Sunday, October 28, 2012

There's Just Not Enough of the Pie of Sacrifice for Everybody!

Lately I've been seeing more people claiming online that Obama intends to push for cuts in Social Security and Medicare after the elections.  Whether he wins or not, Congress will be in a lame-duck session, and Obama himself will be beyond accountability, either as a lame-duck president or a re-elected incumbent, free at last to do what he wants, not what his base wants.  This wouldn't be surprising, since Obama already put these important social programs on the chopping block during the great Debt Ceiling wars of 2011, and had spoken the requisite code words ("reform" for example) even before he was elected the first time.

But then it emerged that Obama gave an "off-the-record" interview to an Iowa newspaper in which he gave the game away.  After the newspaper "pitched a fit" (via), the "campaign allowed it to be published."  There are numerous WTFs here, starting with a newspaper allowing an entire interview to be off the record, and continuing through asking the campaign's permission to publish it.  I'd like to think they would have gone ahead and published it anyway.  What were they afraid of, that the President wouldn't grant them any more off-the-record interviews?

Anyway, Obama said:
It will probably be messy. It won’t be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs.

And we can easily meet -- “easily” is the wrong word -- we can credibly meet the target that the Bowles-Simpson Commission established of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, and even more in the out-years, and we can stabilize our deficit-to-GDP ratio in a way that is really going to be a good foundation for long-term growth. Now, once we get that done, that takes a huge piece of business off the table.
Just in passing: The Bowles-Simpson Commission (easily and credibly called the Catfood Commission) did not "establish" anything.  Although Obama packed it with deficit hawks, the Commission was unable to agree on recommendations, so its chairmen, Bowles and Simpson, released their own recommendations, which have ever since been treated by the media and by the President as the report of the Commission.  (I've noticed that I've made the same mistake in some posts here; I should make some corrections.)  Bowles and Simpson "essentially saw deficit-reduction as an opportunity to redistribute income upwards: by capping government revenues, cutting tax rates for the wealthy and corporations (while raising them for the middle class), lowering Social Security benefits and making the elderly pay more for their healthcare."  This is not only a very unpopular course of action (except among the very rich and their toadies), it will be harmful to the economy and to most of the country (though not to the very rich and their toadies).

So this is what, according to President Obama, he hopes to achieve.  He even referred in that interview to "the commitment of both myself and my opponent -- at least Governor Romney claims that he wants to reduce the deficit" to carry out this agenda.  Just in case you had any illusions about differences between the candidates on this little matter.

I posted a couple of links about this to Facebook today, and soon had an angry comment from my Obama-Democrat liberal law-professor friend.  First she lectured me that there's never going to be a candidate I agree with 100%, so I should not whine or make posts that "undermine" President Obama, because he's not a Republican (I hadn't said that he is), and today's Republicans would never agree that he was.  "I hope that Social Security won't have to be sacrificed," she wrote.  Obama apologetics of the campaign's final month in a nutshell, you see.

I replied that of course no candidate is perfect, which is why I can't see why she hates on Romney so much, even if he has been something of a "disappointment" to many Democrats.  As for "undermining" Obama, why the hell not?  But then, as my friend knows very well (we have some of the same right-wing frother friends in common), I've spent just as much time "undermining" Romney on Facebook, so it all balances out.  As Avedon Carol pointed out anent Richard Mourdock in the same post, "I swear, it's as if they are doing damage control for Obama - no sooner does he step in it than they come in swinging to punch themselves in the face."  And if anyone has undermined Obama, it has been Obama himself.

And it really makes no difference: Obama cultists have consistently thrown tantrums over any criticism of their God-king from the time he became nationally prominent and a contender for the Presidency.  I fully expect that if he is reelected, they'll continue to denounce any criticism of Obama in the same terms, with fabricated accusations and no substantive rebuttal, forever.  (See examples, mostly anonymous, in the comments under Susan of Texas's post hereThis one, say, and this reply.)

But "I hope that Social Security won't have to be sacrificed"?  My only reply to that was "Jesus H. Christ", though I'll probably have more to say to her about it later.  The sheer dishonesty and stupidity of that remark floored me.

Let me begin by pointing past the blind passive in what she wrote: Obama doesn't have to sacrifice Social SecurityIt doesn't contribute to the deficit; there's no fiscal necessity to cut the program.  As with the pre-emptive tax cuts in his 2009 stimulus bill, Obama offered cuts in social programs to the Republicans during the debt-ceiling fight without their having to demand them.  He's not obligated to accept Simpson and Bowles recommendations, since they aren't binding, but he accepted them anyway -- and he did appoint those two deficit hawks to his deficit-reduction commission, knowing in advance that they are advocates of cutting Social Security and Medicare.  Nor is there support in the general population for cutting Social Security and Medicare; they are both very popular, which is why Social Security has long been called the Third Rail of American politics.  Only Obama's wealthy campaign donors support his intentions, but as both his left critics and his right-wing supporters have been saying, once he's re-elected he'll be beholden to no one.  He doesn't have to cut Social Security and Medicare -- he wants to.  And he's always wanted to.

As for today's Republicans' denial that Obama is a Republican -- which, I repeat, I hadn't said, but attacking a straw man is so much easier -- they love his policies but hate the man, for well-known reasons.  Much as with Clinton, who pushed through much of Ronald Reagan's wish list (NAFTA and "welfare reform," for instance), Obama has continued and extended many Bush policies. Even some of Bush's people have praised him for it, especially on foreign policy and civil liberties, and he has returned the favor.  If Obama were a white, card-carrying Republican, the Republican fringe would adore him.  That's why they have to attack him on fictional grounds -- that he's not a citizen, that he's a Muslim, that he's a socialist, etc.  For their part, his Democratic defenders have to defend him on largely fictional grounds.

The problem is not that I don't agree with Obama 100%, as my friend put it.  I'm not sure how to quantify it, but it's probably in the ballpark to say that I don't agree with him even 50%, maybe not even 10%.  The Obamabots keep falling back on the Supreme Court and they really have nothing else to point to, so it might even be 1 percent.  It's like the "disappointment" line.  The dishonesty of the Democratic loyalists rivals that of the Republicans.