If the president and democrats agree to cuts in Medicare and Social Security in exchange for closing a few tax loop holes, they have only themselves to blame for Obama's eventual defeat and losing the Senate.
According to Talking Points Memo, a proposal "on the table" translates into almost immediate cuts in Social Security benefits. If true, I'd like to know how democrats and the president can be so (1) self-destructive; (2) dense; and (3) wrong.
Below is a simplified summary of what each side would be "giving:"
Republicans promise to agree to tax increases (via closing loop holes) that polls and their own Town Halls happen to consistently show the majority of Americans want(61% by some estimates) including the majority of republicans.
Seventy-two percent of all respondents said they supported raising taxes on annual income over $250,000, including 54% of respondents who said they "strongly" supported that position. Democrats were most supportive of that proposal (91%), but so too were a majority of independents (68%) and Republicans (54%.)
In exchange, Democrats are to agree to cuts in Social Security and Medicare, which polls show an even greater majority of Americans from all parties and independents oppose. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation Poll:
Two-thirds of Americans want no reductions in Social Security, 59 percent want no cuts to Medicare, and 53 percent want no reductions in Medicaid spending.
Basically, democrats will agree to kill their firstborn in exchange for an agreement from republicans to exterminate a few rodents.
How can any democratic strategist view this as a positive or even harmless political move? And what democrat thinks this is plan is good for elderly Americans? Per Talking Points Memo:
On the benefits side, this means money out of people's pockets, even current retirees and pensioners. Responding to a letter of concern from House Democrats' top Social Security guy the program's chief actuary explained that moving to "chained-CPI" would constitute an immediate 0.3 percent benefit cut. That may sound small, but the effects would compound, and "[a]dditional annual COLAs thereafter would accumulate to larger total reductions in expected scheduled benefit levels of about 3.7 percent, 6.5 percent, and 9.2 percent for retirees at ages 75, 85, and 95, respectively."
In addition, the proposal ultimately shifts some people into higher tax brackets (and not just those "making $250,000 or more" as Obama promised), which will star in republican campaign ads as a demon sheep telling you democrats "raised your taxes." If anyone doubts this, look at how republicans are already accusing democrats of cutting Medicare benefits. This is a recent statement from the lips of Paul Ryan, the man who crafted the "winning" plan to turn Medicare into Vouchercare:
"Here's the deal on our Medicare plan: ObamaCare ends Medicare as we know it."
Ryan says the Medicare savings in the Affordable Care Act constitute a $500 billion cut to Medicare over 10 years and that the independent panel it commissions to look at cost effectiveness and cost savings practices means the end of Medicare.
Surely even Fox News, with its huge senior citizen audience, will be smart enough to recognize how enacting cuts to Social Security and Medicare will allow republicans to nullify any advantage democrats have gained as a result of the public's overwhelming distaste for the Vouchercare plan. Even if republicans throw some support to the debt ceiling plan, statistics (and past experience) suggest that (1) a smaller proportion of republicans than democrats will vote for the plan; and (2) the plan will be laid at democrats' feet. Republicans will have succeeded in making it appear as though they were dragged kicking and screaming to Obama's table, reluctantly agreeing to these horrible democratic ideas, and the president will look like a hapless fool for volunteering to send democrats' pet programs to the guillotine.
We are supposed to be the defenders of Social Security and Medicare, not its assassins. This reminds me of the recent decision by the democratic leader of the New Jersey Senate (Sweeney) to "compromise" and pass Christie's union-bashing legislation.
Note to Obama: It has not made Sweeney more popular among democrats, republicans are no more likely to vote for Sweeney in the next election, and now Christie has turned around and rewarded him with a boot to the head. In addition, Sweeney not only looks like a Christie toadie and a traitor, but also a gullible fool.
Obama continually says both sides must give up some of their "sacred cows" and make sacrifices to get a debt ceiling increase. Aside from the fact that most Americans do not see the national debt as our biggest problem right now, along with the fact that the cuts will likely lead to more job losses and hurt the economy and the fact that other areas of bloat (cough, defense) are much worse, I don't think you can compare their sacred cows to our sacred cows. It's like comparing a herd of Kobe cows to a herd of Hereford cattle ($500/lb vs. $12/lb).
Most Americans, including most republican voters, consider Social Security and Medicare to be sacred cows. And most Americans see loop holes for gas and oil companies, yacht owners, corporate jet owners, and people earning millions in profits annually as a worthless handful of beans, with no beanstalk on the other end.
If Republicans continue defending these egregious loop holes as an excuse not to raise the debt ceiling and America spirals into economic catastrophe as most economists have predicted, it lies on their shoulders. But since those most affected by failure to lift the debt ceiling count themselves among republicans' largest donors, it is more likely that republicans will cave.
Should President Obama and the democrats throw away their political futures and risk placing our nation's well being in the hands of these extortionists simply to help republicans save face?
Today, democrats have two winning issues: republican support to kill Medicare and their support for luxury tax breaks for their rich cronies at the expense of the working people. Yet, should this proposal go forward, democrats lose both and will once again find themselves in the weaker position of playing defense.
(Never mind the fact that anyone who advocates cuts in retirement benefits for the elderly; in health care for poor people, the elderly, and hardworking Americans; in education for children and college-aged individuals; in food benefits for the hungry; and in cancer research while continuing to support funding for NASCAR, lifetime retirement benefits for Congressmen/women, weapons programs opposed by the Department of Defense, endless wars with no perceivable benefit; and so on, is operating from an ethically bankrupt position.)
I have begrudgingly supported the president and will vote for him even if I have to hold my nose. But if democrats support this proposal, which represents yet another example of Obama putting his personal sacred cow of compromise ahead of our sacred cows, I see no point in shelling out my hard-earned money to fund his destined-to-lose campaign. It looks like I will need it to account for the real cost-of-living in my retirement.
Why must Obama always play Charlie Brown, unable to recognize that Lucy will always yank the football away at the last minute, leaving the democratic party to fall flat on its ass?
Not raising the debt ceiling is catastrophic, but so are these proposals. Therefore, if we the people are screwed no matter what, Obama and democrats should not put themselves in the position of doing the screwing. Instead, let the republicans take the blame for screwing America and thus screwing themselves in the process. Let America see how unreasonable republicans are being and how against the grain of America's interest these self-proclaimed "patriots" are willing to go on behalf of greed.
If even David Brooks has come to recognize how insane and childish the republican party is behaving, many other republican voters will realize it as well and shift their support to the party that stands up for the American worker and sanity.