The "outside the deficit" scam
Dday caught up with some big Dems at Netroots Nation and got them on the record about this AARP cave in. Wasserman-Shultz said that cuts are "off the table" (at least until the Republicans agree to raise revenues ...)
But this struck me as the root of the current controversy:
Sen. Mark Begich also commented on this. He showed me on his Blackberry the clarification statement from the AARP. “We’re clear, as Senate Democrats, that it’s not part of the deficit discussion,” he said. “It’s a mathematical issue, and we can resolve that. But it’s not a part of the deficit.”
He's using the financial industry talking point "it's a math problem" which refers to the trope that suddenly we've found out that there aren't enough workers to support retirees. (This is not true --- the ratio has been more or less the same for about 30 years.) But that's just rote rhetoric. It's the other part of it that's a trap.
What I'm hearing in this from AARP and Begich and people like Kay Bailey Hutchison (who "coincidentally" dropped her Social Security destruciton plan yesterday) is that they've got some kind of agreement to "tackle" Social Security outside the deficit talks around the debt ceiling and the budget. It's a very neat and tidy compartment of the Grand Bargain. Here's Hutchison on the AARP's statement:
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who on Thursday unveiled her own Social Security reform package, said Friday that the AARP has marked "a huge shift in the debate on the solvency of Social Security."
Ms. Hutchison went on to say that her hope is “that Social Security is included in the bipartisan discussions on raising the debt ceiling, as it is an opportunity to fix this important entitlement for seventy-five years rather than just focusing on a short-term Band-Aid.”
Hutchison, who is retiring, is the designated Social Security extremist in this battle. Her plan would raise the retirement age to 69 for everyone under the current age of 58. As you can see, she's also demanding that Social Security be part of any deficit talks for no apparent reason, just as the Democrats are all firmly insisting that they will have none of it. (As if that's the issue ...) I think we can all see the outlines of the agreement here, can't we?
So we're looking at cuts to Social Security and eventually many rationales as to why they are "the best they could do." On the Democratic side, we'll be told that an agreement to only discuss Social Security outside the deficit discussions was a big win for the good guys. Why something that doesn't affect the deficit and is solvent so far in the future should even be on the agenda at a time of crippling unemployment and a moribund economy remains a mystery.
The truth, of course, is that the deficit is beside the point in all these discussions. The Grand Bargain was conceived long before it was a major issue. These talks are really about changing the nature of American government --- which apparently will be accomplished by cutting social programs and the safety net.