Saving Some Catfood for Later
Well naturally the commission failed to get the required 14 votes and the press is spinning it as a new majority baseline for future compromise. But we knew this.
What is far more disturbing is Dick Durbin voting for it on the basis of wanting it to "move forward." He is seen as a proxy vote on this for the president.
If they pursue this Social Security/Austerity business I think we'll have a one term presidency (even, Gawd help us, if the Queen of the Arctic gets the nomination.) And I'm not sure that the Democratic Party won't be permanently shattered.
I know that sounds hyperbolic, but it's vitally, vitally important that the president understand that if he goes after Social Security, the Republicans will turn the argument on him just as they did with "death panels" and "pulling the plug on Grandma" and end up solidifying the senior vote for the foreseeable future and further alienate the Party from the liberal base. I know it makes no sense that Republicans would be able to cast themselves as the protectors of the elderly, but in case you haven't been paying attention lately, politics doesn't operate in a linear, rational fashion at the moment. After all, the Republicans just won an election almost entirely on the basis of saving Medicare.
Update: Third Way says:
“Today’s vote by the Commission marks a major milestone and provides the best hope yet that our leaders in Washington can rally to meet our deficit challenge. Today, a bipartisan majority of the Commission rose above ideology and partisan affiliations to back serious, credible solutions designed to address the biggest threat to America’s economic growth and leadership. Through its 11 to 7 vote to approve the Bowles-Simpson plan, the Commission has moved the ball into the red zone. It’s now up to President Obama and Congress to take their recommendations across the goal line and show that we can act to safeguard our prosperity."
And here we go:
A group of 14 Democrats pressed for a congressional action to address the deficit despite a failure by President Obama's fiscal commission to achieve enough votes to send its austerity plan to Congress for a vote.
A group of Senate centrists asked Obama and the top party leaders in both chambers of Congress to push ahead with legislation to address deficits and debt.
"Prompt action is needed to bring the country’s deficit into balance and stabilize our debt over the long term," the group wrote. "Regardless of whether the Commission’s report receives the support of at least 14 of its 18 members, we urge legislative action to address these problems."
The 14 senators hailed the commission's recommendations on Social Security, healthcare, and tax reforms — three cornerstones of the plan on which support for a plan could hinge.
"There is no easy way out, and Washington must lead the way," they said. "The strong bipartisan support its recommendations have already received demonstrates we can, and must, come together to solve this impending fiscal crisis. Every day that we fail to act the choices become more difficult."
The signatories were Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Michael Bennet (D-Colo,), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.).
All hail the new bipartisan baseline.
Update II: The reason I say the last election was won by Republicans almost entirely on the basis of Medicare is this:
In the 2006 midterm election, seniors split their vote evenly between House Democrats and Republicans. This time, they went for Republicans by a twenty-one-point margin. The impact of that swing was magnified by the fact that seniors, always pretty reliable midterm voters, were particularly fired up: nearly a quarter of the votes cast were from people over sixty-five. The election has been termed the “revolt of the middle class.” But it might more accurately be called the revolt of the retired.
Why were seniors so furious with the Democrats? The weak economy and the huge deficits didn’t help, but retirees have actually been hit less hard by the financial crisis than other Americans. The real sticking point was health-care reform, which the elderly didn’t like from the start. While the Affordable Care Act was being debated, most seniors opposed it, and even after the law was passed Gallup found that sixty per cent of them thought it was bad. You sometimes hear (generally from Republicans) that the health-care bill is wildly unpopular. The truth is that, in every age group but one—seniors—a plurality of voters want to keep the bill intact.
Misinformation about “death panels” and so on had something to do with seniors’ hostility. But the real reason is that it feels to them as if health-care reform will come at their expense, since the new law will slow the growth in Medicare spending over the next decade. It won’t actually cut current spending, as Republicans claimed in campaign ads, but between now and 2019 total Medicare outlays will be half a trillion dollars less than previously projected.
Those ads were ubiquitous and they didn't just come from candidates. There were a massive amount of Independent Expenditures aimed at spreading that message. Like this one which I must have seen a hundred times:
"California seniors are worried. Barbara Boxer voted to cut spending on Medicare benefits by $500 billion, cuts so costly to hospitals and nursing homes that they could stop taking Medicare altogether. Boxer's cuts would sharply reduce benefits for some and could jeopardize access to care for millions of others, and millions of Americans won't be able to keep the plan or doctor they already have. Check the facts and take action. Call Boxer. Stop the Medicare cuts."
I know it's hard to believe that the Republicans have the kind of chutzpah to simultaneously argue to end "entitlements" and run ads like that, but they do. Boxer won her election here in California, but an awful lot of Democrats didn't in places where the senior turnout was high and they were inclined to believe this nonsense.