Where's the beef?

After much anticipation that the new centrist — President Obama — would unveil substantial spending cuts or targets in his State of the Union address tonight, we learn he will ignore the recommendations of his own debt commission that labored for months to come up with a plan to put our fiscal house in order. Nonpartisan budget analysts who believe the president must lead on deficit reduction are growing doubtful that a grand bargain is possible.
 
After liberals spent weeks working to pressure the White House on Social Security cuts, Obama has reportedly assured Democratic lawmakers he would not support his commission’s recommendations to raise the retirement age or make any other cuts to the program, according to The Washington Post. Backing off of raising the retirement age? And just where is this middle ground going to come from if President Obama is ruling out something like that?
 
Republicans are having their own fight among themselves over how much to cut and where and when. Their newly elected conservatives want to cut 30 percent into 2011 spending alone, though the leadership has counseled otherwise. Thus far they have only promised cuts in discretionary spending but no reform of entitlements. Democrats don't want Obama "going first" on entitlement reform, afraid of the political consequences.

The White House is also promising there is news in the speech that hasn't leaked out. Though his annual budget isn't due out until mid-February, let's hope Obama is going to get specific on deficit reduction now. He shouldn't wait to react to House Republicans, and he doesn't have to allow them to drive the debate. He should signal tonight that he has his own tough and detailed plan.


PLEASE SEND ME YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE SPEECH for a post-SOTU Ask A.B. this Thursday, Jan. 27. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.