Saturday, April 06, 2013

More on the Social Security/Medicare wobble watch

This has been a real "what Digby says" week. Because she has been following Obama's push for a Grand Bargain since before he was first inaugurated. In It's Official Hullabaloo 04/05/2013, she writes:

Mark this day. For the first time in history, a Democratic president has officially proposed to cut the Democratic Party's signature New Deal program, Social Security ...

Meanwhile prepare for a barrage of savvy, world weary commentary from your fellow liberals telling you that this is no big thing and that Democrats will not suffer even a tiny bit if they vote for a common sense proposal like this one. You will be shushed and told to calm down and take a chill pill. In other words, you will be gaslighted by fellow liberals who are embarrassed that you aren't being coolly accepting of something that is completely unacceptable. This is how this works. Tell them to STFU and move out of the way.
In A couple of elite Villagers explain their formula for deciding what's "sensible." 04/06/2013, she quotes from the bipartisan consensus between SocSec/Medicare opponent and "liberal" E.J. Dionne and SocSec/Medicare opponent and conservative David "Bobo" Brooks. She calls attention to their mutual joy at hippie-punching (a phrase which I believe she popularized in Left Blogostan). Here's establishment liberal Dionne: "I'm very glad a lot of Democrats came out against the president's proposal to change the index for Social Security because, if nothing else, this shows that President Obama has really been willing to put some hard stuff on the table."

And our old friend Bobo: "I, too, am glad Democrats came out against because it suggests there's something sensible in what Obama has proposed."

Digby observes:

It's good to know that one thing hasn't changed, even in this era of right wing cranks and Tea Party intransigence: Villagers automatically approve of anything the liberal faction of the Democratic Party is against. I'm a little bit surprised that it still has such salience but I shouldn't be. These people are very uncomfortable with the idea that the salt-o-the-earth Real Americans might be the true radicals while the tired old hippies and their nerdy political heirs are just trying to hold on to a country that doesn't starve old and sick people.

It's a very lazy and convenient way to order the world, but I'm afraid that when it comes to Social Security and medicare [sic] it might not be the best guide to how the people feel about it.
Part of this is a reflection of the extent to which the "culture wars" as they played out in 1968-72 still influence the frameworks used by today's Beltway Villagers. They're still assuming that the Democrats to be successful have to run away from George McGovern. But "liberals" like E.J. Dionne who oppose Social Security and Medicare can go [Cheney] themselves. McGovern himself addressed this issue last year, a few months before his death (George McGovern's Comments on Social Security and Medicare - January 2012):

Digby again:

Oh, and unlike a lot of important issues, these are issues voters understand very well and they vote on them. It's not abstract and theoretical. It will affect every American.

Not that it matters in the Village. To them the world stopped sometime around 1975 and "sensible" policies are defined by opposition to the crazy hippie fringe[.] I guess it makes them feel young again[.]
Here is what SocSec/Medicare opponent Barack Obama had to see in his weekly Saturday address today. He sidestepped any mentioned of cuts in benefits to Social Security, but he does promote the Medicare cuts:

I’ve already signed more than $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction into law, and my budget will reduce our deficits by nearly $2 trillion more, without harming the recovery. That surpasses the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that many economists believe will stabilize our finances.

We’ll make the tough reforms required to strengthen Medicare for the future, without undermining the rock-solid guarantee at its core. And we’ll enact commonsense tax reform that includes closing wasteful tax loopholes for the wealthy and well-connected – loopholes like the ones that can allow a billionaire to pay a lower tax rate than his or her secretary.

This is the compromise I offered the Speaker of the House at the end of last year.
The framework he's building here is, not surprisingly, the same as that of the Republican Party, the Peterson Foundation and its various front groups, and other opponents of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which is to cast programs that benefit the elderly or the poor as detracting from programs that benefit the young and productive.

This guy was more supportive of Social Security in 2008:

Bobo was also doing his weekly schtick with Sleepy Mark Shields on the PBS Newshour yesterday, Shields and Brooks on the Job Numbers, Obama's Budget Bargaining Prospects 04/05/2013:

Bobo at around 6:00 talks his pet Hernert Hoover nonsense about how unemployment is all structural and the federal gubment can't really do anything about it starting at around 6:00, and does the generational-accounting pitch, also known as the "greedy geezers" line. And he uses the you-do-this construction like a mechanic explaining to someone how to repair a flat tire:

You increase training. You increase infrastructure spending. You get the education system, and mostly you devote less resources, fewer resources to the elderly and consumption on health care for the affluent, and much more to young families and young workers, and shift what's turned into a -- really a redistribution machine at the age scale. [my emphasis]
This was their bridge to talking about Obama's proposed cuts in benefits to Social Security and Medicare. Here's how the liberal lion Sleepy Mark approaches it:

I mean, this is a real body blow to those who have accused President Obama of being a socialist.

This is hardly a socialistic approach.

In addition, I mean, for not taking difficult political stands, he's been bombarded by the liberal part of his own party and many liberal groups. You know, I think, Judy, that he's probably the last best chance we're going have to reach any kind of a big or semi-big agreement is in what the president is going to unveil in his budget next Wednesday.

And I think it's an absolutely legitimate point on his side to say that the Republicans have to come up with revenue if we are going to do this, because this is a blow to the Democrats. It's been the Holy Grail of the Democratic Party platform for the past 70 years, Social Security.

And, you know, I think, in that sense, we will find out whether the commonsense caucus that editorial writers and some of the leading pundits have spoken about, whether it's the Loch Ness Monster of American politics or whether it's a reality. [my emphasis]
If someone had nudged him fully aware, his response might have been a bit more coherent. But last week he sounded like he was on a double-dose of caffeine and was ranting about how the Roe v. Wade decision had been a big mistake and Real Americans oppose gun control, so being back to his normal state of semi-stupor was an improvement, I guess.

But he's clearly hopeful that the cuts to Social Security and Medicare go through, because that's the consensus of "the commonsense caucus that editorial writers and some of the leading pundits have spoken about," i.e., the conventional wisdom among the Villagers. So Sleep Mark's on board.

And so is Bobo:

Well, I think he's taking the right approach.

I mean, we have the Patty Murray, the Senate Democratic budget over here. We have got the Ryan budget over there. He's sort of a little closer to Murray, obviously, but he's sort of in the ballpark of where a deal will be cut.

And so some of the things I think are right and good policies, this chained CPI, which will be adjusting Social Security revenues or benefits. Some of the things, I think, are a little less persuasive. He's got some Medicare things which are not structural reform, but just trying to tamp down reimbursements at the same time as we are just running away from any kind of effort to control Medicare costs.

But if he can take this chained CPI, this Social Security thing, and he can put in a few little more moderate Medicare reforms, structural reforms, like combining Medicare A and B and some other things that I think that has some bipartisan agreement, then I do believe there are a number of Republicans who would be willing to give on revenues.

And then you -- we're not going to have a grand bargain, but then do you see a bargain. You see a functioning government making progress.
As Digby characterized his performance on NPR, Bobo "needs a little bit more in cuts for the elderly and the sick to truly make him happy. And Lord knows, the White House yearns to make David Brooks happy."

This will be a real dividing point in American politics, maybe as much so or more than the Iraq War has been.

Oh, yeah. The idea of cutting benefits on Social Security and Medicare ain't popular: As Sequester Deadline Looms, Little Support for Cutting Most Programs Pew Research Center 02/22/2013. All of 10% of the public supports cutting Social Security benefits, with 6% supporting cutting veterans benefits. "Chained CPI" that the White House says Obama will formally propose in his budget cuts both. Support for cutting Medicare is all the way up at 15%. The disconnect between the public and and the political/media elite on these issues is amazing.

Will the Bobos and the Dionnes and the Mark Shieldses who are so spectacularly wrong about this be discredited as Very Serious People when it turns out to be a screamingly unpopular idea and derails what's left of Obama's second-term agenda? Were those who were wrong about the Iraq War so discredited? Who knows, miracles can happen. But in any case, we should give all opponents of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid the chance to sympathize with each other that they were neglected prophets on this issue by defeating Obama's proposals to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

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