Grand Bargain Rising

Grand Bargain Rising

by digby

I've been getting an unusual amount of criticism lately because of my skepticism toward the Democrats and the President on deficit reduction and "entitlement" reform. The main problem seems to be that I supposedly hate Obama and don't understand what a hard job he has and that I never see anything good in anyone. But what really seems to bother a fair number of my readers and correspondents is that I keep harping on the fact that while Obama has always wanted to be seen as transformative in the Reagan mold, he forgot that Reagan was a hard-core ideologue who didn't just tweak some processes but radically changed the prevailing conventional wisdom. Unfortunately, Obama is actually extending the Reagan consensus, even as he pursues his own agenda of creating a Grand Bargain that will bring peace among the dueling parties (a dubious goal in itself.)

I've been writing about the Grand Bargain since the minute I read about it before the inauguration. It struck me as a perfect illustration of Obama's stated desire to "bring people together" by killing liberalism as we've known it. Others have recently been revisiting the topic since Obama's fabulous success in extending the Bush tax cuts in exchange for the Republicans agreeing to do what they were already going to do.

Dday reports on the latest:

I noticed a fair bit of good Democrats and Obama defenders throwing cold water on what Elizabeth Drew reported in the New York Review of Books about back-channel negotiations aimed at a “grand bargain” on the budget, tax reform and even entitlements. Jon Chait didn’t like the sourcing. Neither did Kevin Drum. At least Steve Benen acknowledged that there have been bipartisan talks happening in the Senate since at least December, but he doubted much would come of them.

A day or so later, the New York Times reports on… back-channel negotiations aimed at a “grand bargain” on the budget, tax reform and even entitlements.

The White House has already opened back-channel conversations to test Republicans’ willingness to negotiate about the soaring costs of Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security’s long-range solvency and an income-tax code riddled with more than $1 trillion a year worth of loopholes and tax breaks.

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, all but invited Mr. Obama on Tuesday to start huddling about the issues, and a bipartisan group of senators held a third meeting to write debt-reduction legislation based on the recommendations in December of the majority of a bipartisan fiscal commission established by the president [...]

While no budget summit is imminent, Mr. Obama said he and Republican leaders are “going to be in discussions over the next several months.” He said moving forward required “a spirit of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans. And I think that’s possible.”

And the Washington Post basically had the same thing.

“This is not a matter of ‘You go first’ or ‘I go first,’ ” Obama said. “This is a matter of everybody having a serious conversation about where we want to go and then ultimately getting in that boat at the same time so it doesn’t tip over.”

In the Senate, where the December deals were forged, Republicans were receptive to that message. But they argued that Obama missed a chance in his budget to send a signal that costly entitlement programs are on the table.

“Entitlement reform will not be done except on a bipartisan basis with presidential leadership,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters. “I’ve been inviting the president to have that conversation since he took office two years ago,” he added. “It doesn’t have to be in public. We all understand there are some limitations to negotiating significant agreements in public.”

More from CNN.

Those of you who follow this blog already know what this likely entails, but click over to dday for a very nice primer if you are unclear. Basically what it means is extending Reaganomics for another generation --- and all that that entails. And sadly for Obama, his great dream of having everyone in the country love him for ending all the partisan bickering and bringing everyone together is highly unlikely to happen.

In fact, as I have pointed out before and had Dday reiterates today, the Republicans are very anxious to lay the blame for cutting popular entitlements, particularly those that affect the elderly, at the feet of the Democrats. After all, seniors are their fastest growing demographic at the moment and in the last election they had absolutely no problem demagogueing medicare cuts, despite their own decades-long antipathy toward the program. They don't just desire this --- it's a necessity if they hope to win majorities and the presidency. They aren't going to get there with the young, browner America that's coming up. But their ideology depends upon anti-government sentiment. If they can get the democrats to do their dirty work for them, it will be a huger win that benefits them greatly for the next couple of decades as the most dependable voters in the country -- the elderly -- become hard core Republicans. That's the baby boom, in case you're unclear. And there is no reason in the world why that demographic should go Republican.

This is really happening. And if it works, liberalism may never recover. In fact it will be the final triumph of Reaganism. Progressives should not be complacent about this.

Dday has more on what this means for Social Security. The president has not sold out Social security in his speeches and his budget. But he hasn't taken it off the table either. The administration is using some very specific language (no "slashing" of benefits) that is wide open to interpretation.