With deadlock becoming the increasingly frequent M.O. of Washington, President Obama plans to take his message to the people when it comes to his strategy to reduce the nation's debt.
At the end of this month, America will be on the edge of a precipice known as the fiscal cliff. If the nation falls over, last year's temporary payroll tax cuts - resulting in a 2% tax increase for workers - will end, along with other tax breaks. In addition, spending reductions agreed upon as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 will go into effect, which could lead to deep cuts to more than 1,000 government programs including the defense budget and Medicare.
To avoid these outcomes, Obama has announced plans to launch a campaign to rally support for a deficit-cutting strategy that combines tax increases on the wealthy with spending cuts. Central to this blueprint is $1.6 trillion in additional tax revenue over the next decade, much of it coming from the highest-paid Americans.
The plan to launch a public affairs campaign in addition to standard close-door meetings with legislators is smart. Last year's budget talks were largely political theater. Getting voters on his side will help avoid this as research has shown lawmakers are influenced more by constituent correspondence than any other source of information, including lobbyists.
Obama also plans to persuade chief executives to back his plans. Before he won the election, 80 CEOs who support the Fix the Debt organization signed a letter in which they outlined fiscal plans that basically matched Obama's ideals rather than those of the GOP.
Engaging these executives as allies is a stroke of genius on Obama's behalf as it hits GOP lawmakers where it hurts the most - their wallets. For instance, Aetna CEO and Fix the Debt supporter Mark Bertolini gave a $4 million donation to the US Chamber of Commerce's conservative 501-C6 organization. Cisco's John Chambers gave $50,000 during this election cycle to a pro-Mitt Romney political action committee.
Still, some have doubts if Obama's strategy will work. Marshall Ganz, senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard, told The Atlantic that unless Obama goes out with a solid plan then he may not get as much support as he hopes. A valid point given how bad his administration was in conveying the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
Still, I commend the president on trying something different and, regardless of whether the strategy is successful or not, it will be a great learning tool for future politicos on how to do effective outreach that moves the legislative needle.
Virgil Dickson is the public affairs/healthcare reporter for PRWeek. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.