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[Originally posted at Notes on a Theory]

The president’s new budget proposal includes both Chained CPI, a cut in Social Security benefits, and cuts in Medicare benefits.  As Shawn Fremstad notes, the White House’s assurances that the ‘most vulnerable’ will be protected are not to be taken seriously.

It’s troubling for any number of reasons, including that the defenses offered are nonsense.  Chained CPI is arguably a more accurate measure for working people, but the existing measure clearly underestimates inflation for seniors, who spend far more of their income on health care, where costs are rising faster. Social Security doesn’t contribute to the deficit, which doesn’t matter(at least at the moment), and no one actually cares about it, and Medicare costs could be dealt with through costs controls rather than benefit cuts.

These programs are so wildly popular across all age groups and political affiliations that seeking to cut them is electoral suicide–or rather it would be if one party were willing to call it what it is.  Democrats had their chance to do that, when Paul Ryan’s budget proposed privatizing Medicare.  They briefly used this to stir up their base (mostly for donations, it would appear) and then Republicans insisted it was no fair to use their proposals against them. Many Democrats, including Bill Clinton, agreed, and pretty soon the phrase “Ending Medicare” was modified with the nonsense qualifier “as we know it” as if turning a social insurance programs into a voucher program and calling it the same thing made it so.  This wasn’t just politicians, but the media and the online chattering class too.  Republicans are movable, but Democrats have shown they prefer not to move them.  The exact reasons why are unimportant, but none of them are acceptable.

For some time, the possibility of cuts to either Social Security or Medicare have been periodically floated, in stories citing anonymous sources close to the White House. This is how politics works in DC–anonymously float proposals to see how people react without having to take a stand on them, to see what the reaction is to gauge the existence and strength of support or opposition.  Sometimes it was White House allies, or members of Congress, or staffers themselves, on the record, suggestion that these things might be necessary, or should be considered, or what have you.  Some used this opportunity to try to demonstrate opposition.

The process seemed to work like this: first Social Security cuts were floated, these were attacked, and then they were “taken off the table,” which only means some staffer said those words to reporters.  There was much rejoicing, and little follow-up, and soon Medicare cuts were floated .These too were attacked, taken off the table, at which point the Social Security cuts returned–a shell game.

But there were plenty of people there to tell us we weren’t serious.  These things would never happen. Obama himself hadn’t said it, or if he did, he didn’t mean it. The Republicans were forcing him to say it, somehow. Even now, we hear that it’s all a ruse to–when the Republicans (inevitably) reject the proposal, it will (finally) demonstrate to everyone that Obama is reasonable and the Republicans are not. Obviously, lacking any evidence for that proposition before, and because people care more about this then whether their grandparents slip into poverty and whether they themselves will have retirement security, they will flock to the president’s side.  That’s right, the White House is proposing a cut that harms current and future retirees.  At least the Republicans had the good, if evil, political sense to only harm one of those groups at a time.

Since the opposition appeared small, divided and weak, the White House has placed both cuts into the budget. And the GOP, all of whom have been screaming about “entitlements” and demanding cuts and some of whom have been calling for Chained CPI are now attacking the Democrats (all of them, regardless of their position on this issue) for attacking seniors from the left, which while cynical is entirely true.

This is obviously bad politics, if by politics you mean democratic politics.  But sadly, that’s not the only meaning, nor even the dominant one, in our discourse. When you hear Jonathan Alter or Chris Matthews talk about what’s politically possible, they aren’t talking about public opinion or votes. That’s why they can insist that raising the cap on for collecting payroll taxes for Social Security so that it is less regressive is considered impossible but the massively unpopular policy of cutting benefits for current and future retirees is seen as reasonable. They are talking about elite politics, the elites who, most of the time, hold all the power in our system.  Saying that outright is inconsistent with what we tell ourselves about our system of government–that it is democratic, that the people have all the power, that public opinion in reflected automatically in policy.

It’s also inconsistent with the dominant critique of that view among Democrats, which is that the only thing that stands in the way of this is Republican intransigence and the filibuster (never mind that Democrats in the Senate refused to take this abused tool away from the Republicans in a deal that would supposedly stop them from abusing it. This deal fell apart within seconds, and Harry Reid and Dick Durbin sheepishly shrugged their shoulders and scolded Republicans for doing what they were obviously going to do. For what it’s worth, they weren’t the suckers. Anyone who believed them was a sucker.) Besides, here we are with Democrats proposing to cut Social Security and Medicare, and pretending its a good thing. It takes some serious delusion to convince yourself that the filibuster made them do that.

People keep asking the question: why is Obama doing this? Usually, the question is phrased this way, directed toward the president himself, as if these policies don’t enjoy widespread support among party elites, as if the last Democratic president doesn’t support them (see above) and try to do it himself (thank you Lewinsky scandal).  Still, Obama has been talking about this for a very long time.  Regardless, I think the reason for this confusion is twofold. First, there is the idea that a politician’s personal views dictate the positions they take, and that these views spring immaculate from their soul uninfluenced by the system in which they operate and rose.  I find that odd, even more odd to describe what an institution does. The presidency is an institution, much larger than one person.  And second is the idea that the public typically gets what it wants, and that anyone who fails to deliver that will necessarily be punished.

The latter is not true. The evidence for it is clear and convincing, and has been for a long time.   Who supports cutting Social Security? It’s pretty simple, as this chart from Demos shows, based on research by Page, Bartels, and Seawright.

That’s right. That’s what our ‘democracy’ looks like.

In fact, this instance may be particularly egregious, but it is in no way usual. The concerns of the donor class, generally speaking, determine the boundaries of what is politically possible. (Lawrence Lessig lays out the case in his wonderful, infuriating book, Republic, Lost.  Thomas Ferguson’s Golden Rule is also essential reading here.) In policy area after policy area, policy and the aga reflection of elite concerns concerns not the population.  If you can’t get funding to challenge a candidate for opposing the public, and you can’t find a way to run that doesn’t rely on big money, then no one will face the music. And aside from that, the reason the concerns of regular Americans are largely ignored is because the concerns of elites, and protecting the profits of large corporations (not to mention raising money from them) take up so much of their time.

The reality is that our donor class, and the media and political elites that operate on their behalf (whether they do so because they believe it or not is irrelevant) has it exactly backwards.  The basic system of retirement security in the US had three parts–pensions, personal savings (mostly the value of a home) and Social Security. But pensions have been largely replaced with 401Ks, which even at their best provide less for most retirees than pensions do also have the problem of relying on the stock market, so they are not secure.  Remember the tech bubble crash and then the financial crisis?  And speaking of the financial crisis, that was ultimately caused by the popping of the housing bubble.

For most Americans, Social Security is all that’s left, not because they are lazy or unwilling to do what they were told to do but because what they were told to do was inadequate and insecure. (But on the bright side, the rich got much richer). Only one leg of the retirement security school is left standing, and the elites have decided even that small level of security is too little desperation.  Instead, we should be expanding it–I’d fund it with a financial transactions tax. I’d also suggest expanding Medicare–for example, temporarily lowering the retirement age to 55 until we get back to a reasonable level of employment, and covering chronic, costly illnesses that are made worse by lack of primary care. (In fact, it wold be better to expand it to everyone–but we’ll leave that for another time).

There was a time when Social Security was considered the “third rail of American politics.”  That time has passed. Sure, people still say it, but it’s not longer true.  What that meant was that no one in politics was willing to even suggest touching it.  The only legitimate options were expanding it or standing pat. To suggest cutting it in any way would bring about massive push back. No one wanted to be the lonely soul to step out of that consensus. At one time, the AARP would at such a suggestion mobilize its massive constituency.  Now it demands straight talk.

While we receive endless emails to sign a petition to let the Democrats know we don’t want them to cut Social Security and Medicare (something they most certainly already know), after these same groups spent months announcing their opposition to such cuts, it’s not clear that any of them have the capacity or the inclination to do anything about it. This has been a long time coming, yet full-scale mobilization never occurred. Only 31 Democrats in the House to date have opposed these cuts. (Check out the link–calls do matter.  Here’s information on Democrats in the Senate.) The White House has chosen not to listen. Why would they care how many people signed a petition?

And once the precedent is set, cuts will be used to justify more cuts.  The donor class is overwhelmingly hostile to these programs, in part because they are licking their chops thinking about all the money they can make when it is redirected into non-public hands.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be saved, and it doesn’t mean we can’t recapture that consensus.

Social Security was enacted in response to mass mobilization. It can only be saved through mass mobilization. Let’s take the third rail metaphor seriously.  Touching the third rail on train tracks means you get shocked. That’s what we need. Something shocking.  Something isn’t standard. Something that challenges the donors–the funders, and the politicians they fund.  They have made it clear they aren’t listening. But they would if they feared us.

Ernesto Cortes, Jr., organizer of the Industrial Areas Foundation network in Texas and the San Antonio-based Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS), has plainly described activists’ necessary relationship to public officials. “It’s unfortunate that fear is the only way to get some politicians to respect your power. They refuse to give you respect. They don’t recognize your dignity. So we have to act in ways to get their attention. In some areas, what we have going is the amount of fear we can generate. We got where we are because people fear and loathe us.”
So, how we can we make them–Republicans and Democrats, office holders and funders– fear and loathe us?

Originally posted to David Kaib on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 07:59 PM PDT.

Also republished by Social Security Defenders, Pushing back at the Grand Bargain, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I don't believe inflation is anywhere (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, AoT, caul, Chi, lenzy1000, JesseCW, divineorder

    Near 2%

    I just saw a Milky Way at Wags going for $1.99

    So if CPI is a pure low ball fantasy number, what is chained CPI?

    •  The inflation rate factors in the (23+ / 0-)

      plummeting price of electronics, in which an $100 Android or iPhone has the computing power that an $1000 laptop had 10 years ago, or a 46" LED flat panel TV costs the same as a 27 or 32 inch CRT did 10-12 years ago,  That factoring in of ever cheaper, improved electronics firepower is called Hedonics, where cheaper, faster computing power is used as a factor. Never mind that actual day to day necessities, including food, energy, health care, and housing all continue to rise at a very rapid rate, and that the old and the very young do not upgrade their electronic devices every year.

      Which explains why poor people often have smart phones and laptops, yet have a lot of trouble with housing, utilities and transportation.

      Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

      by NoMoreLies on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 08:24:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly. You can get a two year old smartphone (6+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        radarlady, caul, Chi, jm214, JesseCW, divineorder

        pretty much for free nowadays and it still works just fine (better than fine if you can get someone to install cyanogenmod custom firmware on it).  The same with older laptops which work just fine with something like Debian + xfce.

        You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

        by Throw The Bums Out on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 01:20:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Which means the current CPI is wrong as well (5+ / 0-)

        If they want a "more accurate measure" of inflation, they should base it on real life needs like: food, energy, health care, and housing. That would make the politicians look bad and we can't have that.

        Some people have short memories

        by lenzy1000 on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 07:03:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  CPI excludes necessities (5+ / 0-)

        and uses a faulty algorithm to enable claims of no inflation. Those claims are horsepuckey.
        They were horsepuckey under Reagan and both Bushes and under Clinton. They're still horsepuckey.

        actual day to day necessities, including food, energy, health care, and housing all continue to rise at a very rapid rate,
        Gasoline went down to $3.25 a gallon here this week. At its height it was in the $3.60 range. Diesel's been $4 a gallon for awhile. When we first elected Mr. Obama to the White House, diesel approached $3 per gallon. Gasoline ran about $2.50. Milk ran about $3. Now it's pushing $5. A loaf of bread on sale now is $1.60 or more.

        No inflation? My grandmother's three-legged one-eyed cat's left hind foot.

        LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 09:20:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  What would have been the difference in policy if (12+ / 0-)

    no one had donated a penny to the Obama campaign except the moneyed elite?  Pretend for a second that donations from Wall Street equalled what he would have gotten from individual donors.

    What would have been the difference under that imaginary scenario and the reality that a flood of small donations made up a significant part of Obama's campaign chest.

    Frankly, I can't think of a single one.  

    Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed. --Herman Melville

    by ZedMont on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 08:19:21 PM PDT

  •  Echoes of Reagan (7+ / 0-)

    The "most vulnerable" are today's "truly needy".

    I don't know who's calling the shots in the White House, whether this is the real Obama coming out, an old-school (pre-batshit insane) Republican at heart, or whether he's getting awful advice from his advisors.  Or whether he's getting orders from the real power elite and is just carrying them out.  But it sucks.  Obama is starting to remind me of Lyndon Johnson.

    •  Lyndon Johnson started Medicare (18+ / 0-)

      If Obama was Lyndon Johnson, he'd hand the Republicans their ass. Lyndon Johnson went far out of his way to fight poverty and to get medical care for people. Have you seen Obama doing any of that, or just the opposite?

      Obama reminds me more of Ronald Reagan.

      "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

      by YucatanMan on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 11:26:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Lyndon's trajectory was downhill (5+ / 0-)

        The Johnson reference was not to his Great Society initiatives, Medicare, or his other domestic initiatives of 1963-1966.  Rather, it's to his decline.  He started out a great hope but he got carried away with his war, and put that above all else.  This turned him into a divisive character within the party, drawing his support largely from across the aisle, as well as from hippie-punching back when hippies first came into being.  In fact one might argue that the whole hippie phenomenon of 1966-1969 was a reaction to the war and Johnson himself.  He became the most hated man in America by 1968.

        So history remembers him as a tragic figure, one whose deteriorating mental health turned a great presidency into an awful one.  That's what I am hoping Obama doesn't become.

        •  I wouldn't want Obama to have that kind of (3+ / 0-)

          downward trajectory, but I clearly remember Johnson in power and he was IN power the entire term in office.

          Regardless of the public disapproval, he remained a force to be reckoned with.  

          Obama is a serial, compulsive compromiser.  He weakens himself with his own style.  He's compulsive about surrendering and stands for what?  It appears he stands for "making the deal," and nothing else.

          Johnson did become weaker as opposition mounted. His weakening was caused by outside forces opposing him.

          Obama weakens himself. His problem is internal.  Personally, I don't think he has any bedrock values other than neoliberalism and compromise / deal making.

          I can see a parallel if Obama were to become massively unpopular due to a war and cultural revolution, but we're so suppressed and repressed today that people don't seem to have the drive to a new cultural revolution.  The gates are not being crashed as much as I had hoped.

          "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

          by YucatanMan on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 10:43:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Lyndon Johnson tried to help the poor - (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1, JesseCW, YucatanMan

      Lyndon Johnson knew how to get what he wanted.
      He knew how to deal with Congress.
      Obama is no Lyndon Johnson.

      I belong to the Honey Badger Wing of the Democratic Party. We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. Have you seen our videos?

      by Cassandra77 on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 06:29:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Actually, He's More Like the Real (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, greenbell, JesseCW

      Kennedy which is not a pretty picture.  Kennedy was young, sexy, and totally willing to crap on the constitution whilst being brilliant at blaming other people for his sins and excesses.  He was every bit as unprincipled as Johnson.  Johnson gets most of the blame for Viet Nam....Kennedy started it with great relish and as well, spent a huge amount of American wealth trying to kill Castro.  

      Newt 2012. Sociopath, adulterer, hypocrite, Republican.

      by tikkun on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 08:27:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wow, K S LaVida, what a twisted picture of LBJ (4+ / 0-)

      whose Great Society was coupled with the drive to take us to the moon that fueled NASA's best decade, who signed the Voting Rights Act, who brought Medicare to fruition, and who actually got stuff done despite the GOP.

      LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

      by BlackSheep1 on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 09:23:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And who blew it all on war (4+ / 0-)

        LBJ took office with ~16k American "advisors" in 'Nam, and escalated to about 500k.  He won a massive landslide in 1964 yet gave up in 1968 when he knew he'd have trouble winning renomination, let alone re-election.  And his later budgets were all about guns, not butter.

        That's the trajectory issue, not what he did at first.  He blew his lead, badly.  And for no good reason other than stubbornness or, perhaps, mental illness.

        But I agree with another commenter that there's a contrast here; Johnson went down because he stuck to his guns, while Obama's problem is a lack of principles.  Obama still thinks Dick Morris' advice to triangulate is good politics.

        •  Well, personally, I think LBJ had rotten advice (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          divineorder

          from MacNamara and others.

          That war started on JFK's watch. Perhaps maybe possibly LBJ didn't want to do to the South Vietnamese what JFK did to the Cubans.

          Our current President appears to ignore good advice, repeatedly, and seems happy to do to the American people what they voted against Paul Ryan's promises to do, just last year.

          LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

          by BlackSheep1 on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:23:17 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  What did JFK do that compared? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Whatithink, mightymouse

            The war sort of started on JFK's watch -- actually the war against the French sort of continued as an insurgency within South Vietnam, and JFK sent "advisors" while ARVN did the bulk of the combat.  But what did he do to the Cubans?  He invaded the Bay of Pigs, and then pulled back the invasion as it turned into a debacle.  The two are simply not even possible to compare!

            Yes, I'm sure Johnson got bad advice, from McNamara and from Rusk, among others, but he had final say.  He could have stepped back but instead jumped in whole-hog, which Kennedy seemed to me at least to have been less likely to do.  Remember, LBJ campaigned against the war in 2004; it was Goldwater who wanted to escalate.

            Obama is probably getting tons of bad advice from Jack Lew and other Rubinites, triangulators, and fans of the veddy best cocktail parties where the VSPs hang out.  Again it's his fault to take their advice to go against what he was elected to do.

            The other real question, though, is whether Obama is actually in charge -- whether any elected official or government is really in charge -- or whether the E1s are pulling the strings and forcing him to dance to their tune.  The old "deal with the devil" bit -- you get the title, not the power.

  •  That is a very interesting chart (24+ / 0-)

    illustrating the disconnect between the average citizen & wealthy elites. average people strongly support expanding social security, whereas the wealthy want to cut it..

    Also, to me the issue isn't whether Chained CPI is more accurate. While it isn't, even if it was I wouldn't favor it..

    To me, we need to do everything possible to increase the average person's standard of living. And social security is one way to do that. Raising the minimum wage is another. Getting jobs back to the U.S. is another. Health care is another. And so on..

    As a member of Courtesy Kos, I am dedicated to civility and respect for all kossacks, regardless of their opinions, affiliations, or cliques.

    by joedemocrat on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 08:31:26 PM PDT

    •  Exactly.... (12+ / 0-)

      The real problem with our social programs is that they're too stingy, with too many bureaucratic hoops through which to jump, to serve even the "most vulnerable"/"truly needy" well.

      Is it courageous to propose tax cuts but not identify a single tax expenditure to rein in? Is it courageous to target your deepest cuts on the poorest Americans, who vote in lower numbers and provide little in campaign contributions?

      by caul on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 03:19:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  let's start with the so-called "poverty line". (4+ / 0-)

      Here are the current guidelines:

      A single person is at 100% of the poverty level at $11,490 per year, except if living in Alaska or Hawaii. ($14,350 and $13,230, respectively.)

      In CONUS that's $955 per month. To reach 100% of poverty-level, you have to have an income of $31.83 per day. It's higher in Alaska or Hawaii.

      If you have a minimum wage job at $7.50 an hour and you work an 8 hour day, that's $60.00 per day. So in theory you're almost at twice poverty level on a minimum wage job. Sounds good, yeah?

      Now, how many Social Security recipients exceed that level of income, if single?

      How many who receive widow's benefits or SSI?

      Or let's talk about disabled American vets, shall we?

      Divide those numbers by 12 and look at the income levels -- then look at the "qualifying percentage of income" to get real help in the USA today.

      Look at the states' guidelines on qualifying for Medicaid under the current funding levels, never mind the sequester-related cuts. Look at CHIP.  Over 18? Bye-bye, CHIP.  Now, factor this in: most states won't offer Medicaid to a single, childless adult -- male or female.
      Look at the states' guidelines on qualifying for SNAP / TANF.
      Now, factor this in: most states won't qualify a single, childless adult for TANF. Look at the states' guidelines on qualifying for LIHEAP.
      You have to have a place to stay, meaning an address and utility bills, to qualify for LIHEAP.

      No. This budget takes too many swipes at the American people, individually or as a whole, working or long-term unemployed or ill or injured or young or old, to benefit corporations and their lobbyist-aided cabals. Big Oil. Big Pharma. Big Bidness' TBTF banking and "financial sector" shell-game, Ponzi-scheme ripoff specialties.

      This budget is aimed squarely at the people Democrats have, traditionally, represented and defended, on behalf of the entities that have, traditionally, counted on the Republicans for their legislative support.

      Oh, and the non-social-safety net cuts? They're to NASA and to STEM education; they're to the CDC and the National Parks; they're to our shared, common-good.

      They're not to things like the F-35 program, that our military services have said they don't trust and can't use. They're to things like salaries and benefits for military members and their families -- provided, of course, they're E-6 and lower on the food chain.

      It sucks, plain and simple.

      LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

      by BlackSheep1 on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 09:53:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is a start (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      2laneIA, divineorder

      but the bulk of the money isn't coming from small donors. At the very least, telling them you won't be giving them money and why helps, as would unsubscribing, and telling them why.

      Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. Notes on a Theory

      by David Kaib on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 04:22:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this very interesting and (6+ / 0-)

    informative diary.  There are many ordinary citizens trying to advance their progressive causes, attending public meetings, writing LTE's, registering voters, still hoping that organized people can beat the system. Maybe they can.

    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

    by ybruti on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 10:52:25 PM PDT

  •  MSNBC's official line is PRO-CHAINEDCPI (6+ / 0-)

    I don't watch MSNBC much anymore, but from what I've seen in passing:

    Chris Matthews thinks Obama is the bravest and most courageous man for doing it and pumps out talking points about it "strengthening" and being "necessary" to cut.

    Lawrence O'Donnell is an enemy of Social Security and went on a long diatribe about how it's a minor tweak and that it's in line with roosevelt principles and some other total nonsense, while ignoring that the rich have rigged the system and it's in no way out of line to raise the FICA cap.

    Al Sharpton doesn't care about anything but his image and being buddy-buddy with Obama and he would never dare criticize his fellow black man.

    i think maddow and hayes have been more active in supporting workers, but again I don't watch enough to really know.

    so the establishment dems really want to take an axe to SS and judging by o'donnell's dumb ass it is "immoral" to tax rich people more to fund any FICA gap even though every g-d advanced country taxes rich people more to fund public pension shortfalls!!!!

    Deficits don't matter, jobs do.

    by aguadito on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 11:08:57 PM PDT

    •  Too true. Hayes gets it. He knows the system is (11+ / 0-)

      rigged. Maddow did take on Axelrod, more or less, but Steve Benen on Maddowblog is all in for the chained CPI. On my way home from my Book Club tonight ("Twilight of the Elites" by Chris Hayes) I listened to Stephanie Miller on the radio. She was telling a worried caller that the Chained CPI was okay and Obama was doing it to show that he's bipartisan and would fix it later and don't worry about the elections in 2014 because this will show voters that Democrats are the defenders of Social Security and Medicare and blah, blah blah. Earlier in the day I listened to Randi Rhodes as I was driving and she is all in for Obama. The only other progressive talker I listen to on the radio is Norman Goldman. He is not a big supporter of the chained CPI or Obama. I'm becoming a little disenchanted with Obama, myself. My DFA group is beginning to gaslight me when I talk about protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. There are only a couple of them who feel the same way I do about what's happening. It worries me. They are mostly near retirement or retired, but some of them have  money. And some of them have private pensions from Stanford or the teacher's union and did not pay into Social Security.

      48forEastAfrica - Donate to Oxfam> "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." Edna St.V. Millay

      by slouching on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 01:03:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm on Social Security (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pundit, lenzy1000, AgavePup, irmaly

        Medicare, Medicaid, Maine Care, Snap, HEAP, LI HEAP, and receiving help from the VA, various foundations and grants.

        With all of that assistance I can't afford to drive my wife to her daily radiation treatments which are a little over eighty miles round trip unless a social worker gives me a gas card.

        Despite my poverty my Social Security doesn't really depend on jobs or the economy, it depends on what we do about overpopulation, pollution, war and climate change. To some extent that depends on getting the Republicans and the lobbyists who fund them out of the Congress of the United States.

        I'd expect the discussion to be about ending the global war on terror and its nation building, and returning to the war on poverty increasing safety nets to include the minimum wage, unemployment insurance, access to free education for retraining, ARRA funding for alternative energy, and infrastructure repair which will rebuild our nation.

        Where I live you need a vehicle with four wheel drive to make it over, around and through the potholes, power goes out every time it rains, and most schools are being closed rather than repaired. We could use all the money we spend on being number one and shipping jobs overseas to mercenaries and the drones they operate, to invest in useful things here.

        All that said I think Obama has been a very skilled negotiator in dealing with Republican obstruction. Their essential position is that if he is for it they are against it.

        He is trying in his second term to get a series of gun control, immigration, marriage equality, woman's rights, voter rights, and key appointments passed and confirmed.

        Obama wants to bring the troops home, deal with climate change, strengthen safety nets rather than abandon them. I'm good with all of that conceptually but making it happen requires arm twisting in the eleventh dimension that even Lydon Johnson could never have accomplished.

        Johnson's sanctions were all coercive, whereas Obama's are all Seductive. Republicans push and Obama pulls them into a corner they didn't realize they were going to be visiting.

        Every one of Obama's legislative ideas is filibustered, blocked, amended, shot full of poison pills, tied to something else we don't want and then delayed so as to reduce the time there is to address the next thing on the list. None of his appointments are ever confirmed.

        How then is it that in 2014 the affordable care act will provide affordable care to 50 million more Americans and the infrastructure, medical equipment and staff to serve all those people is being furnished and installed now under the ARRA.

        With all the best efforts of Bernie Sanders to put us on the right track if it weren't for Obama doing everything wrong we would still be trying to get single payer universal comprehensive instead of mandates for which the US federal government is the single payer if the states don't sign on.

        Obama has somehow allowed Vice President Biden to have slipped into the conversation stuff like the repeal of DADT, DOMA, marriage equality, gun control, equal pay for women, a raise in the minimum wage, comfortable shoes for standing with unions and a mention or two of climate change. Its not entirely foolish to recognize that if we can't get revenues from tax increases to balance budgets now  we have little hope of ever mediating climate change.

        While all that has been going on in some obscure corner of the eleventh dimension he has further allowed himself to be manipulated by the left and the right at the same time to make cuts to the military while leading from behind to take out Osama Bin Ladin, make human rights a condition of our foreign aid, stall the Keystone pipeline, and win another term of thwarting Citizens United funding for obstruction with effective community organizing .

        The debate over entitlements has been expanded to put defense spending, tax breaks, and subsidies on the chopping block next to social security, medicare and medicaid.

        Despite Social Security Insurance being funded by payroll taxes which have already been paid as agreed by us old folks it has been included because its trust fund has been raided to keep other spending from raising the deficit and now paying it back seems onerous.

        Where I see Obama going with chained CPI is a full frontal assault on the cost of living increase threshold  for tax breaks and subsidies for millionaires and billionaires.

        That's the first third of chained CPI but its also a foot in the door of cutting tax breaks for the wealthy, energy companies, big agra-business, subsidies for medicare equipment and pharmeceutical manufacturers. Grover Nordquist opposes it as a tax increase.

        The middle third of chained CPI is focused on raising benefits for the poor by raising the minimum wage which means poor people will get more social security when they retire, raising the cap so revenues from the kind of compensation bankers, energy company executives and wall street executives will add to the trust fund, and then growing the economy so that even a reduced cost of living increase in benefits will increase benefits substantially.

        The last third of chained CPI budget savings comes from paying less interest on less debt.

        My Social Security is more not less secure as a result of the actions of this president.

        Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

        by rktect on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 04:04:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  One cavil- the only "cuts to the military" are to (4+ / 0-)

          "personnel" stuff like pay and health care and of course veterans' "benefits." As I understand it, "TEH BUDGET" restores all the sequester-driven cuts to the War Toy Industry and the Pentag___ procurements that drain our national wealth into it.

          And anyway, the "cuts" to the MIC money are only a "cut" to the RATE OF GROWTH of the War Toy and World Domination "budget."

          Bless you and your family and your perceptions, may we all figure out that we ordinary people need to actually "assemble" and organize and effectively "petition for redress of grievances" if these greedheads and life-suckers are to be reined in. With the clear understanding that those sorts of folks are also born every day and as they grow up they will also need to be reined in by each succeeding generation.

          "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

          by jm214 on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 04:57:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Keep believing that until your checks stop coming (6+ / 0-)

          I see him as a Trojan Horse.
          He's proposing what no republican could ever propose.

          I belong to the Honey Badger Wing of the Democratic Party. We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. Have you seen our videos?

          by Cassandra77 on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 06:36:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Its true he is proposing what no Republican could (0+ / 0-)

            Personally I don't see anything the Republicans have ever proposed, or are proposing or ever will propose as a good thing so I'm happy to see Obama taking a different course.

            I'm not a believer, but I do have expectations that what I have seen in the past and what is going on now is likely to continue for some time into the future.

            When I look at Obama in turn of my expectations for him I see three possibilities.

            First there are the DRONES. This category includes the Obama administrations continuation of all the good works of the Bush administration to include, the Patriot Act, GITMO, FISA, the use of mercenaries and other countries to facilitate our kidnapping, torture and murder to include the indefinite detention of American citizens and their assassination, and oh yeah the deportations of immigrants and the arrests of pot smokers.

            Second there are THE POOL HALL HUSTLEs. This category includes everything Obama has gotten passed from Lily Leadbetter, START, ARRA, the affordable care act to taking out Osama Bin Ladin, leading from behind in Libya, and aiding and abetting Elizabeth Warren, not to mention all the places where he caved to Republicans and then it turned out that no wait, he got a much better deal than we thought.

            Finally there is CHRISTMAS FUTURE. this category includes things yet to be such as Affordable Care, Marriage Equality, DADT, DOMA, Immigration reform, gun control, delaying the Keystone pipeline, and chained CPI (the Trojan Horse) all the things which having begun to make some of the smarter Republicans abandon their lost cause and come over into the light once were.

            Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

            by rktect on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 10:12:01 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Here's the thing, though: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          yoduuuh do or do not

          If your Social Security had started in 1999 at $1200 per month and continued until now (Feb 2013) using today's CPI for SS, you'd be receiving around $1670 per month, roughly.

          If all that time you were receiving Chained CPI as the basis of your annual adjustments, you would now be receiving $1596.  

          That's a $74 dollar difference a month, this year. And a bigger gap next year and the next.

          And is SS really keeping pace with the cost of living?  We had a couple years when "CPI" said there was no inflation, but the food started coming in smaller packages and prices were going up. Somehow, even today's CPI missing what people really need to live every day.

          Wouldn't your life be harder today on $74/month less?
          A lot harder?  
          How many cuts can you take?

          And why should you, living on the edge, be taking these kinds of cuts while the wealthiest in the nation pile up even more of the national riches in land, stocks, bonds, buildings, bank accounts....

          This budget cuts benefits for the poorest while allowing the income inequality to continue to grow.  How is that just?

          "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

          by YucatanMan on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 01:43:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The $74 difference isn't the problem (0+ / 0-)

            Because of the Great Recession many people were forced onto social security at age 62 and receive it at a reduced rate. Out of that they pay for Medicare.

            I have been receiving Social Security for six years and I get less now than I did when I started because of that deduction. Medicare costs a lot, Everybody gets part A but parts B, C and D cost you more. Not only that but there is a donut hole in what you pay for medications under part D.

            If I were receiving $1670 a month that would be nice.

            Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

            by rktect on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 03:29:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Stephanie Miller is still just a talk show host. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        divineorder

        Her only goal is to keep her audience, and negotiate a higher contract next time around.

        She showed the world pretty clearly that personal courage isn't something she's got.

        dEar Ellois: U send Fud down holez, we no eaTz u. That iz deAl. No forget. MooRlockz Haz 2 eats. Stoopid Elloiz.

        by JesseCW on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 09:41:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  From the beginning I've been as mad at the lies (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JesseCW, divineorder, jbsoul

        on this as anything.  It is just shameless how strongly they are trying to deceive the American people on this.  

        And we're getting nothing for it.  A middle class person living on $30K or $40K is only sacrificing, getting nothing in return.  

        This reminds me of the forced busing days back in the late '60s.  When the liberal elites who had their kids in private schools decided that the working class should ship their kids out of their merely adequate public schools to horrific public schools as a great social experiment.  

        This is how you create Reagan Democrats.   The elites lie to the middle class and make the middle class suffer so they can feel they've served some higher purpose.

    •  Yes, I've noticed they are not showing any (6+ / 0-)

      anti-chained CPI folks on there.
      I've stopped watching MSNBC.  I'm opting for old movies instead.
      I guess they ditched Ed Schultz because he would have been apoplectic about the chained CPI and fighting hard against it.
      (Not in the program they were handed)

      I belong to the Honey Badger Wing of the Democratic Party. We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. Have you seen our videos?

      by Cassandra77 on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 06:32:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I can't watch it either lately (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JesseCW, divineorder, jbsoul

      I feel I might get more facts on FOX when it comes to middle class Social Security benefit cuts.

      Propaganda is propaganda.   Centrist elite propaganda is just as appalling as Tea Party propaganda.  

  •  Isn't Military Retirement pay tied to the CPI (6+ / 0-)

    index?

  •  The dissembling by Obama's press sec'y yesterday (15+ / 0-)

    was amazing.  I don't know how these people sleep at night.  They must have to gargle with bleach to clen the bullshit out of their lying teeth.  

    The longer I live, the clearer I perceive how unmatchable a compliment one pays when he says of a man "he has the courage to utter his convictions." Mark Twain

    by Persiflage on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:01:42 AM PDT

  •  This is false. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tikkun, Jeff Simpson, divineorder
    And the GOP, all of whom have been screaming about “entitlements” and demanding cuts and some of whom have been calling for Chained CPI are now attacking the Democrats (all of them, regardless of their position on this issue) for attacking seniors from the left, which while cynical is entirely true.
    That is a story written by some on the left before the fact. And now it's asserted as fact even as it plays out contrarily.

    The first thing from John Boehner was to say Chained CPI is the "least we can do", and gave the President "credit". So did Paul Ryan today on NPR.

    They are both tacking firmly to right of the White House proposals.

    •  Those two people, in those two statements (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lenzy1000, tikkun, JesseCW

      are doing that. Others are doing what I said. And they will come election time.

      Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. Notes on a Theory

      by David Kaib on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 05:11:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Link? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        divineorder

        They may try come election time, but to their own peril. Just as Ryan did with his attacks on Obama's medicare reductions in the last election.

        And what your response points out is the rift that is immediately apparent in the Republican party.

        If you link to Warden? Then also link to Boehner's repudiation of him.

        •  Republican attacks on Medicare reductions (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          divineorder, mightymouse

          didn't work in 2010, eh?

          Romney was a joke of a candidate.  His almost unavoidable loss proves nothing other than that horrible candidates find it hard to get elected.

          dEar Ellois: U send Fud down holez, we no eaTz u. That iz deAl. No forget. MooRlockz Haz 2 eats. Stoopid Elloiz.

          by JesseCW on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 09:50:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  This budget makes it really apparent whose (10+ / 0-)

    side Obama is on.   From privatizing education to cutting Social Security/Medicare, he always supports the 1% - unless it is god, guns and gays to keep the crowds distracted and away from the real issue - the money.

    What we need is a Democrat in the White House.

    by dkmich on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 04:53:49 AM PDT

  •  asdf (0+ / 0-)
    Something that challenges the donors–the funders, and the politicians they fund.
    You mean like taxing them?
  •  First, "they" said that "chained CPI" was a (12+ / 0-)

    negotiating posture intended to show how extreme the GOP was, something that the Prez would never have to follow through on.

    Next, "they" said that "chained CPI" was an offer for bipartisanship the Prez knew the GOP would never accept, so he wouldn't have to follow through on, either.

    Then, "they" started beating hippies, saying that "chained CPI" was something that had to be done to control spending, even though Social Security does not contribute to the deficit, so, if the the Prez doesn't get his deal, it's all the hippies' fault if the country goes down the tubes.

    All these Prez's defenders are just flaming fucktards.

    The so-called life of work, saving, and spending is the ultimate economic bubble; we all eventually cash out at death with nothing. Where your real treasure is, so is your heart.

    by Superskepticalman on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 05:37:22 AM PDT

  •  excellent post (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    divineorder

    thank you

    Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. --Edward Abbey

    by greenbastard on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 06:38:57 AM PDT

  •  Reagonomics (5+ / 0-)

    2/3rd of the wealth is under control of 2% who captured government and the media.  They spin lies while they take the money.  It is that simple.  Romney was the perfect example of how the country has been looted.  How can we do any "social programs" under "trickle-down-treason"?
    Sadly Obama and now MSNBC are in-line.  Ed Schultz would be screaming and so would Keith Olbermann.  We look at details and expect reason.  It is not there and will not be anytime soon.  What has been created is not sustainable.  At some point living conditions will create a backlash.  Cutting social security is like ignoring the sick kicked out of hospitals and put in a taxi for under a bridge.  Michael Moore has documented it well, but we now have a President we thought "got it" and said the right things to get re-elected.  Now we see what we really got.  Corporate power and Third Way politics from the billionaires.

  •  This is true in the sense (4+ / 0-)

    that the Earth is arguably flat.

    Chained CPI is arguably a more accurate measure for working people

    dEar Ellois: U send Fud down holez, we no eaTz u. That iz deAl. No forget. MooRlockz Haz 2 eats. Stoopid Elloiz.

    by JesseCW on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 09:33:55 AM PDT

  •  What cuts to Medicare benefits? I thought the cuts (0+ / 0-)

    were to payouts to drug manufacturers, by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.

  •  To answer your final question: "Primaries". (3+ / 0-)

    Primary the crap out of any "Democrat" who sells out the American people.

    Not sure what we can do about Obama, except call or write the White House (202-456-1111) to express our outrage, and (like me) demand that Obama return our campaign contributions.

  •  Excellent, timely post. Thanks. (0+ / 0-)

    Move Single Payer Forward? Join 18,000 Doctors of PNHP and 185,000 member National Nurses United

    by divineorder on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:52:23 PM PDT

  •  Taking a leaf from the W playbook? (0+ / 0-)

    Not to get too eleventy dimensional, but the chained CPI initiation can be seen as both a challenge to the left by Obama and a gift.  I would say that the WH believes that there will be no budget agreement with the House Republicans (too many fear being primaried for agreeing with anything Obama puts forward).  Knowing that any proposed budget is purely for publicity value. Obama gets good press from the David Brooks types (which I think he could care less for) but it does one other thing. It freaks out a complacent progressive base and forces them to confront their congressional reps.  

    Remember how W's attempt at immigration reform infuriated his base and resulted in driving even moderate Republicans into extreme positions to avoid a primary?  The Obama budget presents us with a similar challenge/opportunity. Corner everyone of our reps and make them understand that supporting any cut to SS is a career ending move.  If we push hard, we can make protecting and expanding SS a rallying cry for 2014. It's definitely a message that would get voters to the polls.  Bush may have blundered his way into making his party lurch further right. Obama's given us a chance (either by blunder or a willingness to expend political capital) to push our party in a more progressive direction. Not a bad outcome for a DOA budget.

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