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Hullabaloo


Thursday, November 10, 2011

 
Populism for plutocrats

by digby

So I read this morning that the Republicans are finding their inner occupier? Sure they are:

The Occupy Wall Street movement has generated enormous media attention for its protests across the country as it tries to highlight income inequality — so much so that the language is creeping into Republican talking points and interviews.


What are they proposing?
"denying unemployment insurance benefits to millionaires," "cuts to farm subsidies for the wealthy," "limit[ing] Medicare payments for wealthy senior citizens," and "new means tests for Social Security"

And what will they accomplish? According to Politico:
The proposals amount to largely nickel-and-dime savings, unlikely to make a significant dent in the federal deficit. An analysis by the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research this year argued that means-testing on Social Security that limited benefits to the wealthy would save only a fraction of a percent of benefits. Citing government data, [Sen. Tom] Coburn said that millionaires earned more than $18.6 million in unemployment benefits in 2008, and rich farmers won $49 million in farm subsidies.



So they won't raise any significant money and they'll give Republicans a chance to sound like populists. Sounds like a big winner. I'm sure the Democrats are anxious to seize the opportunity.

But that isn't all, is it? All of these chump change items are designed to change the fundamental nature of the safety net --- the idea that everyone pays in and everyone benefits.

Keep in mind that these are people who are already shrieking like harpies over the progressive income tax and insisting that people who are too poor to pay federal income taxes that they must contribute their lunch money. So now they're lobbying for means testing, which means that the rich who work pay in their whole lives and get nothing out? Sure they are.

In fact, what they are doing is lobbying for the nation's safety net to be turned into a form of welfare. And I think we know what that's all about, don't we? (The shocking number of programs for the needy (welfare...)already on the chopping block in this insane drive to slash spending in the middle of a recession shows exactly what the end game is.)

Now, I don't think they'll be content to simply means test. That's been on their agenda forever and it's also useful in this populist moment. They will be seeking much deeper cuts --- indeed, the Democrats have already offered them up on a silver platter. But this is one for the long game, the ultimate destruction of the programs altogether, which is their real goal. Up until now Democrats have been savvy enough to hold them off. But who knows if they will accept these token "revenue" hikes so they can say they were "tough" and forced concessions on the GOP? It certainly appears that's all they really care about at the moment.

In the fog of these negotiations over the phony deficit crisis, it's hard to see the true outlines of how significant this shrinkage of government will really be. But we know that it's almost impossible to create any new programs and I see very little possibility that this will change any time soon considering the political environment. So these cuts will be permanent and the scope of what's anticipated seems sure to change the fundamental relationship between the people and their government.

If they succeed this will be a hugely significant win for the right, which will reverberate for a long time to come.


Update: The Supercommittee has a very enthusiastic cheerleader. None other than Erin Burnett who had this to say last night:

[T]he bottom line is that the confidence and stability for the world economy can come from one place, and that place is the number one economy and the number one bond market and the number one stock market in the world, the United States of America. So far the super committee charged with stepping up to the plate and dealing with America's deficit does not have a deal. But if they make one, they won't be what you see on the screen.

They will be super heroes and they could change sentiment around the world and save America from a debt crisis like Europe's.


And then she welcomed former Club for Growth president, fiscal extremist Senator Pat Toomey, to chat about it. She ended with this:

As you know we care passionately about the super committee, so we are rooting for you.

.