That’s what the last two weeks of Obama proposals represent…one big campaign ad. That…or a ridiculous opening bid negotiating ploy.  But then…what’s the difference.

What the Buffett Rule, Obama’s $3T deficit reduction plan, and his $400B jobs bill are not…are serious.  Over the last two weeks Obama has put forward ideas to:

-       impose some so-far-ill-defined millionaires’ Alternative Minimum Tax (i.e. The Buffett Rule)

-       let the Bush tax cuts expire for those making more than $250,000

-       do away with tax deductions for those making over $250,000

-       exempt Social Security from deficit reduction

-       not raise the eligibility age for Medicare, rather push cuts onto providers

Together, these proposals tack so far to the left and exist so far outside the realm of possibility that they cannot be taken seriously.  Obama asked for less last December during the debate over whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts…and lost.  In August, during the debt ceiling debate, he asked for even less…and lost.

Obama could have centered his proposal around potential areas of compromise like reforming the corporate tax code and reforming Social Security.  But he didn’t.  Instead he doubled down on a theme he’s been trying and failing to sell for three years.  Why?

Derek Thompson, a columnist at TheAtlantic.com, says it’s an opening bid:

…the White House is veering left after it was seen as capitulating to Republicans in the debt ceiling negotiations. With $450 billion in new stimulus and $1.5 trillion in new taxes concentrated on the richest households, this is as populist as we’ve seen the White House.

Thompson thinks the $3T deficit reduction proposal is a “strategic play.” That is, after getting pummeled by progressives for seemingly starting in the center and compromising towards Republicans during past negotiations, the president is now taking a hardline.  Maybe.

But I think when you add the Buffett Rule and the jobs bill to the picture this looks like a massive populist campaign pitch.  The theme of all of these proposals is “let’s go get those damn rich guys.”

There is a sense that progressives are disillusioned with Obama.  Whether this is the opening of a hardline negotiation or a populist ploy, the effect is to remind Obama’s base who they love.