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So you may have noticed a pie fight has started up again. Joe shikspack wrote a diary arguing that President Obama wants to cut social security. Troubadour then proceeded to write a response diary arguing that joe shikspack’s diary is inaccurate. Needless to say there isn’t very much reasoned debate going on in either diary. My no-qualifications self has attempted to find out which person (if any) is right. Hence, this diary.

I will state my biases up front: I tend to be on joe shikspack’s side with regards to the “Obama supporters vs. Obama critics” debate. However, I have attempted to be as objective as possible. If I have failed, please say so in the comments and I will update this diary accordingly.

Warning: This diary is, by necessity, quite long. If you want the tl;dr version, here’s my conclusion: joe shikspack’s diary is so hyperbolic it ends up being misleading, but Troubadour’s argument against it is a complete strawman.

The title and introductory paragraphs of joe shikspack’s diary make his basic argument clear: President Obama is helping conservatives destroy social security. To quote:

Practically since the modern social safety net was created wealthy, powerful right-wingers and organizations have been trying to kill it. . . . President Obama has come very close to helping right-wingers realize their long-desired goal.
Let’s see if he successfully argues for this claim.

First he argues that Reagan and Greenspan raised the rates of (regressive) payroll taxes, then used the proceeds to cut taxes for rich people and corporations. He then asserts that the best way to deal with Social Security’s finance problem is to raise the cap on taxable income. One may quibble with some details here, but since there’s no reference to Obama this isn’t the material Troubadour took issue with, and so I won’t discuss it further.

He then says that the right wing has been attacking social security for decades in an effort to change public perception of it. This seems right, but again there’s no reference to Obama so for the purposes of this diary I won’t discuss this point further.

Now we get to the meat of the diary—evidence for the President helping to destroy Social Security—so I will go into more detail.

First he asserts that Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin had wanted to cut social security but their negotiations with Gingrich fell through when the Lewinsky scandal broke. This isn’t about Obama but it is about a Democratic President so it’s perhaps wise to spend a bit of time on this claim. The source is a book by Robert Kuttner, who seems to be in the “Obama critic” camp (although he also aims a lot of ire at the Republicans). However, it also appears that Clinton himself said he wanted to cut social security but was stopped by Congress so, while I can’t account for the details, the general claim appears sound.

Now then. Joe shikspack moves on to describe how Obama created the “catfood commission,” which was partly financed by outside private interests. This is of course true, though there are a number of ways to interpret Obama’s motives for this so it’s not conclusive. He then describes the failures of a long string of people—the commission and various Congressional members—to come to a deal including cuts to Social Security, but the next interesting claim is the following:

That was followed by the failure of the President himself to be able to arrange a Grand Bargain to cut Social Security in exchange for some extremely modest tax hikes.
That link goes to an article by Arianna Huffington, which takes as its ultimate source this Washington Post article. Of course, the Washington Post writers doesn't actually bother to tell us where they get their information from. In any event, the “money quotes” for our purposes are these:
But the major elements of a bargain seemed to be falling into place: $1.2 trillion in agency cuts, smaller cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients, nearly $250 billion in Medicare savings achieved in part by raising the eligibility age. And $800 billion in new taxes.
That night, Obama prepared his party’s congressional leaders. He warned Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that he might return to the position under discussion the previous Sunday — that is, cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in exchange for just $800 billion in tax increases.
If this article is accurate, then President Obama was willing to make “cuts” or “cost-of-living increases” (were these supposed to refer to the same thing?), as well as various other spending cuts, in exchange for new taxes. Of course, that’s if the article is accurate. There are some articles on Media Matters that criticize two of the authors, Peter Wallsten and Lori Montgomery, and of course their anonymous sources could have any number of motives. Still, especially given how rampant giving sources anonymity is these days, it probably isn’t a good idea to dismiss an article just because it has unnamed sources. I suppose this might be a matter that reasonable people could dispute.

Moving on. Joe shikspack proceeds to argue that Obama agreeing to a cut in payroll taxes resulted in the undermining of Social Security. This article in the New York Times has some serious issues, but it seems to lay out the case well enough at least:

Mindful of some Republicans’ goal of privatizing Social Security, the Democrats suggested that tinkering with the payroll tax “may be used as the first step in a larger battle to fundamentally dismantle Social Security.”
The argument is generally that by cutting payroll taxes, Social Security becomes less of an “insurance”-type program and more of a “welfare”-type program, which would make it much more likely for benefits to get cut and/or privatized. This is essentially a slippery-slope argument, and whether or not you are convinced depends on how likely you think it is that (a) the payroll cuts will be permanent, (b) Social Security will then seem more like welfare, and (c) this will make the public less inclined to support it. I respect people’s attention to this matter and I think concern is warranted, but the evidence at least for (b) and (c) seems somewhat scant. That is just my opinion however and I am happy to be corrected.

Now then. The next, and final, substantial claim in joe shikspack’s diary is that Nancy Pelosi is also saying she’d support the Simpson-Bowles plan. Of course this also does not necessarily have anything to do with Obama, but I feel this is important enough to discuss in some detail. Joe shikspack based this claim on this Huffington Post article by Ryan Grim. If you look at the video though, you’ll see the situation is a bit more complicated. She does say she would’ve voted for the Simpson-Bowles plan, yes. But she says that in the context of saying “The plan that was brought to the floor of the House was not Simpson-Bowles so that’s why I voted against it.” She also hedges a bit at some points, saying she is opposed to the Social Security elements in the plan and only praised it as a good “framework.” Still, she does say she would’ve voted for the plan if she could’ve, and even if that was just politicking she’ll have a hard time dodging those statements if the actual plan comes to Congress.

To summarize, joe shikspack’s argument goes roughly as follows:

1. The Deficit Commission set up by President Obama was partially funded by right-wing private organizations who want to privatize Social Security (among other things). The facts are indubitable; the interpretations of them of course can vary.

2. President Obama was very close to agreeing to cut Social Security in a Grand Bargain, but couldn’t quite close the deal. This is fairly damning evidence if true, but you may doubt the accuracy of the Washington Post article that reported this.

3. Social Security has been undermined by the payroll tax cut Obama signed into law. This argument is a bit weak; IMO it might add to the force of other arguments, but doesn’t stand by itself.

4. Nancy Pelosi has voiced support for the Simpson-Bowles plan. As I said before this is simplistic, but at the very least Pelosi has painted herself into a corner over this issue should the plan come up for a vote.

Therefore, on the basis of 1-4, joe shikspack concludes that Social Security could very well be on the chopping block during the debt ceiling negotiations at the end of the year.

So how does this argument fare, all told? (I'll get to whether or not it supports joe shikspack's original claim, that Obama is helping conservatives destroy Social Security, later.) In my opinion, it succeeds or fails on the basis of premise #2. If you believe the Washington Post article, the President was about to agree to Social Security cuts once before, so it’s reasonable to assume that he would again. On the other hand, if you don’t believe the Washington Post article, then you can bring other interpretations of the facts to bear—for example, perhaps Obama was just playing with Boehner et al in order to show the American public that the Republicans are acting in bad faith.

Ultimately, whether or not you agree with premise #2 probably depends on how much you trust the President with these issues in the first place. As I said before, I tend to fall on the “Obama critics” side of the debate so it seems plausible to me that Obama might agree to Social Security cuts this year in exchange for tax increases, for the sake of a Grand Bargain. I think the chief alternate explanation, that he never intended to cut Social Security and was playing a game with the Republicans, is much less parsimonious. But I can see how others might disagree. So his argument isn’t conclusive.

Now then, to the main event: even if joe shikspack’s argument is sound, does that show that Obama is helping conservatives to destroy social security? Well, no. More accurate would be to say that Obama is willing to agree to Social Security cuts (among other spending cuts) in exchange for tax increases as part of a Grand Bargain with Republicans. It would be technically accurate to say that President Obama is helping conservatives cut Social Security, which could then lead to Social Security’s destruction. But things like "President Obama has come very close to helping right-wingers realize their long-desired goal [to kill Social Security]" are not actually supported by joe shikspack’s diary.

In conclusion: joe shikspack’s title and introduction are, at the least, hyperbolic and not actually supported by the rest of his diary. His argument itself is plausible, though not convincing because it relies on a possibly-dubious Washington Post article. If joe shikspack had toned down his title and introduction, the diary would’ve been much better. As it is, I feel the title and introduction weigh the diary down enough that it ultimately fails.

Now let’s move on to Troubadour’s diary.

Troubadour’s diary has a lot of invective which I will skip over. He then provides the following summary of joe shikspack’s diary:

1.  The co-chairs of the deficit commission met with rich, pro-austerity conservatives in 2010.

2.  The commission participated in events funded in part by a pro-austerity organization, but also by such wingnut front organizations as the MacArthur and Kellogg Foundations.

3.  Liberal luminaries attended these events, but received less media coverage.  And since Barack Obama dictates media coverage, QED.

4.  The President refuses to declare plans before hearing from his advisory bodies.

5.  The President commission rejected the pro-austerity plan created by the commission co-chairs, but that doesn't mean anything because...well, just because the diarist says so.

As my above analysis shows, this is a misleading summary of joe shikspack’s diary. First of all, all of the above basically encompasses my premise #1; it leaves out the other three pieces of evidence joe shikspack uses, including the strongest one: that the President was very close to agreeing to cut Social Security in exchange for tax increases. Of course you can argue with all four, but you need to at least provide the argument.

Second of all, some of the above five things Troubadour attributes to joe shikspack are not actually in the diary. I cannot find anything resembling numbers 3 or 4, though perhaps I missed them. The first part of #5 is indeed in the diary, but the second part is a gross mischaracterization of joe shikspack’s argument. The fact that the plan failed was not actually used as a means to criticize Obama; rather, he says that because the Simpson-Bowles plan keeps being brought up by the media and politicians, the plan is still important even though the commission rejected it.

Troubadour then provides the following summary:

One drop of conservative funding going to an event, even if the vast majority comes from legitimate sources, means the event must be avoided like the plague and any liberal leaders who attend are Fifth Columnists involved in a diabolical plots to destroy America.
I think I’ve proven my point enough, but again, this completely misrepresents joe shikspack’s diary. The fact that the Deficit Commission was partly funded by conservatives is only one of the four pieces of evidence joe shikspack uses, and he never even implies that anyone who attends wants to destroy America (even giving allowances that Troubadour is engaging in obvious hyperbole).

Finally, I will end by briefly considering Troubadour’s “saner interpretation”:

Obama engaged with conservatives and created the "Catfood Commission" so that he could reject their recommendations and make a public showing of defending Social Security.  The fact that the commission did reject their recommendations kind of makes this...umm...slightly more credible than the idea that he was on board with cutting the program.
This is certainly a possible interpretation of events. However, it relies on a fact that has yet to be proven—that Obama indeed “reject[ed] their recommendations” and made “a public showing of defending Social Security.” I do not recall either of these things happening; to my recollection, Obama generally tried to stay as far away from explicit praise or explicit criticism of the thing as possible. I may be wrong about this, and am happy to be corrected. But I do feel it’s ironic that Troubadour accuses joe shikspack of failing to provide adequate evidence and then fails to provide evidence for the one positive claim he does make.

The rest of Troubadour’s diary is either invective or points unrelated to joe shikspack’s diary so I will end the analysis here.

In conclusion: While Troubadour could undoubtedly have mounted a good attack on joe shikspack’s diary, as I detailed above, he instead chose to grossly mischaracterize joe shikspack’s argument and then provide a positive claim without actually offering any evidence.

So with both analyses complete, what should we say about this entire saga? I don’t think either diary is a shining light of Daily Kos scholarship. Joe shikspack went way too far with his rhetoric in the title and introduction, and that spoils what was actually a somewhat plausible argument in the rest of the diary. However, Troubadour (when he wasn’t spouting invective) constructed a complete strawman of joe shikspack’s diary and then didn’t even argue against that effectively.

Ultimately, I think joe shikspack comes out in a better light than Troubadour, but then I guess I would say that wouldn’t I? But really I don’t think that matters very much. Far more important is the question: does Barack Obama want to cut Social Security?

Well, in the abstract he probably doesn’t. But would he be willing to cut Social Security if it  meant securing a Grand Bargain with Republicans? In my opinion, yes. So I think it would be worthwhile to pressure him and Democratic members of Congress not to vote for any bill that cuts Social Security. However, I also think it is possible to reasonably disagree with my position. That said, I think it is uncontroversial that there are some Democratic Congressmen who are willing to cut Social Security, so pressuring at least Congress on this issue is a wise strategy no matter what. Perhaps this blog could work together to do that…but I’m not holding my breath.

Thank you for reading. I will correct this diary should any mistakes come to my attention.

Originally posted to TealTerror on Tue May 15, 2012 at 09:11 PM PDT.

Also republished by Social Security Defenders and Logic and Rhetoric at Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    "He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing."--Socrates

    by TealTerror on Tue May 15, 2012 at 09:11:42 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for having the courage to insert (8+ / 0-)

    yourself in the midst of a pie fight.

    I don't mind when people on this site disagree vehemently; but I do dislike it when it gets down to name-calling, of which I saw a lot in the comment threads today.

    The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.

    by magnetics on Tue May 15, 2012 at 09:14:47 PM PDT

  •  Question ... (6+ / 0-)

    Was there ever a realistic chance that the Catfood Commission plan was ever going to reach the floors of both houses for a vote, then requiring Presidential approval or veto?

    Because if there wasn't, all the meta demonstrates only that the President was prepared to offer up a sacred cow knowing that the GOP would give zero, and show themselves to be acting in bad faith.

    The matters are usually resolved in a manner far removed from the original trial balloons, as it was in this case.

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    by twigg on Tue May 15, 2012 at 09:32:15 PM PDT

    •  If you take a look at the admissions that the (7+ / 0-)

      White House made about underestimating the amount of obstruction from the Republicans, goes to show that until the deal with Boehner had exploded, that they were working in good faith with John Boehner.

    •  Check out (9+ / 0-)

      the fiscal summit held today, organized by Pete Peterson.

      Specifically, read about Bill Clinton's speech.  

      Then read some of the articles on Campaign for America's Future's site, and Bernie Sanders' statements.


      "Justice is a commodity"

      by joanneleon on Tue May 15, 2012 at 09:38:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's really impossible to say (4+ / 0-)

      There are so many exigencies that go into these things I doubt anyone knows whether or not Simpson-Bowles ever had a chance.

      That said, to defend my own position a bit: I think it's jumping a fair bit to say that "the President was prepared to offer up a sacred cow knowing that the GOP would give zero." Did he really know this? What if the Washington Post article was right, and he fully intended to sign a Grand Bargain that included cutting Social Security? (This deal was not the Simpson-Bowles plan but rather something else cooked up in private.)

      As I said, I think which version of the story you believe--Obama wanted to sign a Grand Bargain and got rebuffed, or Obama knew all along the Republicans would refuse and wanted to show they were acting in bad faith--depends on how much you trust the President in this regard. I mean, we're talking about the intentions of a person neither of us know so we can't exactly resolve the debate.

      However, as I tried to say at the end of my diary (in different words), I don't think debating the intentions of politicians is ever useful. There is a chance Social Security could get cut as a result of the debt ceiling negotiations, whatever Obama's intentions are, and that's something that should be dealt with (of course, you can argue about the methods we should use to deal with it). Getting into arguments about what lies in President Obama's soul is never helpful.

      "He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing."--Socrates

      by TealTerror on Tue May 15, 2012 at 09:39:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you (5+ / 0-)

        I'm strictly not taking sides in this debate, just asking.

        There is a reason why I think both Diaries (well, all three now) are unhelpful.

        Basically, Obama is the President we have, and the President we need to get elected because the alternative is completely unthinkable.

        President Obama is a Centerist politician, who does broad thinking extremely well, and street-fighting much less well.

        In general I rather think he would like to do the progressive thing in many areas, but does not because he feels he cannot.

        If we want to be the ones pushing him in the correct direction, we need to give him a Congress that would better support our ideals.

        In other words, Barack Obama is not the issue, Congress is, and all this breast-beating about would he/wouldn't he, and fighting among ourselves simply makes that more difficult.

        I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
        but I fear we will remain Democrats.

        by twigg on Tue May 15, 2012 at 09:51:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hard to disagree with most of that (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          twigg, Cedwyn

          (though again I have no idea what Obama would "like to do" and I don't think it's helpful to speculate)

          My biggest issue with the "Obama critics" camp (which again, I'm largely sympathetic to) is that they focus too much on Obama, while as you say Congress is just as, if not more important. Of course, it's not like the "Obama supporters" camp spends a lot of time criticizing Democrats in Congress either... (Note: Both of the above are generalizations and I'm aware that there are many members in both camps who don't fit them. Now how's that for a CYA disclaimer...)

          I agree the previous two diaries were unhelpful. Would you mind telling me why you think mine is too?

          "He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing."--Socrates

          by TealTerror on Tue May 15, 2012 at 10:00:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  asdf (3+ / 0-)
            (though again I have no idea what Obama would "like to do" and I don't think it's helpful to speculate)
            Maybe .... However, one of the carges frequently laid at Obama's door is that he doesn't fight for real solutions, Single-Payer being a good example of that. They argue that he is too easily "pushed around". I'm not sure I wholly agree with that but if it has any merit then maybe the Liberal side should be doing the pushing.

            "More and Better Democrats".

            As for your Diary ..... In of itself I find little to argue with, but it's a response Diary to two Diaries that are, at best, divisive. I generally take the view that we should stop feeding the fires :)

            I have no argument with you, and I do support your absolute right to publish any Diary you see fit.

            One Diary that bursts into flames is unhelpful, two makes it worse and I have yet to see a case where a third actually improves matters :)

            Maybe you will prove me wrong.

            I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
            but I fear we will remain Democrats.

            by twigg on Tue May 15, 2012 at 10:07:34 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You're probably right (4+ / 0-)

              Frankly, I don't expect this diary to actually calm down the pie wars in any way. Rather, I sort of felt...obligated, at least to myself, to figure out just who was right and wrong (or who was wrong and who was wronger, as the case may be). And after I did that, well, why not share it with everyone?

              As for this:

              However, one of the carges frequently laid at Obama's door is that he doesn't fight for real solutions, Single-Payer being a good example of that. They argue that he is too easily "pushed around". I'm not sure I wholly agree with that but if it has any merit then maybe the Liberal side should be doing the pushing.
              I'm not a big fan of that charge myself. As I said, I don't like engaging in motivation debates in general, and in particular I just don't find it plausible that Barack Obama, who 2 years after being elected to the Senate defeated the Clinton juggernaut, is "easily pushed around." I tend to think Obama generally gets what he wants (albeit with some exceptions). But that's just my impression--I have no real basis for it--and I don't think it really matters in the end why politicians do what they do.

              No matter what, I think the Liberal side should do some pushing. Of course, when they try on DailyKos, there's always complaints about them not supporting the Democratic President on a Democratic blog...

              "He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing."--Socrates

              by TealTerror on Tue May 15, 2012 at 10:19:54 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  If you are right (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                TealTerror

                and, quite honestly, I see little to doubt that you are, then maybe Barack Obama simply practises "the art of the possible".

                Not a bad trait in a Leader, even if we don't always like the result.

                We could debate what is and isn't possible, but in the end it's his decision and he has access to rather more information than I do :)

                I have to concede that, despite the single most toxic period of politics in modern history, he has achieved a great deal.

                I do think that mistakes were made in the first two years but right now the next four are more pressing.

                I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
                but I fear we will remain Democrats.

                by twigg on Tue May 15, 2012 at 10:33:39 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  "Art of the possible" (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  twigg, jennylind

                  I guess the position I'm coming from is, back during the heady days of 2008 (how long ago it seems now...) I thought Obama was going to change what was considered "possible." I thought, basically, he would move the Overton Window to the left like how Reagan moved it to the right.

                  Or, to put it in blunt terms: when your Presidential candidate is promising "change you can believe in," I wasn't expecting "do what the mainstream thinks is politically possible and not a sliver more." What can I say, I was young and stupid...

                  Okay, probably going overboard on the angst there. If we're doing post-morterms, I think most of the problems stem from the original stimulus being too small (I don't buy that Congress wouldn't have passed a larger stimulus, but that's a longer argument I don't feel like making right now). Certainly he's accomplished some things, but considering all the factors he had going for him in early 2009 I really think he could've done a lot more. And even if I'm wrong, wouldn't it be better to complain about all the ways we fell short? How will we pass better legislation later if we don't criticize the incomplete legislation now?

                  Well, whatever. As you say, it is important that he get reelected. But thinking about the past is important too. Those who cannot remember the past and all that...

                  "He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing."--Socrates

                  by TealTerror on Tue May 15, 2012 at 10:42:05 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Actually he did change (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    TealTerror, JamieG from Md

                    what was considered possible.

                    He got Health Care Reform .... Imperfect, actually from a Federal pov, wildly imperfect. However it was considered nigh on impossible, even allowing for the fact that in previous Congresses there had always been a measure of bi-partisanship.

                    The devil is in the detail, and there is one aspect of HCR that makes it both toxic to the Right, and imperative that they repeal it .... It allows States to go their own way.

                    That is the Trojan Horse in that particular Bill ... We get Single-Payer in California and Vermont ... then just fill in the gap :)

                    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
                    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

                    by twigg on Tue May 15, 2012 at 10:52:48 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I guess I disagree (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Robobagpiper

                      Yeah, no one else had managed to pass a healthcare bill, but no one else had as big (non-Dixiecrat) majorities in Congress since arguably FDR. In addition, the plan that ended up getting passed is quite similar to plans that were once endorsed by Republicans (I know, TNR, but I'm pretty sure Chait is one of the better ones there).

                      Obama's plan closely mirrors three proposals that have attracted the support of Republicans who reside within their party's mainstream: The first is the 1993 Senate Republican health plan, which is compared with Obama's plan here, with the similarity endorsed by former Republican Senator Dave Durenberger here. The second is the Bipartisan Policy Center plan, endorsed by Bob Dole, Howard baker, George Mitchell and Tom Daschle, which is compared to Obama's plan here. And the third, of course, is Mitt Romney's Massachusetts plan, which was crafted by the same economist who helped create Obama's plan, and which is rhetorically indistinguishable from Obama's.
                      I certainly hope that Single-Payer gets passed in California and Vermont--though I also think that might've been possible even without the bill? I actually don't know. But anyway, I don't think a plan that's substantially similar to conservative or "bipartisan" healthcare plans is particularly revolutionary...

                      But that's just my position. I think we can agree to disagree on that. What's more important is what we do from here: get Single-Payer passed in California and Vermont. IMO, it's hard to argue for Single-Payer without pointing out the defects in Obama's healthcare bill. You may disagree and that's fine, because now we're just having a rhetorical debate. :)

                      "He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing."--Socrates

                      by TealTerror on Tue May 15, 2012 at 11:06:48 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  I never thought (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    twigg

                    he'd be able to do as much as he did.

                    But maybe I had more of an awareness of how obstructive Republicans are from watching them during the Clinton years.

                    Shop Liberally this holiday season at Kos Katalog

                    by JamieG from Md on Wed May 16, 2012 at 05:32:08 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  I appreciated the diary (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                twigg, TealTerror

                I have been concerned about Obama's stance on Social Security. This clarifies the issues for me. And saves me the trouble of reading the other two diaries.

                Shop Liberally this holiday season at Kos Katalog

                by JamieG from Md on Wed May 16, 2012 at 05:29:27 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  The problem (in my view) with the notion (5+ / 0-)

          of a stratagem --that the Peterson commission was manipulated by Obama to prove his support for Social Security-- is just that it's too risky and complicated, and doesn't pass the Occam's razor test.

          If you support Social Security, why not do it up front?  Why go to all the bother?

          To my simple mind it does not compute.

          Your mileage may differ, obviously.

          The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.

          by magnetics on Tue May 15, 2012 at 10:16:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  My mileage doesn't differ much (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            TealTerror, magnetics, kalmoth

            In every speech I have heard him make, he supports the idea of a comprehensive social safety net. That has to include income in retirement.

            So I feel confident that he wants to do the right thing by seniors but I also accept that his Administration has sounded out different ideas about how that might be made to happen.

            As to motives for the various statements discussed here .... I really don't know the answer to that.

            I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
            but I fear we will remain Democrats.

            by twigg on Tue May 15, 2012 at 10:58:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  This part was helpful (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          twigg, TealTerror
          But would he be willing to cut Social Security if it  meant securing a Grand Bargain with Republicans? In my opinion, yes. So I think it would be worthwhile to pressure him and Democratic members of Congress not to vote for any bill that cuts Social Security. However, I also think it is possible to reasonably disagree with my position. That said, I think it is uncontroversial that there are some Democratic Congressmen who are willing to cut Social Security, so pressuring at least Congress on this issue is a wise strategy no matter what.

          Shop Liberally this holiday season at Kos Katalog

          by JamieG from Md on Wed May 16, 2012 at 05:27:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  This is the definitive statement (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TealTerror, twigg

        We have no real way of reading the tea leaves

    •  There was quite a storm of outrage directed (5+ / 0-)

      at Congress, both Parties, and at Commission members if I recall correctly. There was plenty here directed at the WH and Dem leadership.

      I can't credit that anyone was foreseeing that would happen, so the "rope-a-dope, we really were playing advanced politics" theory doesn't really seem plausible to me.

      If the outrage was absent, it's most likely that the Commission would have succeeded.

      As it is, we still have examples of Dem leadership using the Commission's unratified conclusions as if they were still a relevant thing. Most plausible is the Commission was dog-and-pony to formalize a decision already made.


      The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

      by Jim P on Tue May 15, 2012 at 11:29:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not sure I agree with the last sentence (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jim P

        After all, if the decision was already made, why wasn't anything passed (either in the commission or in Congress)? The rest I'm basically in accord with you on.

        "He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing."--Socrates

        by TealTerror on Tue May 15, 2012 at 11:38:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Re: "last sentence" (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TealTerror

          Meaning: in Leadership's mind they had all the ducks in a row, it was sure to happen, the decision was made. But then the public scared Congressional members on the commission, and in general. So what had been decided should happen, didn't.


          The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

          by Jim P on Wed May 16, 2012 at 09:13:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Offering a sacred cow makes it less sacred (4+ / 0-)

      Even if the offer was never expected to be taken up. Every time Obama refers to Social Security as an entitlement, he hurts 99.9% of Americans, whether they know it or not. Negotiating on fundamental principles not only damages what's left of the Democratic brand,  it undermines the principles themselves.  Why is Social Security on the deficit table anyway? A strong leader would stand up for social security and the fact that it does not contribute to the deficit. The administration's silence, more than any positive action, has undermined our confidence in Obama's commitment to Social Security.  Not like anyone will vote for Romney cause of it, but we have to retain some connection with reality, even in election years.

  •  THANK YOU!! (7+ / 0-)

    I've been wanting to have a reasoned discussion about this issue for a long time, but it seems impossible here...It will probably remain so, but at least you gave it a shot!

    Too tired to read all of this at the moment but T&R, also republished to "Logic & Rhetoric at Daily Kos".

    Please support TREE Climbers, our 501(c)(3) for victims and survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation. Also, too, I haz a blog

    by SwedishJewfish on Tue May 15, 2012 at 09:37:59 PM PDT

  •  The best thing Obama could do is veto SS cuts (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JamieG from Md

    Force Romney to come out In favor of cuts.

    •  Kind of hard to do that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lying eyes, Cedwyn

      unless they're actually passed...

      "He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing."--Socrates

      by TealTerror on Tue May 15, 2012 at 09:42:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ok, wave Brian schweitzer's veto branding iron. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cedwyn
        •  To the best of my knowledge (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JamieG from Md

          there's no actual bill in Congress right now that would cut Social Security, so that wouldn't work either.

          You could say that Obama should threaten to veto any bill that includes Social Security cuts. However, since nobody's really talking about that right now (to the best of my knowledge) that would be kind of strange.

          So maybe Obama should say in campaign speeches that he doesn't support cuts in Social Security...and that I would actually agree with.

          "He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing."--Socrates

          by TealTerror on Tue May 15, 2012 at 10:24:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  He's quiet about SS. Too Quiet. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JamieG from Md
          •  They are indeed talking about it. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            TealTerror, magnetics

            Kent Conrad told us recently that they are preparing a plan behind closed doors for possible use after the election.  

            The deficit hawks are playing a long game.  This issue is not going away.  Pete Peterson has poured millions into trying to eviscerate social insurance programs, and he has not been deterred by temporary losses. You can read the history here.  The President wanted him as a keynote speaker early in the administration efforts on deficits, and he has had the President's ear since well before the election.  He is a Wall Street investment banker (Blackstone Group) and the President is partial to that demographic.  He will be working on this project until he succeeds or he dies, regardless of who wins the election.

            You can read up on the President's own statements on this topic from the links in my comment here and at AngryBear.  No need for "interpretation" at all.  I don't understand why people think there is.

            re this:

            If this article is accurate, then President Obama was willing to make “cuts” or “cost-of-living increases” (were these supposed to refer to the same thing?), as well as various other spending cuts, in exchange for new taxes.
            Altman and Kingston explain why chained CPI is a cut.

            Here's a picture:

            The Washington Post should not be a source for any facts on Social Security and Lori Montgomery is a tool of the 1%.

  •  I am tipping and recc'ing (6+ / 0-)

    this Diary not because I hold a view either way in the arguments of the day, but because I completely approve of the way the Diarist has handled the comments, and that deserves some Mojo!

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    by twigg on Tue May 15, 2012 at 10:37:03 PM PDT

  •  Dear Diarist... (0+ / 0-)

    I thank you for trying to be unbiased. In my humble opinion, you fail, but thanks all the same.

    •  Um...you're welcome? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kalmoth, Sandino, JamieG from Md

      I never tried to be unbiased--I am biased so that's kind of impossible--but I did try to be objective. My subjective opinion did sneak in here and there, true, but would you mind telling me exactly how you think I failed?

      "He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing."--Socrates

      by TealTerror on Tue May 15, 2012 at 11:40:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  my problem is with this assertion... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        frankzappatista
        As my above analysis shows, this is a misleading summary of joe shikspack’s diary.
        I actually think you and Troubadour's analysis were pretty close (if one doesn't quibble).

        I also disagree with this...

        The rest of Troubadour’s diary is either invective or points unrelated to joe shikspack’s diary so I will end the analysis here.
        It is not invective to point out who objectively benefits from the FUD being spread. As for the real invective in that diary, in my humble opinion, the intended recipients very well might deserve it.

        Dixi.

        •  the problem was that the second diary (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sandino, TealTerror, magnetics

          was more full of FUD than the first diary.

          Which was essentially what this last diary concludes. And so I rec'd it.

        •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          magnetics

          1. If claiming to summarize a diary while only including one part of it, and then attributing to it things it did not say, isn't misleading I don't know what is.

          If Troubadour had just said "Even if joe shikspack was right about everything, he still wouldn't have come close to showing the President is helping to destroy Social Security" or even "How stupid do you have to be to trust the Washington Post?" I wouldn't have had a problem.

          2. I didn't feel like going into detail, but that diary was full of incredibly venomous invective clearly aimed at the entire "Obama critics" side. Here are just a few examples:

          bitter, irrational, borderline demented commentary that exists solely to serve a political fetish rather than address reality
          steaming FUD turd
          basically lying through their teeth on behalf of some sick fetish to attack Barack Obama
          A lot of people (or else a lot of zombie accounts activated simply to promote anti-Obama FUD) Recced a diary
          The quest for "Better Democrats" begins at home, and starts with refusing to indulge liars, bigots, and political autoimmune disorders
          And so on, and so forth. It was clearly meant to inflame people, which it duly did. If you think it's fine because you think the "intended recipients" deserve it, I hope to never see you complain about any insults the other side might make.

          "He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing."--Socrates

          by TealTerror on Wed May 16, 2012 at 06:54:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'm going to bed now (4+ / 0-)

    I'll respond to any additional comments in the morning/afternoon. Thanks to everyone who commented so far! :D

    "He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing."--Socrates

    by TealTerror on Tue May 15, 2012 at 11:42:10 PM PDT

  •  I think you nailed it here (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TheLizardKing, TealTerror
    In conclusion: joe shikspack’s title and introduction are, at the least, hyperbolic and not actually supported by the rest of his diary. His argument itself is plausible, though not convincing because it relies on a possibly-dubious Washington Post article. If joe shikspack had toned down his title and introduction, the diary would’ve been much better.
    Had joe shikspack followed this advice there would have been no Troubador diary last night. JS simply didn't have the evidence to impune Obama unequivocally as much as his tone insisted that he did. Strip the hyperbole from the diary and it's a reasonably good read. But any time you engage in hyperbole people are going to demand a much higher burden of proof, and they probably have a right to.

    There are two types of republicans, the rich and the stupid. The rich ones strive to keep the stupid ones stupid and the stupid ones strive to keep the rich ones rich.

    by frankzappatista on Wed May 16, 2012 at 02:01:23 AM PDT

  •  Much More Evidence Out There (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TealTerror

    Crusade of a Lifetime:

    I underestimated the administration's zeal to join the crusade, but other than that, I think it's pretty much gone down as expected. Not that I was particularly prescient. That's how it's been going down for a couple of decades and it was clear that nothing substantial had changed. The only thing different was the fact that we were experiencing an epic economic downturn which might have shaken the foundation enough to unmoor the political establishment from this destructive obsession. But it was not to be.

    So now we have the Village elite gathering at Pete Peterson's feet paying obeisance to his moneyed grandeur:

    Obama Audition with Hamilton Institute 2006

    Thanks for trying to sort this out.  I read a lot of stuff and the evidence supports Joe Shikspack and refutes Troubadour.  Being retired on Social Security and Medicare, I do watch this effort with real concern.

  •  Members of the Obama Admin have floated (4+ / 0-)

    changing the current CPI formula used to compute SS increases to 'Chained CPI'. Whether you think that represents a 'cut' or a simple 'correction' is open for debate, the end result would be benefits continuing to increase but slowing the rate of that increase from the current law baseline.

    Generally this 'correction' is presented by open proponents (which does NOT include the Obama folk, who are pretty circumspect) as being part of some 'grand bargain' and since it is not a 'cut' (as they define it) would not violate Obama's (and Pelosi's) open pledges to support and preserve Social Security.

    Well count me in the 'cut' camp. And note that I have been tracking Obama Administration Social Security policy since before the beginning. For example Prof. Barkley Rosser put this piece up at EconoSpeak on Jan 10, 2009 or BEFORE the inaugeration in reference to actions we took the Spring BEFORE EVEN THAT

    How Bruce Webb And I Helped Save Social Security (Maybe)
    Now the topic of that post wasn't on Chained CPI as such, but it does show that I was paying attention at the time. And now. And at no time has the Obama campaign or now Obama Administration taken Chained CPI and similar measures off the table and from the very beginning it and him have been open to approaches put forth by the Peter G Peterson folk. For example one of his first acts was to convene a Peterson inspired (and originally to be keynoted) Fiscal Responsibility Summit which was immediately praised by all the usual Austerians: New Approaches to Addressing Long-Term Fiscal Responsibility

    President Obama’s intention to convene a fiscal responsibility summit is a very welcome development. It offers a valuable opportunity to focus public attention on our nation’s unsustainable budget outlook and to highlight various approaches to meaningful action.

    As a group of budget analysts and former senior budget officials, we view this summit as the first step to addressing the enormous long-term fiscal problem facing the United States. Without decisive action this problem will lead to serious harm to our economy and a huge financial burden on our children and grandchildren.

    In the event Nancy Pelosi put her foot down and insisted on more balance and the whole thing didn't turn quite into the Peterson Wank-a-Thon that was planned. But the event clearly had buy-in by at least the Obama economic team, and especially Summers who was neck deep in Social Security 'reform' during the Clinton years.

    I could go on (and have in past diaries) but the Obama campaign had exactly one economic advisor who was a firm supporter of Social Security-and Jared Bernstein was shunted off to the Office of the VP. In the meantime the author of Diamond-Orszag ended up as OMB Director even as the author of Liebman-MacGuineas-Samwick, one of the campaigns first three hires in 2007, ended up no 3 to Orszag at OMB.

    While Obama has kept his personal cards pretty close to his vest on Social Security he has allowed his economic team both before and after his election to be packed with people with very scary records on this front. And it is more than fair to fear that he is taking advice from advisors. Isn't that what they are for?

  •  reccd for effort (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TealTerror, magnetics, splashoil

    You should follow Bruce Webb and Social Security Defenders if you want to stay informed on this issue.  See my commentwith links.

    •  Thanks (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      magnetics, splashoil, 2laneIA

      The point was more to analyze the two diaries (hence the title "Analyzing Meta"), so I by necessity couldn't spend much time on outside evidence regarding the substantive issue of Obama's position on Social Security. I do tend to agree with the viewpoint you express.

      "He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing."--Socrates

      by TealTerror on Wed May 16, 2012 at 06:08:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Republished to Logic & Rhetoric. (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks, SwedishJewfish!

    For all of the pie that Troubadour threw at strawmen, the discussion suffered a serious lack of substantive discussion of joe shikspack's actual argument. I hope this helps.

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