Pareene takes on the Grand Bargain
Alex Pareene at Salon has written a great piece about the revival of the Grand Bargain in his inimitable style that's well-worth reading. I just want to pull out on little piece that I don't think many people really understand:
Here’s a fun secret: Tax reform (in this case referring to eliminating or scaling back “tax expenditures”) is technically a conservative policy priority, even if elected Republicans refuse to ever support it for real. This is a compromise in which conservative policy is being offered in exchange for conservative support for a conservative policy. The sequester and Obama’s Bargain quest mean that Republicans can choose between allowing a Democrat to “take credit” for cutting the two most popular programs in the country or they can just live with the already-passed government spending cut that they are also able to blame on the president. Also keep in mind that tax reform has been one of the pillars of the Grand Bargain since President Obama first proposed it in 2009. It's pretty much guaranteed to be, at best, some sort of symbolic loophole closing while at the same time "broadening the base and lowering the rates." It's a "reform" only a tax lawyer could love.
Pareene makes many points that are tiresomly familiar to anyone who reads this blog. But you should rad it anyway because he's such an aggressive SOB and really tells it like it is. This for instance:
There are two important things to remember about “entitlements”: They are hugely popular programs for a very good reason, and actual sensible “reform” would mean improving them, not sacrificing them at the altar of “fiscal responsibility.” A “grand bargain” that was done with the intention of creating the best possible outcome for the most Americans, instead of with the intention of purposefully doing unpopular things because doing unpopular things denotes “seriousness,” would lower the Medicare eligibility age and expand Social Security. That the opposite approach is effectively the bipartisan consensus approach is the special sort of Beltway madness that makes sensible people wish for either a proper parliamentary system or at the very least for an EMP to take out Georgetown and much of Washington’s surrounding suburbs.Heh.
And for those who think the president doesn't really want to cut SS and Medicare and that he's being forced into it by the Republican obstructionism, I'd just remind them of this, from the Washington Post in January 2009, before he was inaugurated:
President-elect Barack Obama will convene a "fiscal responsibility summit" in February designed to bring together a variety of voices on solving the long term problems with the economy and with a special focus on entitlements, he said during an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors this afternoon.
"We need to send a signal that we are serious," said Obama of the summit.
Those invited to attend will include Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.), ranking minority member Judd Gregg (N.H.), the conservative Democratic Blue Dog coalition and a host of outside groups with ideas on the matter, said the president-elect.
Obama's comments came in a wide-ranging, hour-long interview that came just five days before he will be inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States and become the first African American to hold that title.
Obama said that he has made clear to his advisers that some of the difficult choices--particularly in regards to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare - should be made on his watch. "We've kicked this can down the road and now we are at the end of the road," he said.
To now say that they have no choice but to cut entitlements because of the sequester (which they agreed to) is just too clever by half.