The fiscal cliff/Grand Bargain brouhaha has to be one of the biggest scams in the history of the American Republic. Which means that the major players are not only talking out of both sides of their mouths but speaking backwards to forward and sideways as well. The Republicans are talking about making making concessions of "revenue," which the Pod Pundits gleefully spin as a sign of the moderation their are always looking for to praise, even when it doesn't exist.
And our supposed Democratic allies? When they "defend" Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, they are often proposing to cut benefits on those programs. For instance, Ryan Grim reports, Dick Durbin: Social Security Should Be Off The Fiscal Cliff Table Huffington Post 11/27/2012.
How can any Democrat take any assurance that Dick Durbin gives us about anything? This is the member of the Simpson-Bowles Catfood Commission who came up with the following memorable comment in 2010:
The six Republican lawmakers on the panel said they would not rule out tax increases as a precondition. But most made clear on Tuesday that they would focus on what several called the nation’s “spending problem.”That quote is from a New York Times article by Jackie Calmes, Obama Tells Debt Commission ‘Everything Has to Be on the Table’ 04/27/2010. In the context of deficit/debt/budget negotiations, "everything has to be on the table" is Washington-speak for "cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."
... Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Senate Democratic leader, ... admonished "bleeding heart liberals" to be open to program reductions to restore fiscal balance. An hour after the commission’s meeting, however, several liberal activists held a conference call with reporters to press for additional spending to create jobs, lower military spending, higher taxes for the wealthy and no cuts in Medicare or Social Security.
And what does Durbin propose for Social Security instead of immediate cuts in benefits? As Grim reports, "Durbin suggested that a separate commission to study Social Security be formed and charged with making recommendations by the end of 2013, which would then be voted on or amended by Congress." Since referring something to a commission is a time-honored Washington ploy to do nothing, that in itself is a good sign. Because nothing is what should be done on cutting benefits for Social Security. Medicare and Medicaid, too.
I have basically zero confidence in Dick Durbin. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, I have more confidence in:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that he won't be part of any negotiations that include Social Security.Obama is starting a nationwide tour to promote his latest austerity scheme, and we're likely to hear more from him along these lines, from Calmes' 2010 article:
"Social Security is not part of the problem. That's one of the myths the Republicans have tried to create," Reid said. "Social Security is sound for the next many years. But we want to make sure that in the outer years, people are protected also. But it's not going to be part of the budget talks as far as I'm concerned."
And at a press conference on Tuesday, Reid said that President Barack Obama had told the fiscal cliff negotiators at a recent meeting that "Social Security is not going to be part of this." [my emphasis]
The president said that he had inherited a deficit of $1.3 trillion in 2009, with debt projected to rise by $8 trillion over the decade, and that he had taken steps to restrain its growth despite a recession. But he conceded it was not enough to avert fiscal calamity.The labor movement is ramping up its resistance to Obama and the Republicans on their latest attempt at the Grand Bargain to cut benefits in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. (Dave Jamieson, AFL-CIO Pressures Lawmakers On Fiscal Cliff, Calls GOP 'Hostage Takers' Huffington Post 11/27/2012)
"This alone will not make up for the years in which those in Washington refused to make hard choices and live within their means," said Mr. Obama, flanked in the Rose Garden by two of the city’s veteran politicians, Mr. Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the commission’s Democratic co-chairman and formerly chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. "And it will not make up for the failure to level with the American people about the costs of the services that they value." [my emphasis]
Digby, of course, is on the case of the Grand Bargain, as always. In Plouffe lays out WH thinking on the "fiscal cliff" Hullabaloo 11/27/2012, she provides video and commentary of senior Presidential adviser David Plouffe attacking benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. (He calls them "entitlements.") Digby says:
It would seem that the administration is still believing its own hype, even after all this time. They still believe they can end these pesky partisan battles for all time (or at least the next 20 years) with one Grand Bargain and then move on to curing cancer, reversing climate change and bringing peace to all mankind.Because, you know, Republicans are so inclined to treat issues like scientific research, climate change and war in a completely nonpartisan way. Yikes!
Check out the David Plouffe video she includes; he makes it sound like the White House can't wait to start hacking away at defined-benefit programs, aka, "entitlements."
It's notable that Plouffe grumps that its only "the left" who oppose benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Since those programs are very popular, that would make "the left" a solid majority of the voters. I think any public official right now who isn't willing to unambiguously defend benefits on those three programs should be described interchangeably as "Social Security opponent," "Medicare opponent" and "Medicaid opponent." And Social Security opponent David Plouffe can bite me.
Tags: austerity economics, david plouffe, fiscal cliff, grand bargain, medicaid, medicare, social security