...But he then doubled down on precisely the argument that is the main point of contention with Republicans, arguing that the primary challenge we face is stagnating economic mobility and widening inequality, and crucially, that only an agenda of robust government intervention can reverse the larger trends underlying those problems and restore economic mobility and the American dream.
The current political tug of war breaks down as follows. Republicans want the Obama era to be seen as one of excess liberal governance thwarting our economic potential, leading to widespread misery. The primary vehicle for this argument is Obamacare — government interference is only leading to lost coverage, higher premiums, and crushed jobs. Only electing Republicans to Congress can act as a check on unbridled liberal governance and restore market-powered prosperity.
Democrats want to persuade Americans that only they have an actual policy program to deal with our primary problems — that the gains from the recovery are not broadly shared, that wages have stagnated, and that there aren’t enough jobs. The Dem case is that the Republican arguments against Obama’s signature domestic achievement are really a proxy for the same old GOP trickle down ideology, that only getting government out of the way — and keeping taxes and regulations low on rich people and job creators — can unleash the market potential that will miraculously lift up everyone below them.
White House advisers say they think that if the argument is understood on the latter terms — in the 2014 elections in particular — they will have the advantage. So yesterday’s speech was the start of a broader effort to use whatever “bully pulpit” powers the presidency has to shift the argument onto that turf.
But as Dean Baker points out, conservatives use the government to redistribute upwards.