DC wisdom --- solve a problem that doesn't exist to gain credibility to solve one that does


by digby

Who knew that Peter Orszag was such a comedian. He tells us that the social security shortfall years from now has nothing to do with the federal deficit but says it should be cut anyway. Evidently, it is necessary to solve a problem that doesn't exist in order to establish "credibility."

[E]ven though Social Security is not a major contributor to our long-term deficits, reforming it could help the federal government establish much-needed credibility on solving out-year fiscal problems — which in turn could improve the political prospects for providing additional short-term stimulus for the economy. All of which suggests that Democrats in Congress should support the basic construct of the Bowles-Simpson proposal, while arguing for some changes to improve it. That has not, however, been their reaction thus far.

I can hardly believe anyone of his stature could argue this nonsense. Orszag agrees that SS does not contribute to the long term deficit and yet is trying to convince us that that the Deficit Commission draft just put it on the table anyway, apparently out of a surfeit of progressive idealism. Huh? Moreover, he also thinks it makes sense to jump right on the third rail in American politics because it would be desirable" to do something about a potential future problem --- when we are in the middle of an epic economic shitstorm with stubborn 10% unemployment and a banking and housing crisis that shows no sign of abating.

Is he ignorant of the fact that most people in this country are convinced --- mainly because they're being told it every single day by every politician, talking head and gasbag -- that "entitlements" are destroying the economy and the future of the United States? The idea that social security cuts could buy the administration a chance for more stimulus is delusional. The Republicans have shown that they have absolutely no intention of dealing realistically with health care costs, defense and tax hikes are off the table and the rest is chump change. Any "deal" will only go toward the destruction of social programs. That's the Grand Bargain, period. (Oh, they'll take extension of the Bush tax cuts too, I forgot.)

Even more incredible than the idea that this will improve prospects for further stimulus is the ridiculous proposition that doing this will "help the federal government establish credibility" even though it has nothing to do with the problem it's purportedly supposed to solve. I've got a revolutionary suggestion about how the government could establish credibility for real. It could solve some of the very real and pressing problems confronting the nation right this minute instead of obsessing over something that at worst will be a problem 30 years from now. I suspect it might pay off politically.

I'm fairly sure Orszag was around the last time the Democrats "established credibility" and balanced the budget. A man named Bush came along and started screaming "It's yer muneee!" and they gave it all away to rich people. And here we are ten years later with the rich much richer and the wingnuts screaming that the Democrats are socialists. So much for credibility.

He concludes with this side-splitter:

It is therefore crucial that the Obama administration recognize the opportunity and respond to it more positively. The White House has been handed a highly progressive reform plan for Social Security that could attract Republican support as well.

Yes, I'm sure it can. And then they will tell senior citizens that Democrats just cut their social security and run with it all the way to the White House. Think they can't get away with it? Think again. These are the same people who had no compunction about telling the American people that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11.