Scold Summit

by digby

The "fiscal responsibility" summit has officially kicked off. Jane Hamsher has a rundown of the state of play today. She thinks administration officials are triangulating between us dirty hippies and the Fiscal Scolds to present the Diamond Orszag plan as the "responsible" alternative ---- and as a bargaining chip in the health care negotiations. I really hope that's not true, but it certainly looks possible. The conservatives (and disaster capitalists) will happily take that deal because their mission is to destroy the generational compact on social security once and for all. It's the wedge of wedges that will spell the end of the program.

I continue to suspect (hope?) that this fiscal responsibility summit is a relic of an earlier age --- before the full extent of the meltdown was known and when Obama was still wedded to the idea that good intentions on bipartisan process somehow automatically resulted in Republican good faith. Hopefully they've realized that there can be no Grand Bargains that result in Americans being even more insecure about their futures than they already are. It's truly a dumb idea.

The NY Times reports today that the left is agitated by talk of cutting social security. At least the administration knows that now, rather than being under the illusion that the left will support them, as the Politico reported a couple of weeks ago. That's a step in the right direction. But SS has to be off the bargaining table.

It will be interesting to see what unfolds in this summit. But I wouldn't expect this topic to be put to bed today. The fiscal scolds are on the march and they see a big opportunity. If the Republicans believe, through Blue Dog cooperation, that they can hold social security hostage in a "bipartisan" way, they will keep it on the menu. After all, we are seeing Republican governors even turn down unemployment extensions for their own workers. It's not like the hard core types care about elderly ladies having to eat catfood if it means a reversal of their political fortunes. (And the disaster capitalists are never happier than when old ladies are eating cat food. It's what they call "opportunity.")

Update: Robert Gibbs was just asked whether the administration had previously had plans for a social security "reform" commission and had just recently shelved it. He didn't answer it. Chuck Todd followed up and he still wouldn't answer it saying he had to look at the article.

Helen Thomas asked why we are dealing with Social Security right now, considering the huge problems we face immediately, when it's solvent until 2040. Gibbs pretty much gave the Republican line about how we have to deal with it now in order to be "responsible."

He was asked if he thinks it's possible to do social security reform when all these other things are on the table. He said it's contained in all the economic challenges this country daces. "The president knows he wasn't elected to preside over easy choices to get the country where it can be." "Some of those decisions will be hard" and he knows he can't shy away from them.

He was asked if his major Democratic allies had the stomach to tackle major social security reform. Gibbs replied that it is going to be hard to tackle our challenges without dealing with all of them at the same time.

Update II: BTD at Talk Left deftly illustrates the Goldilocks Know Nothingism, inherent in the idea expressed by Andrew Sullivan today, that all fiscal "problems" will be solved when Republicans agree to raise taxes and Democrats agree to cut benefits.

I guess it depends upon what you think is a problem. If it means "cutting" health benefits from where they are today, the "problem" is sicker people dying sooner. Perhaps that's not a problem for Sullivan, but it sure is one for the sick people who are going to be affected. (And anyway, nobody is talking about doing that.)

The cuts in benefits that are on the table are cuts in retirement benefits. Again, if you think that cutting retirement benefits, which is what Sullivan suggests, is part of the solution to the "problem," then elderly ladies living on cat food is a price that will have to be paid. Republicans, on the other hand, will have to make the supreme sacrifice of forcing the wealthy to pay some negligible amount more in taxes in order that the deficit be eliminated.

See, everybody's got skin in the fiscal responsibility game. Old ladies eat cat food and wealthy people have to give their maids a pay cut. It's hell for everyone.

Obama just announced that there is a "healthy consensus" between Boehner, Hoyer, Graham and Durbin that this is a moment to work in a bipartisan fashion on "retirement security." (Huckleberry nodded vigorously.) Who knows what that means?