Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Long Con: Social Security and Medicare in the “Grand Bargain”

Update below.

“Social Security and Medicare have absolutely nothing to do with the short-term U.S. fiscal problem.”

And, no, not “long-term,” either, in any way that requires what’s being proposed.   Please, read the article by William Lind, which contains the chart and quote linked above.  It’s a clear, short analysis that I hope will put an end for you to the mendacious tropes constantly peddled throughout the media that suggest the opposite.  Let it sink in, once and for all: absolutely nothing.  (You might also want to take a look to my previous post on Social Security, to see that this program is one of the United States government’s biggest creditors.) 
This cannot be stressed enough.  The lies about this are so ubiquitous and unstoppable that it will take a great and constant effort to extirpate them from your mind.  You will have to repeat the sentence above to yourself many times.  To your Democratic representatives, who, know very well that anyone with half a progressive mind will only go along with cuts in Social Security and Medicare if they are hoodwinked into believing that they are necessary to solve some deficit problem, you will have to say loud and often, and with the appropriate tone of cold fury: Stop. You are not fooling me. Social Security and Medicare have absolutely nothing to do with the short-term U.S. fiscal problem.  Absolutely nothing.  Despite what Obama, Boehner, and every establishment pundit want you to believe, there is nothing “reasonable,” “responsible,” “sensible,” or “moderate” – there is nothing but foolishness and gullibility – about believing anything else. Absolutely nothing. 
The "Grand Bargain" is a Giant Con.  “[W]hat President Obama and some centrist Democrats as well as many conservative Republicans are thinking about doing [is] a sneaky, secretive, dead-of-the-night ‘grand bargain’ that would be rammed through Congress without adequate debate.”  It involves a totally unnecessary undermining of Social Security and Medicare in exchange for tax increases on the wealthy that will be less than would have been achieved by doing nothing.  (The Bush tax cuts will expire unless Democrats vote to keep them!) 
“Social Security and Medicare have absolutely nothing to do with the short-term U.S. fiscal problem.”
This "Grand Bargain"/Giant Con is Obama's baby. It's what he has already tried to do, and was only stopped from doing by the anti-tax intransigence of Tea Party Republicans. It's what he will now use his re-election to press for again. It's what the MSNBC commentators/cheerleaders are preparing you for. Listen to them carefully. It's all about:  "Will the Republicans be “responsible” and agree to tax increases?" It’s never: "Will Obama be responsible and refuse to cut SS & Medicare in any way?"  And “Chained CPI,” which he’ll try to pass of as just the teensy-weensiet “adjustment,” is a cut!  As AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka rightly insists: ““That is definitely a cut to Social Security benefits.” As this chart in Lind’s article (via the National Women’s Law Center) makes clear, the “Chained CPI” is a means of punishing people for growing older, another “Die Fast!” gimmick of the sort for which liberals excoriated Republicans:

But these cuts are what Obama will fight for – fight, that is, against the labor unions who are now promising to stand up to him (color me skeptical), and against any remaining real progressive Democrats.  He’ll strong-arm and/or cajole them (and the legion of self-identified liberals and progressives who have shown their propensity for going along with anything he does) into going along with him.  (Just as he did with healthcare.)  The “fiscal” is just the latest cliff off which Obama is leading his “progressive” lemmings.
As I said in another previous post, the coming Obama administration, claiming to stand on the high ground of principle, will be, and will be proud to be, the first administration to cut Social Security.  Obama and the Democratic Party leadership will sell it as a ‘save’ because they really think it’s the right thing to do.  Or, as the campaign tweet from @firetomfriedman put it: ““We must stop Romney & Ryan from cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid! That's Obama's job.”
“Social Security and Medicare have absolutely nothing to do with the short-term U.S. fiscal problem.”
This – sanctioning and normalizing the long-term undermining of SS & Medicare, as well as sanctioning and normalizing permanent war, the end of civil liberties, and the domestic and overseas dictatorial death-squad presidency – will be Obama's legacy.  His conservative Republican legacy.  Let’s hope the Tea Party Republicans will again save us from at least part of it.
If you voted for Obama, is this what you thought you were voting for?  If it is, then so be it. Perhaps, before you voted, you had already been persuaded by Obama and/or conservative Democrats (Clinton, et. al.) – because, of course, you’d never listen to these arguments from Republicans – that Social Security and Medicare are in some way responsible for our current fiscal problems.  In that case, you were fooled before you voted, but not by your vote.  I hope the Lind article helps to clear things up for you.
If, however, in voting for Obama, you thought you were voting to save Social Security and Medicare (not just from “privatization,” but from the long-term undermining that will begin with any admission of the need for unnecessary “reforms” that are actually cuts), then you got exactly the opposite of what you thought you voted for.  If Obama does not do what I am suggesting he will – move to make these cuts – then you can have at me, and I will be happy to admit I was wrong.   But I also ask that, when he does, you take a moment to consider that maybe you’ve been had. 
(BTW, if he fights for these cuts and fails, either because of Republican intransigence on taxes or because – yippee! – he gets too much resistance from labor and/or progressive Democrats, that’s no credit to Obama, and I’m still taking the point.  And who do you think will actually give him more resistance?)
If you think there’s a rat’s chance you were voting for a president who won’t seek, and Democrats in Congress who won’t give him, cuts in Social Security and Medicare, if you believed any of what Matt Bai calls, the “specious debate during the campaign,” well, you really had to be stubbornly disremembering what had already passed before your eyes.
As Bai points out in today’s New York Times, responding to labor unions’ and liberal groups’ brave new insistence these last few days that any new budget deal must not undermine entitlement programs: “[U]rging Mr. Obama not to join House Republicans in reducing entitlement spending is like pleading with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John not to reunite for a Christmas album. It’s just too late. …[N]o one should harbor the illusion that the president won’t sign off on reductions. The simple fact is, he already has.”  And, what’s more, it “isn’t simply that Mr. Obama agreed to scale back entitlement spending. It’s that he had the support of his most liberal advisers and allies, too” – including Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.  The AFL-CIO and AFSCME and DailyKos and Bernie Sanders (who, by the way, will vote for Obama’s plan if his vote is required) can huff and puff all they want, but guess what:  Obama does not care.  He may sound like he does, but he doesn’t.  Never did.  Obviously (Can you say “Simpson-Bowles”?) never did.  It’s a done deal. It can only be undone by a militant fight against Obama and the Democratic leadership, as well as against the Republicans.  Gee, if only there was something we could threaten them with?  Something they really want from us that we could withhold?  Hmm.
What exactly is there to celebrate about this election?  Didn’t we all lose?
I once worked in a car dealership, in northern California, right off the 101.  Every week, they’d put a featured used car on a platform overlooking the highway.  One day, a guy, who had done business there before, comes in, and, pointing to the spiffy vintage Mustang on the platform, says to the salesman:  “That’s a really nice car.”  The salesman tells him:  “You know, you may not believe this, but that’s the car you sold us last month.  We repainted it, refurbished it, got it looking and running like new.  You’re right.  It is a really nice car.  I was always wondering why you didn’t keep it in the first place.”   The salesman then went on to sell the same car back to the guy who had unloaded it – at a lower price, of course – a month ago.   
In my opinion, there’s never been a sharper assessment of Obama than the tough one given by James Petras in December 2008, riffing on our great, intransigent American writer: “Obama, on a bigger stage, is the perfect incarnation of Melville’s Confidence Man. He catches your eye while he picks your pocket.”    And, even more than his election, his re-election, with the attendant “progressive” celebration, is “The victory of the greatest con man and his accomplices and backers in recent history.”   
For those accomplices and backers, the empty pockets of future Social Security and Medicare recipients will be the reveal of a long con that took in a lot of marks, begun in 2008.
“Social Security and Medicare have absolutely nothing to do with the short-term U.S. fiscal problem.”

Update:  Let's "lay it to rest once and for all."  Have I mentioned that SS has nothing to do with the deficit?  Let's see if Obama can say it as clearly as this guy:

Links and notes:
“The case against a ‘grand bargain’,”
 “Social Security in the Great Jambalaya,”
“No Account: The Social Security Hope-a-Dope,”
“Labor chief Richard Trumka: ‘We won’t be taken for granted’,”
“A Historic Moment: The Election of the Greatest Con-Man in Recent History ,“
Chris Floyd, “Dead Enough: The Reality of the ‘Lesser Evil’,"  This post is worth taking a look at, and a think on: 
“If you really believed that Obama was a lesser evil … if you really did find the drone wars and the White House death squads and Wall Street bailouts and absolution for torturers and all the rest to be shameful and criminal, how can you be happy that all of this will continue? Happy -- and continuing to scorn anyone who opposed the perpetuation of this system?
“.. where is the mourning for the fact that we, as a nation, have come to this: a choice between murderers, a choice between plunderers? Even if you believe that you had to participate and make the horrific choice that was being offered to us … shouldn't this post-election period be a time of sorrow, not vaulting triumph and giddy glee and snarky put-downs of the "losers"?
“If you really are a 'lesser evilist' -- if this was a genuine moral choice you reluctantly made, and not a rationalization for indulging in unexamined, primitive partisanship -- then you will know that we are ALL the losers of this election. Even if you believe it could have been worse, it is still very bad. …Again I ask: where is the joy and glory and triumph in this? Even if you believe it was unavoidable, why celebrate it? And ask yourself, bethink yourself: what are you celebrating? This dead child, and a hundred like him? A thousand like him? Five hundred thousand like him? How far will you go? What won't you celebrate?”

1 comment:

  1. See Cenk Uygur's excellent article on this at


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