Wednesday, March 06, 2013

President Obama-Brüning squanders his new mandate

President Obama-Brüning is working hard to drown the new mandate he won four months ago in the swamp of austerity economics.

Steve Kornacki breaks down the sad story for us in It's almost like the Tea Party won Salon 03/06/2013: "It's all a long way of saying we’re probably stuck with the sequester for the rest of this fiscal year – and maybe well beyond that. It's an outcome almost no one saw coming a year ago, and one made all the more remarkable by the fact that the most recent election seemed to represent a rebuke of the GOP and its embrace of Tea Party fiscal values."

One Percenter austerity economics (for everyone else!) can dominate in the current situation even when the voters decisively repudiate it, as we did in November 2012, because of the extyreme disparity of the two parties. The Republicans are willing to disrupt the government and tank the national economy in order to discredit Obama and the Democrats. The Democrats, on the other hand, weren't even willing to do something so obvious to limit the minority party's power to obstruct as abolishing the filibuster in the Senate. Nor, when they were in the minority during the Cheney-Bush Administration, were they willing to use the filibuster power against the Republicans on anything remotely approaching the scale the Republicans have used it against them.

Just plain corruption, of both the legal and illegal varieties, certainly play a big role in this. Campaign cash and post-Congressional rewards are more likely to come to Democrats who deliver corporate-friendly and labor-hostile results than to ones who support their consituents.

The current sequester cuts are significant. As the Dow Jones Industrial average hit its highest level ever, cuts affecting ordinary workers are kicking in. Robert Reich advises in Why There’s a Bull Market for Stocks And Bear Market for Workers 03/05/2013:

Some $1.9 billion in low-income rental subsidies are being eliminated, affecting 125,000 people. Cuts to the Department of Agriculture will eliminate rental assistance for another 10,000 low-income rural people. Meanwhile, 100,000 formerly homeless Americans are likely to be removed from their current emergency shelters.

More than 3.8 million Americans receiving long-term unemployment benefits will have their monthly payments reduced by as much as 9.4 percent, and lose an average of $400 in benefits over their period of joblessness.

The Department of Education’s Title I program, which helps schools serving more than a million disadvantaged students, will be cut $715 million, and $400 million will be cut from Head Start, the preschool program for poor children. And major cuts will be made in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, which provides nutrition assistance and education.
Eliot Spitzer talks about the current situation in The downside of the Dow's uptick for average Americans Current TV 04/06/2013:

But Obama-Brüning is particularly crass in his contempt for the very voters who elected and re-elected him. In his March 1 press conference on the sequester, he was bragging about how he supports cuts in benefits on "entitlements" (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) that not only Democratic voters but the general public oppose by large margins:

The problem that we have is a long-term problem in terms of our health care costs and programs like Medicare. And what I've said very specifically, very detailed is that I'm prepared to take on the problem where it exists -- on entitlements -- and do some things that my own party really doesn't like -- if it's part of a broader package of sensible deficit reduction. So the deal that I've put forward over the last two years, the deal that I put forward as recently as December is still on the table. I am prepared to do hard things and to push my Democratic friends to do hard things. [my emphasis]
Those deal offers to which he refers have included cuts in Social Security benefits using the "Chained CPI" gimmick and raising the Medicare eligibility age by two years to 67, a huge and very consequential cut to Medicare.

He returned to the theme:

... it's not as if Democrats aren't being asked to do anything, either, to compromise. There are members of my party who violently disagree with the notion that we should do anything on Medicare. And I'm willing to say to them, I disagree with you, because I want to preserve Medicare for the long haul. And we're going to have some tough politics within my party to get this done.

This is not a situation where I'm only asking for concessions from Republicans and asking nothing from Democrats.
His claim "There are members of my party who violently disagree with the notion that we should do anything on Medicare" of course isn't true. Do you know any Democratic elected official saying we should do nothing to control health care cost? Me neither.

Are we really at the point where we have to hope that Republican crazies hold fast against a Democratic President pushing to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid? Part of me still find that hard to process.

Kornacki notes that, despite pre-sequester indications that voters might blame Republicans more than Democrats and Obama-Brüning, "so far, public opinion has actually trended in the GOP's favor. Before sequestration went into effect last Friday, polling indicated that voters would be much more likely to blame Republicans than Obama. But a new CBS survey this week finds the public assigning blame almost evenly."

Reuters in Obama Approval Rating: President's Numbers Drop 7 Points, Poll Shows Huffington Post 03/06/2013 reports:

A Reuters/Ipsos online poll released on Wednesday showed 43 percent of people approve of Obama's handling of his job, down 7 percentage points from Feb. 19.

Most of that steep drop came in the week to Feb. 26 when it was becoming clear that Washington was going to be unable to put aside partisan differences and agree to halt automatic budget cuts which started last Friday.

Confounding the White House's efforts to blame Republicans for the cuts, most respondents in the online survey hold both Democrats and Republicans responsible.
Public opinion can be fickle, so we'll see how this develops.

But it doesn't surprise me. Obama's approval ratings cratered during the debt ceiling negotiations of 2011. And Obama does share a good portion of the blame, starting with not recognizing that the Republican Party is such a wrecker party they so far won't even accept his proposed benefit cuts on Social Security and Medicare. Plus, he looks to be back in his 2011 mode of begging the Reps to accept concessions, having them jack him around some more, then begging them again to accept even more concessions, over and over. And the sequester arrangement was something he willingly agreed to. (See Dean Baker, The Sequester Is President Obama's Fault Huffington Post 03/04/2013) Plus he continues to frame the economic issue in the Reps' preferred terms of The Deficit, The Deficit, The Deficit, and *brags* about wanting to cut benefits on very popular programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Obama-Brüning is squandering his mandate.

But in 2017, he can go on the road with Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson earning huge speaking fees from CEOs and investment bankers who enjoy being entertained with advice about how we have to toss more starving grannies into the street. And the rest of us can enjoy the 1st term of President Jeb Bush. Because we can never get enough of that good Bush family governance.

Or, given the current President's Heinrich Brüning act, maybe I should say that in 2017 we'll be dealing with President Jeb von Papen, after successor.

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