Tuesday, March 05, 2013

President Obama-Brüning strikes again

President Obama hasn't given up his Heinrich Brüning ambitions to see Grandma have to eat catfood. Because his respectable banker friends tell him its the sensible, bipartisan thing to do.

David Lawder and Richard Cowan report for Reuters in Budget crisis eases as Republicans seek to avoid shutdown 03/04/2013:

In telephone calls over the weekend, Obama raised the issue of cutting entitlement programs, which include Medicare, the healthcare program for the elderly and disabled, and Social Security retirement benefits.

"I will continue to seek out partners on the other side of the aisle so that we can create the kind of balanced approach of spending cuts, revenues, entitlement reform that everybody knows is the right way to do things," he said at the start of a Cabinet meeting on Monday.

From Tom Tomorrow 02/25/2013

After the previous cover that looked like something from the White Citizen's Council, Bloomberg Businessweek for 03/04-10/2013 features the two favorite rockstars of the let-Grandma-eat-catfood movement, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles:

The online version of the article by Joshua Green is Why Won't Americans Listen to Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles? 02/28/2013, which is an odd title considering that President Obama and the entire Beltway Village treat them as wise fiscal gurus and they are the classic Very Serious People of the moment. But its a real puff piece - though it does have some interesting information, if only by accident - and the two old white guys pimping for greedy bankers like to pose as embattled truth-tellers. So Green and Businessweek obliged:

The purpose of this bromance — at least in its public-theater aspect—is to sound the alarm. “We’ve been on the road, probably visited 500,000 people since we turned in the report,” Simpson says when we meet at the Four Seasons Hotel before The Daily Show. "We tell ’em, 'Pull up a chair, we don't do bulls-‍ -‍ - or mush. [Gosh, Alan, we love it when you talk dirty!] We’ll tell you where your country is heading. We do math, not myths. So listen up.'" Audiences get an earful about Washington profligacy, the political system’s cowardice, and the need to take an ax to a whole array of supposedly sacrosanct programs. But mostly they’re told that without a long-overdue budget reckoning America is headed for disaster.
As Krugman notes repeatedly of them and others, the fact that they've been consistently wrong in their predictions doesn't prevent them from being treated like Kardashians on the cover of Businessweek.

Green does catch the sense of the deficit fetishists, who really mostly don't care about the deficit, with the possible exceptions of Obama-Brüning himself and David "Bobo" Brooks:

The enduring fantasy of deficit hawks like Simpson is that when the big players finally get serious, they’ll huddle in some backroom, roll up their sleeves, and hash out the deal that all right-thinking people know must be made, just as they did in 1983 with Social Security. They’ll be principled, spread the pain evenly. They won’t spare the rich or the old ladies. They’ll put the books in order. “We effectively hit everybody in America,” Simpson says. “That’s what makes our plan so tough.”
Yeah, they won't spare the rich [gasp, choke, giggle, gasp] and they'll really stick it to the old ladies and disabled children and all they other moochers. That's how you show Davids Gregory and Brooks that you're tough-minded and not some librul wimp!

That paragraph and this immediately following one is pretty far down in the article, but they are there:

It's no accident that CEOs are the one group that Simpson and Bowles have managed to convince. The surest way to fix the debt is to make deep cuts now, even if that hurts people who depend on government help. That bottom-line way of thinking would make intrinsic sense to a chief executive, who, if presented with a similar situation in his own business, would surely act before the problem spiraled out of control. [my emphasis]
This is also very revealing:

Antitax Republicans, not consensus-minded wise men, have led the budget battles of the last three years. Their overriding goal is not to shrink the deficit, but to stop tax increases. To these Republicans, Simpson’s party credentials are meaningless. Conservatives in Congress regard him as a dinosaur who epitomizes the moderate establishment they’ve sworn to defeat. "His name never comes up," says Grover Norquist, the antitax activist. "Simpson’s sole purpose is giving cover to Democrats to be for something that reduces the deficit." [my emphasis]
And this paragraph depicts is a very brief form what kind of nasty old coot is supposed to be providing cover for corporate Democrats like Obama-Brüning to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid:

Long before Obama set up the Simpson-Bowles commission, Clinton established the Kerrey-Danforth commission, which shared the same goal, offered many of the same prescriptions, even shared Simpson as a member—and met the same fate. "We came right at the entitlement programs," Simpson recalls, "which just pissed everybody off, and nobody did anything. Because when you mess with entitlements you get the emotional response that you're" — here he makes a face and pretends to cry — "hurting seniors, precious seniors, poor old ladies." He snorts in disgust. [my emphasis]
And if that doesn't tell you enough about Alan Simpson, this will help:

His relatives probably should have had a serious talk with him about five or ten years ago about how he really shouldn't be going out in public talking and stuff.

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