Thursday, January 17, 2013

How Obama has shifted politics against Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

Mike Lux writes in Complicated Politics: Democrats and the Grand Bargain C&L 01/14/2013 about Obama's continuing pursuit of a Grand Bargain to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Until Obama's Presidency, it was a truism of US politics that the Democratic Party generally was committed to those programs, perhaps a little less committed to the Medicaid part because it is perceived as less relevant to "middle class" people (a sloppy perception, in any case). When George W. Bush started campaigning for Wall Street's wet dream of Social Security privatization in 2005, the Democratic Party managed to be remarkably united behind him.

Obama's Presidency changed that, and not in a good way, as this comment of Lux's illustrates:

Democrats in the progressive wing of the party ... think the idea of cutting Social Security, Medicare, and/or Medicaid benefits is terrible public policy because senior citizens who can least afford it will be badly hurt, and we have been working hard to convince the President to back away from this offer. This may be difficult to do, though, as the President has some strong (wrong, in my judgment, but compelling to the President’s political and legislative team) political reasons for wanting to do this grand bargain. But the politics of this deal are very different for the rest of the party, and it may well be that progressives can win over a lot more of those Democrats than conventional wisdom currently expects. [my emphasis in italics]
Now, support for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are a distinguishing characteristic for the left wing of the Democratic Party. And these are all programs that enjoy huge public support!

This is the corruption of corporate money and neoliberal ideology at work.

If Obama really sees such a deal as ushering in a technocratic, end-of-ideology, postpartisan period of pragmatic cooperation, that would be a striking level of self-deception:

Beyond the primaries, though, the politics of cutting benefits is far worse for Democratic incumbents in an off year general election. Think about the demographics alone: in the past two Presidential elections, the percent of the electorate that came from voters 65 and over was 16%, whereas in the 2010 off-year election it jumped to 21%. And seniors have been one of the most volatile demographic groups in the electorate in recent years, and one not inclined to like Democrats very well: Democrats lost them by 8% in 2008, by a whopping 21% in 2010, and by 12% in 2012.

But seniors are far from the only worry with a bad vote on Social Security or Medicare. The voters that Democrats have to turn out in big numbers in an off-year are base voters. Base voters hate the idea of cutting Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, and a Democrat who had to defend that vote would be looking square in the face at a base voter constituency that was likely to be very depressed. I’ve lived through two off-year elections where Democratic base voters were unexcited about voting - 1994 and 2010 - and I don’t relish living through that again. [emphasis in original]
And, of course, even if the Republicans agree to it, they will use it against the Democrats, as they did in 2010 and 2012 when benefits had not been cut. Even as the Republicans pushed for more benefit cuts and privatization. The Democrats was pretty hapless in defending themselves against that in 2010 especially. They are likely be worse in 2014 if the Democratic President has cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

Lux includes this video from the contrived "fiscal cliff" crisis by Cenk Uygur describing the Grand Bargain to cut benefits on on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Grand Bargain = Grand Larceny, Grand Lie 11/13/2012:

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