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Journal Archives

Esquire: The Grand Sellout Emerges

MODS: There are many articles referenced and subreferenced in this OP. All linked, sourced and excerpted per usual DU rules.

Before the Esquire article, you should understand why people are talking about Chained CPI, today:

The Hill: Pelosi and Hoyer keeping an open mind to cuts to entitlement programsEmerging from a Democratic Caucus meeting Tuesday morning — where they were briefed on Obama’s plan by top White House adviser Rob Nabors — the Democrats pushed back hard against the president’s proposal to reduce future cost-of-living raises for Social Security recipients.

The change — known as the chained consumer price index (CPI) — is said to cut $130 billion in federal spending over a decade, and would include safeguards to protect the most vulnerable seniors.

“I don’t like it at all,” said Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.).

“A terrible idea,” said Rep. and Sen.-elect Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

“We don’t like the chained CPI,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).

“We don’t like it,” said Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.). “Why are you hurting the vulnerable seniors?”
And so on and so on- worth reading that article too. There are a lot of Democrats who hate this. Can anyone blame them?

Photo Illustration by DonkeyHotey via Flickr/Special to The Politics Blog

Esquire: The Grand Sellout EmergesI generally believe Ezra Klein when he talks about how everyone who matters is coming together to make a deal, so may I just congratulate all the important people on both sides of the aisle who have come together in semi-good faith to ram it to the rest of us. Really, kids, if this isn't really just a trial balloon big enough for the Macy's parade, well done.

On the spending side, the Democrats' headline concession will be accepting chained-CPI, which is to say, accepting a cut to Social Security benefits. Beyond that, the negotiators will agree to targets for spending cuts. Expect the final number here, too, to be in the neighborhood of $1 trillion, but also expect it to lack many specifics. Whether the cuts come from Medicare or Medicaid, whether they include raising the Medicare age, and many of the other contentious issues in the talks will be left up to Congress.

So here's where we sit. The Democrats, led by the president, who never is going to need to depend on Social Security, are prepared to concede on an issue that has absolutely nothing to do with the deficit. They are going to make life harder for millions of seniors. Social Security is now squarely "on the table" in any future budget negotiation. (Hey, who unplugged the third rail?) The simplest solution — raising the cap — is beyond discussion, now and forever. The "chained-CPI," which is a terrible idea on its own merits, as well as a piece of noxious moral sleight-of-hand, seeing as how it cuts benefits while pretending not to do so, is being adopted whole hog without a corresponding mechanism to raise more Social Security revenue to make up for the loss. If the president maintains his faith in the great god SimpsonBowles, the old folks will get a bump for only two years after the deal takes effect. Swell.

There are a couple of lines of thought here. For example, Paul Krugman is more optimistic.
Those cuts are a very bad thing, although there will supposedly be some protection for low-income seniors. But the cuts are not nearly as bad as raising the Medicare age, for two reasons: the structure of the program remains intact, and unlike the Medicare age thing, they wouldn't be totally devastating for hundreds of thousands of people, just somewhat painful for a much larger group. Oh, and raising the Medicare age would kill people; this benefit cut, not so much.

"Not so much"? That's what we get for a deal in which the president is simultaneously not even getting everything that he wants as regards the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Granny needs to lose some weight anyway.

Quite honestly, the president's willingness to tinker this way with Social Security marks his presidency in a way that nothing else ever will. There is no economic need to do this to Social Security at all. There is no need for the program even to come up in the discussions. This locks Social Security forever into being defined for all political purposes as an "entitlement," and we all know that "entitlements" need to be reformed because everybody this president considers his primary constituencies say they must. It sets the stage for more concessions down the line by any Democratic president who doesn't possess the political momentum that the current president seems hellbent on squandering. This is that most horrible of Beltway concoctions — a deal for a deal's sake, a demonstration for the courtier press that Washington "works." (Chris Matthews last night said that he wanted a cliff-avoiding deal so that "Washington" could prove it can work again. He framed it around the events in Connecticut and gn control. These people think ... strangely.) If John Boehner brings home this deal, his caucus should name him emperor. If that caucus turns him down, they all should be placed in a locked ward for the duration of the president's second term. Meanwhile, David Gregory just had an orgasm you could hear on Mars.

More at the link! What a great position this puts Democrats in...for the Republicans!

To wit:
Dems Dodge Questions on Spending CutsPresident Obama’s latest fiscal cliff offer to support deeper spending cuts to popular government programs puts his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill in a tough spot on Tuesday, driving them to dodge questions about whether they could support it.

Obama’s plan calls for $1.2 trillion in spending cuts that include changes like slowing the cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries – a reform Senate Democrats declared off the table weeks ago.

So now, Obama’s proposal puts Democrats in a bit of a political pickle.

Democrats can’t embrace Obama’s plan for fear of getting hammered by liberal interest groups and giving Republican House Speaker John Boehner room to push for further entitlement cuts.

Conversely, Democrats can’t threaten to scuttle a deal if the cuts are included because it could undermine Obama’s negotiating position. And while Democrats are likely to support the cuts as part of a larger fiscal cliff package, they can’t say so now.

So, they’re not saying much of anything.

Apparently it's just a bridge too far to ask the President to stop putting Democrats in the position of either supporting shitty legislation or openly rebuking him. Why does this situation, any of the insanity you've read above, even have to happen?



Bluejay's George Bush "Squirrel" sig pic

I just can't get enough of this thing. I have no idea why, but it never gets old.

It's like half a zen kōan.

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