The Good Liberal
I'll take Brad Delong's word for it that Gene Sperling really is a liberal and concur that in Woodward's book "The Agenda" he is portrayed as being the most liberal of the economic advisors.
But this worries me:
Both Summers and Sperling said there would not be consensus in today's session about how to fix the program. They also said the public was more receptive to the government making hard decisions necessary to keep SS from running out of money in the long run, because Americans are anxious about their private retirement savings and the value of their houses.I know I've posted that too often and regular readers are sick of it. But it's terribly important, I think, to understand that the rationale for liberals in this thing is that they are doing a good thing for the program, taking it "off the table" for the next 50 years and "making it sound." Now, I don't know if they really believe it, but it doesn't matter. What matters is that in the current environment whatever changes they come up with will come at the expense of the elderly because there will be no deal that requires tax hikes.
Sperling said: "I think there may be a lot more openness than we thought in the past for people to have an honest discussion about the shared sacrifice necessary to have Social Security solvency. That this would be a sure thing they could count on, and they could count on for the next 50 to 75 years."
At the end, Sperling also tried to cut through disagreement over whether the program was in a state of crisis. "I really hate the whole argument about, is this a crisis or is this not a crisis? Why do we not want to preempt a crisis. Why do we not want to do something early? It is a shame on our political system that there has never been entitlement reform without a gun to our head. . .Wouldn't it be a tremendous confidence-building thing to act early and smart?"
I think there's ample reason to be skeptical of the administration's negotiating skills, so the Grand Bargain is very likely to be an agreement to sacrifice social security in exchange for the Republicans agreeing to sacrifice something they don't really care about. (See: tax cuts for the wealthy in exchange for unemployment insurance.) Huckleberry Graham already framed the deal as agreeing to raise the debt ceiling and cutting social security. Considering that raising the debt ceiling is normally a symbolic, pro forma vote (which the Tea People have helpfully turned into a "cause") you can see how easily the administration could get rolled in this. There has never been a more inauspicious moment to put social security on the table than now.
Let's hope Sperling is a bit more realistic about this today than he was two years ago when he made those comments. And let's hope he's not one of those liberals who has decided that the only way to influence the economy is by sending "signals" to a bunch of sociopathic Masters of the Universe who have demonstrated their myopia and incompetence over and over again. They are not going to save us.