I've been saying that President Obama's State of the Union message about public investment was not a campaign to sketch out a new role for government but an attempt to preemptively defend public investment against GOP cuts. Pay attention to budget spokesman Ken Baer's message:
Top White House priorities also would come under the knife: Key Republicans are proposing to defund President Obama's high-speed rail initiative, slash clean energy programs and gut the Office of Science by 20 percent - cuts that would deal a direct blow to Obama's innovation agenda. They would also cut the Environmental Protection Agency by 17 percent. ...
Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the White House argued that the cuts would do just the opposite, undermining the very federal programs that are aimed at creating jobs.
"This Administration strongly agrees that we have to make tough choices to bring down the deficit and get the country back on a sustainable path," said Kenneth Baer, spokesman for the White House budget office. "But to win the future, we cannot make cuts that undermine our ability to create jobs, drive innovation, and compete in a global economy."
The White House has been preparing to run this play and now you can see it. They're not going to accuse Republicans of balancing the budget on the backs of the poor. They're accusing them of undermining the future of the recovery. I think it's a persuasive critique. The question is what they'll do about GOP cuts to programs for the poor.