Gene Sperling, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, spoke before a group of Democratic businessmen to pave the way for the upcoming budget negotiations.
The speech was made in a low-media atmosphere and meant to address issues in the aftermath of the recent government shutdown with a question and answer session following the prepared remarks.
Sperling was introducing the kind of bargaining the Democrats could expect to be facing their Republican counterparts with, a position which appeared very different from what most Democrats seem prepared to accept.
The NEC head emphasized the need to accept entitlement cuts as part of a deal, perhaps to head-off predictable liberal anger. At the moment the official position of the Democrats is that they are willing to accept cuts to entitlements only in exchange for new revenue. That is a deal that most Republicans will not accept. In this speech Sperling did not mention anything about revenue.
Here is a small sample of Sperling’s words:
“Sometimes here [in Washington] we start to think that the end goal of our public policy is to hit a particular budget or spending or revenue metric—as if those are the goals in and of itself. But it’s important to remember that each of these metrics … are means to larger goals. … Right now, I think there is among a lot of people a consensus as to what the ingredients of a pro-growth fiscal policy are. It would be a fiscal policy that—yes—did give more confidence in the long run that we have a path on entitlement spending and revenues that gives confidence in our long-term fiscal position and that we’re not pushing off unbearable burdens to the next generation. That is very important.”
In other words, “We’re going to have to accept entitlement cuts—get used to it.”
Then Sperling justified this position, the poor performance of the economy and its recovery:
“You have to think about this as part of an overall pro-growth, pro-jobs strategy. Also, there’s no question that right now we still need to give this recovery more momentum. We cannot possibly be satisfied with the levels of projected growth when we are still coming back from the worst recession since the Great Depression.”