Six degrees of Social Security

Rich Eskow is one of my favorite progressive voices, and you should go read the whole thing:

President Obama and Vice President Biden both gave powerful speeches this evening, summoning the ideal of an inclusive nation and effectively distinguishing their mainstream American views from their opponents’ radical right-wing vision. The only real false notes were the passages in which they both embraced a right-wing set of proposals known as “Simpson Bowles.”

That means they were embracing a plan which would cut Social Security benefits and raise its retirement age. It also means they were embracing the ideology of a small network of well-funded individuals who are determined to take our country down the austerity path that is destroying Europe – and who may be personally antagonistic toward the President as well.

“Now,” said the President, “I’m still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission.” Vice President Biden said of their opponents, “they rejected every plan put forward by us, by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission they referenced or by any other respected group.”

But that commission offered neither “principles” nor a “plan” — in part because Republicans like Paul Ryan wouldn’t raise taxes of any kind, but also because some liberals on the commission refused to go along with its proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare. As a result, it never agreed on any recommendations.

The President and Vice President are actually referring to private proposals put forward by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the co-chairs of that deadlocked group. Those proposals would cut Social Security through a variety of means, would cap the Medicare budget (which is effectively the same as cutting it), and — once you cut through all the doubletalk — would actually cut tax rates for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, while raising them dramatically for everyone else.

Simpson is a former Republican senator, while Bowles is an ex-Democratic staffer and Morgan Stanley director. Both are longtime allies of conservative hedge fund billionaire and former Nixon Cabinet member Pete Peterson, a long-time adversary of Social Security, Medicare and government’s rightful role in our society. Peterson-funded organizations provided staffers, as well as ideological guidance, to the Simpson Bowles Commission.

Those staffers worked under the direction of David Walker, who was CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation until he left to lead an affiliated Peterson organization called the Comeback America Initiative. Who is David Walker? He’s a former Comptroller General of the United States, a longtime Peterson operative and a featured figure in the rabidly anti-Obama film just released by Dinesh D’Souza, the far-right apparatchik whose attack book against the President was hilariously entitledThe Roots of Obama’s Rage.

Go read it all. Really.

Four more years


So, as I said, the odds are that barring major mistakes, the next four years will be much better than the past four years.

Does this mean that U.S. economic policy has done a good job? Not at all.

Bill Clinton said of the problems Mr. Obama confronted on taking office, “No one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.” If, by that, he meant the overhang of debt, that’s very much the case. But we should have had strong policies to mitigate the pain while households worked down their debt, as well as policies to help reduce the debt — above all, relief for underwater homeowners.

The policies we actually got were far from adequate. Debt relief, in particular, has been a bust — and you can argue that this was, in large part, because the Obama administration never took it seriously.

But, that said, Mr. Obama did push through policies — the auto bailout and the Recovery Act — that made the slump a lot less awful than it might have been. And despite Mitt Romney’s attempt to rewrite history on the bailout, the fact is that Republicans bitterly opposed both measures, as well as everything else the president has proposed.

So Bill Clinton basically had it right: For all the pain America has suffered on his watch, Mr. Obama can fairly claim to have helped the country get through a very bad patch, from which it is starting to emerge.

A little preview of what’s coming

Another reason I’m so cynical about Obama is that he always clearly telegraphs what he plans to do, albeit in code words. That way, when he cuts a backdoor deal on Social Security and Medicare, he can say, “I told you what I was going to do”:

We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules. We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.

Because we understand that this democracy is ours.

We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.

Translation: Here it comes, you selfish people.

TPP protest this Sunday

People want to know why I have such a skeptical attitude about Obama? Last night, he talked about all the wonderful trade agreements he’s signing that are creating jobs. Sure they are – for $1 an hour in other countries. This is the agreement that not only gives media corporations all the same intellectual property laws that were already beaten down in the SOPA fight, it also permits corporations to override environmental protection laws. No wonder they don’t want anyone to see a copy!

WHAT: More than forty labor, environmental, public health and community organizations will hold a rally outside the Lansdowne Resort on Sunday, September 9 demanding a public voice in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations taking place inside.

The secretive pact is poised to become the largest free trade agreement in U.S. history, and is expected to affect the economy, the environment and consumer safety in Virginia and beyond.

Protesters are demanding that U.S. negotiators tell the American public what they have proposed in our names.

WHO: Allison Chin, President, Sierra Club
Ron Collins, Chief of Staff, Communications Workers of America
Matthew Kavanagh, Director of U.S. Advocacy, HealthGAP
Erich Pica, President, Friends of the Earth US
Occupy Wall Street and many others

WHERE: Outside the Lansdowne Resort
44050 Woodridge Parkway
Lansdowne, VA 20176

WHEN: Sunday, September 9, 3pm

Quote of the day

David Plouffe, senior Obama advisor:

“Obviously, we tried to reach a deficit deal with the Republicans. We got very close and didn’t get there. I think this election is going to make clear, I think, to the country and hopefully to members of Congress that we’re willing to do a lot of tough things – cut further spending, reform entitlements in the right way – but asking a little more from the wealthy has to be part of the answer.”


This Penn and Teller video features naughty language not suitable for work!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of Republican policy architects appearing on the airwaves as if they were dispassionate bystanders. And Frank Luntz is perhaps the worst (see here, here, here and here). He doesn’t simply message public opinion – he molds and shapes it. So I think it’s important to contact CBS News and tell them what we think of hiring someone with a history of such rotten, anti-American agendas:

CBS News has reportedly hired Frank Luntz, the Republican strategist and pollster best known for helping Republicans craft often-deceptive messaging to torpedo liberal policies. In his post announcing the move, Politico media reporter Dylan Byers writes that Luntz will “make a number of appearances across the network between now and Election Day.” Luntz’s hiring comes only a few months after New York Times Magazine contributor Robert Draper reported that Luntz orchestrated a 2009 meeting where prominent Republicans formulated a plan to win back Congress and the White House.

In his book Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives, Draper reported that Luntz “organized a dinner” on Obama’s inauguration night featuring a handful of “the Republican Party’s most energetic thinkers.” The attendees — which included current vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan — reportedly emerged from the nearly four hour dinner “almost giddily” after having agreed on “a way forward.” According to Draper, the Republican plan involved showing “united and unyielding opposition to the president’s economic policies,” with an eventual goal of defeating Obama and taking back the Senate in 2012:

Luntz had organized the dinner – telling the invitees, “You’ll have nothing to do that night, and right now we don’t matter anyway, so let’s all be irrelevant together.” He had selected these men because they were among the Republican Party’s most energetic thinkers – and because they all got along with Luntz, who could be difficult. Three times during the 2008 election cycle, Sean Hannity had thrown him off the set at Fox Studios. The top Republican in the House, Minority Leader John Boehner, had nurtured a dislike of Luntz for more than a decade. No one had to ask why Boehner wasn’t at the Caucus Room that evening.

[…]The dinner lasted nearly four hours. They parted company almost giddily. The Republicans had agreed on a way forward: Go after Geithner. (And indeed Kyl did, the next day: “Would you answer my question rather than dancing around it – please?”)

Show united and unyielding opposition to the president’s economic policies. (Eight days later, Minority Whip Cantor would hold the House Republicans to a unanimous No against Obama’s economic stimulus plan.)

Begin attacking vulnerable Democrats on the airwaves. (The first National Republican Congressional Committee attack ads would run in less than two months.)

Win the spear point of the House in 2010. Jab Obama relentlessly in 2011. Win the White House and the Senate in 2012.

“You will remember this day,” Newt Gingrich proclaimed to the others as they said goodbye. “You’ll remember this days as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown.” [Do Not Ask What Good We Do, pp. xvi-xix]

The inauguration night dinner was also reported in Election 2012: The Battle Begins by Real Clear Politics reporters Tom Bevan and Carl Cannon.Now, less than four years after this meeting, CBS will be inviting Luntz onto their airwaves as an “analyst.”

No, I don’t think so. CBS needs to hear from us.

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