And now, they're coming for your Social Security money - they want your fucking retirement money - they want it back - so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all from you sooner or later. Because they own this fucking place. It's a Big Club: and you're not in it.
"Obama is still trying to win over the Serious People, by showing that he’s willing to do what they consider Serious — which just about always means sticking it to the poor and the middle class. The idea is that they will finally drop the false equivalence, and admit that he’s reasonable while the GOP is mean-spirited and crazy.
But it won’t happen. Watch the Washington Post editorial page over the next few days. I hereby predict that it will damn Obama with faint praise, saying that while it’s a small step in the right direction, of course it’s inadequate — and anyway, Obama is to blame for Republican intransigence, because he could make them accept a Grand Bargain that includes major revenue increases if only he would show Leadership (TM)."
— Paul Krugman gets it right on the rumored Obama budget. This is the classic misstep; sure, it’s purely symbolic, but it moves the discussion to the right, damages what should be a through-line about the worth (and therefore the inviolability of) Social Security, and sets the stage for a Grand Bargain that is even further to the right than this “symbolic” proposal. After all, this is now Obama’s starting position. Any “compromise” will by necessity “hurt” Obama a little more in exchange for exactly zero GOP concessions and, additionally and without regard to any possible outcome, hands the GOP a readymade 2014 advertising campaign about Democrat cuts to your Social Security. It’s just the way Washington works now. And Obama’s people still haven’t figured it out and, apparently, never will.
"…we’re hearing an awful lot about those spoiled government employees with their flush pay packages and their godawful unions. The worst, of course, are the teachers’ unions. They are responsible for everything that’s gone wrong in America today. […]
Dallas’s incoming superintendent of schools—a government leader, right?— will enjoy a base salary of $300,000. His chief of staff will make $225,000. His chief of communications (i.e., press agent) will make $185,000. And his “chief of talent and innovation,” whatever that is (it’s a new position), will make $182,000.
All of these people make more money than the Dallas police chief, who makes do with about $175,000. Meanwhile, those greedy Dallas teachers, who are represented by the American Federation of Teachers, bump along with an average salary of about $56,000. That’s nearly 20 percent below the average household income in the U.S. ($67,530).
Being a teacher is back-breakingly difficult work. It is also extremely important work. Being the press agent or innovation chief for the school superintendent is, by comparison, fairly easy, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the hours are much shorter. It’s also fairly trivial. Being superintendent or the superintendent’s chief of staff is important work, but there’s no chance it’s as difficult as being a teacher, and I hesitate to say that it’s as important. The boss always makes more, and I guess we can’t begrudge him that. But for the boss to make more than six times more than the average teacher is freaking outrageous."
— Timothy Noahmaking a point that is as cogent as it is (apparently) unutterable on the national stage. You want to energize the great unwashed? This is your platform. It combines the necessary economic narrative with the need for better education in this country, and the universal desire for one’s children to “do better” than Mom and Dad ever did. Use it within these next several months in which teachers are still considered people of consequence. The GOP is doing everything it can to reverse that notion. Wonder why.
"in the 1960s, [there was certainty] that Americans would never consent to give up their big-government perks. And yet, somehow, alongside the ordinary tacking of American political preference between Democrats and Republicans, conservatism continues to thrive. That’s because power begets power: Democrats can be counted on to compromise with conservative nuttiness, and the media can be counted on to normalize it. And it’s because there will always be millions of Americans who are terrified of social progress and of dispossession from whatever slight purchase on psychological security they’ve been able to maintain in a frightening world. And because there will always be powerful economic actors for whom exploiting such fear, uncertainty and doubt pays (and pays, and pays).
Conservatism is not getting crazier, and it’s not going away, either. It’s just getting more powerful. That’s a fact that a reality-based liberal just has to accept – and, from it, draw strength for the fight."
— Rick Perlstein, bringing the old optimism, and but also exactly right.
"Results [matter]. If I were the one in charge of this pop stand, I’d direct my economics team to come up with the “If I were a prime minister instead of a president, this is what we would do” plan. And if all they came up with was minor tax breaks for hiring, “patent reform,” and “trade deals,” I’d, you know, fire them."
— Duncan Black, being exactly right. The key thing that needs to happen in the immediate future (e.g. the imminent “jobs speech”) is for Obama to set the stage such that the eventual legislative outcome makes very clear exactly who is obstructing economic growth and recovery efforts.
The only way to do this is to swing for the fences and wait for the GOP to obstruct it. Not only does this paint the GOP as the party of economic obstruction, it also allows the eventual compromise to be closer to your “dream plan” than it is to whatever constitutes a GOP “go die in the streets” policy outcome. By taking the traditional “sensible Obama” defensive crouch approach and starting with the bar set at the lowest possible level (e.g. what they think might pass the House) all in the vain hopes that this time the GOP will suddenly start playing along for America, you’re actually only working to guarantee an outcome that favors the GOP in every way, politically, economically, and (most importantly for Obama) in 2012.
Once again: This is why they fail.
"The national debate over economic policy is way off track and the stakes are as high as can be. In every important area of economic and social policy—health care, fiscal policy (deficits, debt, taxes), public investment, retirement security, climate change, education, job growth, income distribution—there’s so much misinformation, so many false assertions, that it is impossible for anyone paying attention to evaluate the choices with which they’re faced.
Democrats lately seemed to be trapped in a position that amounts to: “sure, we have to cut and shrink—just not as much as the other guys want."
— Jared Bernstein, former White House staffer, on why he left Biden’s office. Thusly does the Overton Window move ever rightward. Bernstein claims he’s come outside to “widen the debate,” but I just don’t see how that’s possible without better Democrats and a major media outlet at one’s behest.
But: welcome to the forever drug addled world of dirty hippie blogs, my friend.
Kevin Drum wonders what drives Ryan to produce such a uniquely partisan budget document:
I don’t know what motivates Ryan, but it’s certainly not a genuine search for plausible grounds for negotiation. Instead, he’s produced a document carefully crafted to produce a universally negative reaction from Democrats, presumably because he thinks that will make Democrats look intransigent while the Beltway press is praising Ryan for his courage.
Sorry, but that’s just wrong. Ryan crafted his document to produce a Beltway press that praises him for his courage and demand that The Democrat must now compromise based on that starting point. This is why the Democratic party needs to come out with its own pie-in-the-sky progressive budget. Then you could compromise in a way that would represent a legitimate compromise of opposing ideas and not just yet another rightward lurch at the hands of the ever-triangulating Democrats.
Instead, what seems likely to happen is the Democrats will counter with the deficit commission document and then compromise to the right of that. Which is precisely the outcome Ryan likely considers “worst but acceptable.” The sad reality, of course, will be that in the absence of a GOP President, a GOP Senate, and with only a fractionally lunatic GOP House they will have delivered the biggest far-right reshaping of American budgetary priorities (and politics) ever achieved in anyone living’s lifetime. And the Democrats will have only themselves to blame.
This Pelosi post got me thinking about just what a Democratic response to a Ryan-style plan on Medicare should even be. After all, if you work from Ryan’s far right starting point and counter with “well, let’s just privatize x% of Medicare for this set of individuals” or some other “sensible middle” type compromise, then you’ve already lost. You’ve advanced the GOP’s idea of the program (which is a bad one) significantly and at the expense of the better solution: Medicare as it stands or Medicare plus substantial improvements.
It is a fact that the real driver of deficits in this country are healthcare expenses. Don’t take it from me, here’s the CBO’s report (PDF link):
Medicare and Medicaid are responsible for 80 percent of the growth in spending on the three largest entitlements over the next 25 years and for 90 percent of that growth by 2080.
But if we could achieve the per patient healthcare cost of most of the other developed nations in the world, we’d be facing yawning surpluses in this country, not deficits, and we’d very likely have better individual health outcomes to boot.
Therefore: the Democratic response to Ryan’s “privatize Medicare” should in fact be: Medicare For All. Period. We don’t want to reduce this program. Like 87% of all Americans, we think it should at the bare minimum stay just as it is. Preferably, we’d like to massively expand it. This has the dual benefit of covering medical expenses for everyone in the country and relieving the number one deficit driver in the economy: everyone’s medical expenses. Plus this means we eliminate the dread ACA and its totalitarian horrors. Everyone wins!
Now, of course, I don’t really think Medicare For All has any particular chance of becoming law; what using this sort of proposal does do is set the limits of the debate more appropriately and in ways that tend to favor outcomes preferable to the Democrats.
On the right: Eliminate Medicare and let the wealthy fend for themselves.
On the left: not only keep Medicare, but make it the healthcare provider for all, with tremendous humanitarian benefit but also knock-on budget benefits. Then you’d be down to arguing about whose plan actually saves more money long term and how that impacts health outcomes in America. Which is precisely where the debate needs to be.
Today, Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, is scheduled to release the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes….His proposal will set the standard of seriousness for anybody who wants to play in this discussion….This budget tackles just about every politically risky issue with brio and guts….Paul Ryan has grasped reality with both hands. He’s forcing everybody else to do the same.
Courageous. Serious. Gutsy. I imagine that within a few days this will be the consensus view of the entire Beltway punditocracy. A plan dedicated almost entirely to slashing social spending in a country that’s already the stingiest spender in the developed world, while simultaneously cutting taxes on the rich in a country with the lowest tax rates in the developed world — well, what could be more serious than that?
I think I’m going to be sick.
He’s right, but it didn’t take a few days and it’s not just Our Punditocracy; here’s the generic Democrat legislator last night on Hardball (sorry, no transcript yet):
[it was] “courageous” [for Paul Ryan to put up a plan to abolish Medicare and other federal social programs]
This is deadly serious. It’s easy to say we drugged bloggers out here are simply another example of the smelly hippies flying off the handle on something. Rest assured: We are not. You are going to be fighting 100% of the GOP caucus, some non-zero percent of the Democratic caucus (exactly 100% of the Democrat caucus), the entire Beltway elite media, and the do-nothing defensive crouch of the President and his administration heading into 2012. Keep in mind where that “sensible compromise” is going to land when the Overton Window has been set far, far to the right. Every possible outcome other than status quo within the current frame of the debate is going to be a major GOP win, far beyond anything that’s happened in recent political history. And that’s with a Democratic Senate and a Democratic President faced with a politically daunting 87% public approval of either continuing or increasing Medicare coverage relative to today’s levels. This is why they fail.
"Shortly after the Democrats’ “shellacking” last November, I phoned a friend in the White House who had served in the Clinton administration. “It’s 1994 all over again,” he said. “Now we move to the center."
— Robert Reich: Why Obama Isn’t Fighting the Budget Battle.
This is, to say the least, deeply troubling. The administration (and the Beltway media as well) have been all-too-willing to lap up the standard FOXnews and talk-radio line about Obama governing from the “far left” and being a “radical socialist” and so forth. Has not and is not.
In fact, he’s been governing from the center, or even center right all along. That’s simply how it is. Look at the record. Lowered taxes, passed a previously GOP-pushed version of health care reform, pushes previously GOP position on environment, GOP position on torture, GOP position on Guantanamo, GOP position on everything. It’s just that the GOP (wisely, from their viewpoint) promptly disavows these positions and moves the Overton Window ever further to the right. Thus, Obama’s “move to the center” described here will conceivably locate him somewhere to the right of Reagan. Which is what the GOP would certainly enjoy (and but simultaneously of course still criticize his supposedly socialistic positions), but it’s not what the voters who elected Democrats in three straight elections culminating with Obama’s own election want.
The sad fact is that Democratic “strategists” took exactly the wrong message from the “shellacking,” as usual, and are telling all Democrats to forget their ideas, get as far into a defensive crouch as possible, and “weather the storm.” When they lose again in 2012, it’ll me more of the same: this isn’t an example of voter fury with no clear outlet or focus or unifying leader to channel it one way or another (beyond “throw the bums out!”), this isn’t the fault of our lack of strong positions, of not fighting for the will of the people, of not presenting a compelling and alternate vision for America, it’s because we weren’t far enough to the right.
The problem is that it’s not true, hasn’t been true, won’t be true. Ever. This is why they fail.
"I happen to think that liberals should be open to Social Security cuts as part of a balanced package of deficit reduction."
— Jonathan Chait, spewing the purest form of horseshit possible.
Social Security is not in crisis. All our problems should be like Social Security. Social Security is a rounding error in comparison to the demands of Medicare and Medicaid going forward.
Rest assured, though, The Democrat will engage this issue on the inevitable “savagely cut programs, don’t touch the tax tables or military spending” terms that the GOP demands (and will get) and will thereby set the Overton Window such that the leftmost possible position is that of merely not eliminating the social safety net completely. And wonder why all of us on drugs out here abandon them come 2012.