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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bad Bargain

by digby

In case you were wondering if the Pete Peterson Foundation was happy about the Obama administration coming around to the idea that deficit reduction is more important than anything in the whole wide world in all circumstances, here's their giddy press release:

“We are pleased to read in today’s Wall Street Journal that the Obama Administration is giving serious consideration to establishing a special commission to addressing our nation's large and growing structural deficits and debt burdens. Employing such an extraordinary approach that engages the American people with the truth and the tough choices and will make a range of social insurance, other spending and tax-related recommendations for action by the Congress is essential.

“Based on recent public opinion polls commissioned by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, an overwhelming majority of the American people support the need for a special commission. Our foundation will release the results of our latest public opinion survey on Monday, November 30.

“America’s debt and deficit crises deepen with each passing day. A properly structured bipartisan commission would engage the American people about the true financial condition of our country and the need for a range of comprehensive reforms. This commission can lay the groundwork for the ‘grand bargain’ President Obama has said he wants to achieve during his presidency.

Do you think that the administration believes that just because Obama sets up a bipartisan commission to gut badly needed social programs that they won't be blamed?
That Republicans will stand shoulder to shoulder with the president and accept responsibility for cutting spending and taxes in a time of economic insecurity the likes of which people haven't seen in over half a century? Sure they will.

In case anybody has failed to grasp that this is a political project, they really need to read up on good old Pete and his "bipartisan" pals. (There's much more here on Peterson and co.)

People got very angry with me for being critical of Obama's rhetoric about a "Grand Bargain" before the inauguration. But I was chilled to the bone when I heard that people in the new White House were entertaining some notions of Obama doing an "only Nixon could go to China" play with so-called entitlement spending in the midst of a financial crisis. I can't conceive of anything more politically unwise and less likely to result in any kind of positive policy outcome at this moment.

Democrats have done this before. Clinton left an unprecedented surplus which was designed to pay for social security and it was promptly squandered by Bush on unnecessary tax cuts for Pete Peterson and his rich friends. You will not recall any outcry about that from the deficit scolds because there weren't any. Indeed, Alan Greenspan told everyone that these surpluses were bad for the economy and needed to be rebated to wealthy people as soon as possible lest calamity reign.

The lesson is clear. Democrats don't get rewarded for "righteous" bipartisan gestures. They get impeached. And to dream that the American people will somehow reward the president for putting in place mechanisms for lowering the deficit is delusional. People don't even know what the deficit is, they just think it's a symbol of bad governance. Putting us on the road to "entitlement" destruction won't change their opinion if they still see signs of .... bad governance. It has no real meaning to real people. Personally hurting financially and believing that their futures are in jeopardy does have real meaning --- and the Republicans will make sure they know who to blame for it.