, convention speech is not a place to go into all these gory details. But the fact is unless Obama appropriately explains his thinking for taking one of the most visible projects of his four years; it is hard for people to get aligned to his world view.

Only after Obama has credibly answered questions regarding how we arrived where we are today and where he wants to take us in next four years, he will have the requisite 'credibility' in exposing the emptiness of Romney Ryan Ticket. Policy contradictions in Romney Ryan Ticket are low hanging fruits and for sure Obama needs to expose fully all those contradictions. It is imperative that Americans know how fateful and in all probability much downward going path Republicans are arguing in this cycle. But to make the case convincing, it rests upon Obama answering all these background questions and dispelling major doubts Americans would have regarding his politics.

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