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Bill Moyers had economists Yves Smith and Bruce Bartlett on his PBS program on December 14, and they claimed that President Obama has been an advocate of reducing public entitlements since before he was inaugurated. They warn that he promises to make this a major thrust of his second term.

Thus, these programs are in trouble with him "defending" them as we liberals are assuming he will do in the fiscal cliff negotiations and beyond. If this is true, we need to get the word out!

Below is an excerpt from the show. You can find the video and transcript at

I'm not following up on the statements so much as asking whether people are aware of this and have other evidence of Obama's true intent, confirming or debunking this conclusion.

YVES SMITH: Obama wants to cut entitlements. He said this in a famous dinner with George Will. I think it was even before he was inaugurated. He went and had dinner with a group--

BRUCE BARTLETT: That's right, a group of conservatives.

YVES SMITH: He met a group of conservatives. And he made it very clear at this dinner that as soon as the economy was stabilized that he wanted to cut Social Security, well "reform." But that's just code for "cut" Social Security and Medicare. Obama really believes that this will be a signature accomplishment of his. That he will go down in history positively for.

BRUCE BARTLETT: That's right. If you go back to 2011 and look at the deal Obama put on the table, he was willing to make vast, vast cuts in entitlement programs. And the Republicans walked away from it, which only goes to prove that they don't have the courage of their own convictions. But Yves point is exactly correct. Obama really is maybe to the right of Dwight Eisenhower and fiscally. And it's really at the root of so many of our economy's problems, because he didn't ask for a big enough stimulus. Has let the housing sector, basically, fester for four years without doing anything about it. He's really, you know, focused more on cutting the deficit than people imagine.

If people have more evidence on this, please share it; and then let's warn the world. I feel I've been trusting Obama too much to "do what's right." Sounds like the problem is he's indeed doing what's "right"—too right.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The truth hurts, people. (15+ / 0-)

    We've been had. If the Senate can't stop him, it's gonna get ugly. Real ugly.

    You can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America.

    by Eric Stratton on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 08:46:08 PM PST

  •  "Reform" does not equal "cut", can we at least (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, 18038

    agree on that. Or maybe we should wait and see what the deal is or isn't.

  •  Will someone please introduce Smith & Bartlett to (6+ / 0-)

    the esoteric theory that conservatives are, at least in theory now, capable of lying (or for the more gentle among us, deluding themselves) about things it would be to their great benefit to have people believe about a political opponent.

    And while they're at it, could they have sit down, maybe using a coloring book, and explain to Yves and Bruce that cuts to entitlement costs, and cuts to entitlement benefits, are actually two different things, and are worth differentiating between.

    Perhaps at the end of the session they could learn to use the word "costs" in talking about one, and the word "benefits" in discussing the other.

    •  They're conservative economists? (0+ / 0-)

      Thanks, Steven. This is the kind of feedback I was seeking before getting on my horse. So they're conservative economists? I'd never heard of them, and I assumed Moyers gave exposure to liberal experts. I wouldn't expect him to promote the agenda of Obama's adversaries.

      I did find an interview with Smith on Conservative Daily, but she doesn't come across as a conservative in the sense of skewing (or skewering) the facts to champion an ideology. Her description of the nation's economy seems to square with my understanding of how it works.

      So that gets me back to trying to confirm whether her characterization of Obama's position is valid.

      Still trying to decide what i want to be when i grow up.

      by damead on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 10:44:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It wasn't a comment on Yves' or Bruce's politics. (0+ / 0-)

        The conservatives I'm referring to are those that would have attended and would be passing along the events of this "famous" dinner.  Conservatives are not exactly in the business of ensuring that the public understands exactly what the president's position is on anything.  In my opinion Smith and Bartlett should know better than to even bother mentioning this dinner.  There is just no information coming out of it that can be relied upon.

        But this sort of thing is endemic in our media now to the point where even otherwise very good journalists can find themselves "hypnotized" into passing along, without sufficient examination, beliefs that are incorrect to the point of being harmful.  Our traditional media has in general become very undisciplined.

        My method of discerning this president's true intent is to listen to what he says it is.  Yes, he's a politician and has to "flavor" things at times, and be a little coy with the public and the political opposition, but he's eminently competent, and smart enough to leave himself in positions where he can just be straight with people.

        We can not only listen to what he says his intent is, but we can also see what he has in fact done, in this case regarding the Medicare entitlement.  He has said that his intent is to reduce the rate of rise in health care costs, and he is in fact doing so.

        It's no secret that the U.S. spends far too much on health care for what care we receive.  We spend much more and do not have proportionately better care delivered to the general populace, if we even have better care at all, in comparison to other similarly industrialized countries.  I've watched Canadian television at times and they laugh their heads off, and rightly so, at the stupid Americans and their ridiculous health care system.

        Government is of course currently on the hook, through Medicare, Medicaid, etc. for much of these health care costs.  Since they are continuing to rise rapidly, it is not hard to believe the president when he says that he wants to slow the rise in the cost of health care.  This is a cut in the cost of the health care that the benefits system has to pay for, not a cut in the benefits, that is the level of care delivered.

        The Affordable Care act did in fact cut costs, by cutting overspending in the Medicare Advantage program, without lowering the level of care being delivered.  This in a way could be called an entitlement cut.  But when people hear that they think something is being taken away.  To simply say he wants to cut entitlements is to be negligent to the point of assisting people in becoming misinformed.  We currently have a Republican House of Representatives in no small part because our media couldn't be bothered to educate the public on the difference, or who it is that actually doesn't mind seeing actual benefits reduced, i.e., the elephant in the room.

        Thanks to the Bush years we have a law on the books that says that Medicare cannot use its size to negotiate lower drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry.  Excuse me?  I think I see another big block of costs that really have no legitimate reason for existence.  This could probably go on, but the point is there is so much in the way of costs that can be cut, that an intelligent, caring president, which we have, would simply not have to focus on lowering the level of care received.

        I'm not up much on the president's conversation about social security, although I know he's stated he's amenable to reducing cost of living adjustments using chained CPI.  But we are a wasteful country, with a damaging level of income and wealth inequality.  I'm sure there exist ways to lower the overall costs to our seniors so that they could absorb that and still come out on top, but I don't know the president's thinking on that.

        The problem here doesn't even depend on who is conservative and whether anyone is lying.  The problem is that the commentary is so undisciplined that if you step back and take a look at it, keeping in mind there is a difference between cuts in the cost that the entitlement system has to deal with, versus cuts in entitlement benefits, which refers to the level of care received, the commentary really doesn't offer any information at all.  It is not sufficiently specific as to the nature of the "entitlement cuts" being mentioned at the time.  It would be better in my opinion to not lose any sleep over this part of the program and wait for more disciplined commentary to come your way.

  •  What Obama "wants" to do? (7+ / 0-)

    I'm not inclined to rush to condemn Obama based on conservative claims about what he "wants" to do, even if they have out-of-context quotes to back up their claims.  The conservatives would love to gut entitlements, then blame it on Obama.  If enough liberals join the blame-Obama bandwagon, swing voters will notice, and we can lose the 2014 elections.  And yes, it can get worse.
    In the meantime, we have a Republican-controlled House, and there are some things that the government needs to do.  So Obama has to deal with it.

  •  real interesting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    what Obama believes is a "stabilized" economy.
    As in "as soon as the economy is stabilized he wanted to cut Social Security."

    A thousand Sharkeys are invading a thousand Shires every day across our country.--James Wells

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 09:52:57 PM PST

  •  Two guys quoting George Will? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ORDem, Chas 981, johnny wurster

    Not that I don't think the Prez hasn't bought into the B.S. that SS is in trouble and needs benefits cuts or an infusion of money to survive.

    But two guys quoting George Will?

    "Michael Moore, who was filming a movie about corporate welfare called 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' sought and received incentives."

    by Bush Bites on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:02:20 PM PST

  •  This is so obviously true (10+ / 0-)

    Obama is an old style Republican of 30-40 years ago, like Nelson Rockefeller. The political center has been moving rightward since Reagan and now Obama is considered a centrist. The assumption that taxes should be offset by cuts to social welfare as opposed to the Pentagon or Corporate Welfare, for example, is a far right position accepted by both parties, regardless of public opinion which opposes such cuts .  

    •  Yes, he said so himself (11+ / 0-)

      Obama last week:

      The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican

      Now obviously moderate Republicans back then were nothing at all like today's GOP nuts.  But still, it's not like the Democrats back then were on the fringe so that any reasonable person would be a moderate Republican.  'Centrist' though he was, I can't imagine Clinton saying that he was essentially an 80s Republican.

      I find it incredibly sad that the standard bearer of the Democratic party claims that is more sympathetic to the policies of Ford over Carter and perhaps even Reagan over Mondale.  GHWBush was more moderate than Reagan.  Would today's Obama have supported him over Clinton?

      Sheesh - what a stupid thing for him to say.  Even if this is what he actually thinks.  Just insult anyone who was a Democrat in the 80s - "you crazy people were way out of the mainstream."  "Al Gore - beatnik pinko." "Gary Hart - essentially a communist".  Good way to play to your base.

      .-. . ..-. . .-. / - --- / - .... . / --- .-. .. --. .. -. .- .-.. / -.. --- - ... / .- -. -.. / -.. .- ... .... . ...

      by delphis on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:48:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The more he says these things the more they... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    will call him a Socialist.  And when all is said and done the sad thing is that he is the most progressive democrat that was ever elected, except maybe Jimmy Carter.  Look how the right vilify him as the worst President ever.  

    Obama has got to realize that there is no honesty or honor among these GD thieves.  There will be no minute shred of credit given, or honest analysis put forth from them.  There will just be balls to the walls, scorched earth, low down, dirty dealing, motherfucking lies and contempt towards the man.

    He should face that fact and fight like hell against them and let the cards fall as they may.  
    I see no progressive President who can win on our horizon.
    Hillary will be more of the same.  But he can win elections, thank God.  And after all if we win the scum sucking rightwing fascists lose.  That is what is important.

    "Republicans are the party that says that government doesn't work, then they get elected and prove it."-- PJ O'Rourke

    by nocynicism on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 11:52:58 PM PST

  •  Freaked out when I heard this. Talk about (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, nchristine

    the country being on the rack for torture.

    I just hate having my remaining naive ideals crushed.

    This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

    by AllisonInSeattle on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 12:55:55 AM PST

  •  This isn't right. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  to someone already convinced, (4+ / 0-)

    I'm sure this is very persuasive.

    for the rest of us, a conversation between a few bloggers, none of whom are democrats, isn't terribly interesting.

    thanks for your concern, though.

  •  Really? (0+ / 0-)

    Would love to see her evidence for the assertion. Was she at the dinner herself? Nobody else who was there seems to have been very forthcoming about the content of the discussion.

    "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

    by Catte Nappe on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 08:01:23 AM PST

  •  At a dinner with George Will? Ummm... (0+ / 0-)

    ...I have to confess, if I had dinner with that shithead, I'd most likely end up beating his fucking face in.

    So I have to be suspicious of anyone who had dinner and didn't punch the fuck.

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