The Republican Bush administration inherited a budget surplus from the Democratic Clinton administration. The Bush administration destroyed the surplus and created the largest deficit in human history by cutting taxes, increasing corporate welfare, and launching a trillion dollars worth of wars. President Obama inherited one of the worst disasters inherited by any president. But he knew, going in, what he was getting. Or he should have.
The obvious answer should have included repealing and revoking as much of the Bush agenda as was possible. Let the tax cuts on the wealthiest expire. Cut corporate welfare. Draw down the two lost wars. Instead, one war was expanded and we now hear that the other may be allowed to continue. Corporate welfare to Wall Street increased. The tax cuts may be allowed to remain in place. And instead of helping the vast majority of the American people by upending the Bush agenda, we may actually see the burden fall even harder on the most vulnerable. Even Social Security is on the table.
Not even Bush tried to cut Social Security. Not when he had a Republican Congress and was soaring in the polls, and not in his second term, when he faced a Democratic Congress that wouldn't have given such an idea a serious hearing. If President Obama follows the recommendations of the Catfood Commission, he will be going where not even Bush dared go. We will have a Democratic administration taking on the Third Rail of which Democrats, in particular, are supposed to be unwaveringly protective. We are told that the Catfood Commission is just advisory, and we shouldn't fear the worst. We must hope that turns out to be true.
The truth is that we got a health insurance plan that was so whittled down that part of the rationale for passing it was that it was only step one, and could be fixed and improved. Later. We got an escalation of the lost war in Afghanistan that was rationalized with the explanation that we'd begin to draw down the troops in 2011, although the amount and pace of the drawdown was left completely opaque. And now even that no longer seems to be the intention. If you believe McClatchy, who only happened to be right, despite much doubt and criticism, when they broke the story that the war would be escalated. And when the administration appealed the ruling that Don't Ask Don't Tell is unconstitutional, the rationalization was that they wanted it repealed through Congress, not the courts. Which doesn't seem to be a particular priority of the administration, as the clock runs down on the Democratic House. And of course the rationale for extending the Bush tax cuts is that they, too, will be fixed later. Allowed to expire. Later. In two years. When things will be so different. The buck stops there. Then. Anywhere other than here, now.
The Democrats got drubbed in the election because too many base voters didn't vote. But the White House seems to be taking the exact wrong message. Although it's not really clear that the election was the key factor. The economy is still staggering. The wars continue. The income gap continues to expand. And if the Democrats can't pursue policies that solve these problems, and instead continue to buy into Republican framings, they will be in even more trouble in 2012 than they were this year. If the Democrats can't defend Social Security-- the very backbone of our social safety net-- from they that would destroy it, the Democratic Party as we know it may not survive.