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Hullabaloo


Saturday, April 06, 2013

 
A couple of elite Villagers explain their formula for deciding what's "sensible." 

by digby

I was in the car yesterday, listening to NPR like a good liberal, and was privileged to hear the full range of elite Villager opinion on the President's budget proposal:

E.J. DIONNE: It sure doesn't look so at the moment. I think - first of all, I'm very glad a lot of Democrats came out against the president's proposal to change the index for Social Security because, if nothing else, this shows that President Obama has really been willing to put some hard stuff on the table. He is, you know, the Medicare cuts, the way he structured them, probably won't inspire the same opposition from Democrats.

But Republicans so far have not been willing to give any ground at all. I do think that if the Republicans ever gave on revenue, there probably would be enough Democratic votes to pass it. And I agree with the implications of Scott Horsley's story that if anybody can push this along, it's the group of Republican senators the president is going to be meeting with. I think he's going to be meeting with the same group of Republican senators a lot on absolutely everything from the deficit to guns to immigration.

Robert SIEGEL: David, is there some gang out there working on the economy?

David BROOKS: There's no shortage of gangs. I, too, am glad Democrats came out against because it suggests there's something sensible in what Obama has proposed. You know, I give this sort of a B-plus. I think he's - I'm a little mystified by his political strategy. Some weeks, he's going left, some weeks he's going to the center, but this week he's going to the center.

And he's proposed a bill which does have this Social Security reform. His Medicare reforms are inadequate. I do think, though, there is a small possibility of a small deal. And the one thing I would say, and I've heard from many Republicans or at least several, that they're soft on revenues.

They will be willing to tolerate a revenue increase if the president will give them a structural change in Medicare, not just tamping down the reimbursement rates, not just less spending but some structural reform at the foundation.

The president's proposal has their votes, obviously, although Brooks needs a little bit more in cuts for the elderly and the sick to truly make him happy. And Lord knows, the White House yearns to make David Brooks happy.

It's good to know that one thing hasn't changed, even in this era of right wing cranks and Tea Party intransigence:  Villagers automatically approve of  anything the liberal faction of the Democratic Party is against.  I'm a little bit surprised that it still has such salience but I shouldn't be.  These people are very uncomfortable with the idea that the salt-o-the-earth Real Americans might be the true radicals while the tired old hippies and their nerdy political heirs are just trying to hold on to a country that doesn't starve old and sick people.

It's a very lazy and convenient way to order the world, but I'm afraid that when it comes to Social Security and medicare it might not be the best guide to how the people feel about it.

Meanwhile, some in the Party may be waking up just a little:
But now, it seems possible that more Democrats running for re-election in the 2014 midterms may find themselves running away from Obama. Especially with liberal activists making not-so-veiled threats of primary challenges to incumbents who link themselves to the chained CPI.

Peter Fenn, a veteran Democratic political consultant, said in an interview that those kinds of challenges could be dangerous for his party:

"We better be careful we don't get into a Republican situation here where you have somebody who you beat with an ultra lib in the primary, then they can't survive the general [election].

"Let's not fall on our swords here. We've managed to avoid it. It wouldn't be a healthy thing."

Also, Fenn says for some congressional Democrats, it won't necessarily be a bad thing if they can claim some "daylight" between themselves and the president in the midterm elections.
A primary challenger doesn't have to be an "ultra-lib" (whatever that is) to run against a Democrat who voted against Social Security. They could be a moderate or conservative, especially if there is a large elderly or veteran population. And it certainly doesn't have to be in a swing district where a Republican might win the General. In fact, this will most likely happen in liberal districts if a progressive Democrat is foolish enough to vote with the president instead of her constituents. That's where the activists have the most clout.

Of course, it won't be confined to liberal districts because Social Security and medicare are so popular that even someone who is running from the right can use it to beat up a Democrat. I could see it happening in any Democratic district in the country. And certainly any Republican challenger will have no compunction about doing it: their only growing demographic is the elderly.

It's a huge mistake to equate this with the Tea Party. Defending Social Security, veterans benefits and medicare is in the DNA of the Democratic Party and is as mainstream as it gets. They've been organized around it for over six decades. There's nothing fringy or radical about this:




That 65+ number has to worry the GOP. And despite the numbers in that march Poll, a month earlier the Pew delved more deeply and found that Republicans don't really want cuts to Social Security and medicare:

While Republicans are more supportive than Democrats of cutting funding for Medicare, Social Security and food and drug inspection, these remain minority positions within the GOP. More Republicans want to increase, rather than decrease, funding for Social Security (35% vs. 17%). And Republicans are as likely to say funding for Medicare should be increased as to say it should be decreased (24% vs. 21%).

Oh, and unlike a lot of important issues, these are issues voters understand very well and they vote on them. It's not abstract and theoretical.  It will affect every American.

Not that it matters in the Village.  To them the world stopped sometime around 1975 and "sensible" policies are defined by opposition to the crazy hippie fringe   I guess it makes them feel young again,



Update: This post was about politics but I should once again make clear just how ridiculous it is to do this on the merits. Social Security contributes nothing to the deficit. It has no business being in this discussion at all. In fact, even Paul Ryan had the brains not to go after it his dystopian hellscape budget. Whatever problems the system has can be solved outside this obscene obsession with spending cuts. And certainly cutting the program now because the program might fall short of revenue in the future --- and then patting yourself on the back for "saving it" --- is just perverse.

As for medicare, we have just instituted a bunch of very large cuts, the costs are coming down, we have a big change in the health care system on the way. There's no good reason to do more cuts right now. Let the health care reforms settle a little bit and then see where we are.

Finally, the deficit "crisis" itself is a big pile of nonsense. We shouldn't even be talking about it while the economy is under such stress. It's political malpractice on such a gigantic scale that I only wish I could be alive long enough to read the incredulous histories of this era. We've already seen massive amounts of middle class wealth lost through the crash of both the equity and housing markets, cut state and Federal budgets by the trillions watched as poverty rates have risen and unemployment has stayed stuck at historically high levels, delayed and possibly destroyed an entire generation's hopes and dreams over the past five years. Enough.


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