In a House Budget Committee hearing on June 23, economic wunderkind Congressman Paul Ryan was questioning the head of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Doug Elmendorf about Obama's budget "plan." Obama has been claiming his budget framework would cut $4 trillion from the deficit over 12 years. The only problem, as the CBO Director points out, is that Obama has provided no details.
This has been a key and striking difference between Ryan and Obama. While Democrats think they've been handed a gift in Ryan's budget plan, because he has the guts and leadership to talk details, even controversial details, voters will soon see how little Obama and the Democrats are offering. Dems will run ads attacking the Ryan plan. Republicans will be able to respond — where's your plan?
Once Democrats offer a plan they'll be locked into the details over that plan. Either their plan will make serious cuts like Ryan and therefore earn a score from the CBO saying their plan cuts the deficit or they'll offer up a poll tested bunch of blather and the CBO will point out how little the plan actually does.
So Democrats are not as well off as they might expect. We can't cut the deficit without cutting politically popular programs. Democrats can agree to cut those programs, thus depriving them of attack ads against Republicans for wanting to cut the programs, or they'll offer up fiscal junk, in which case Republicans will be able to make the point that Democrats have no guts or leadership.
It is a debate between a real plan and, in the paraphrased words of the head of CBO, no plan at all. Because a speech, Barry Obama, does not a plan make.