How dumb does Washington think we are?

Dean Baker:

The corporate honchos are not expecting to convince the public that we should support cuts to Social Security and Medicare. They know this is a hopeless task. Huge majorities of people across the political spectrum strongly support these programs.


Instead, they hope that they can use their power of persuasion, coupled with the power of campaign contributions and the power of high-paying jobs for defeated members of Congress, to get Congress to approve large cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other key programs. This is the plan for a grand bargain that the corporate chieftains hope can be struck in the lame-duck Congress.


Most of the media have been happy to cooperate with the corporate chieftains in this plan. There are two main ways in which they have abandoned objectivity to support the plan for cutting Social Security and Medicare.


First, they continually run stories about how the deficit and debt are the biggest problems facing the country. They routinely use phrases like “crisis” and other hyperboles to scare their audience about the risks that the debt poses to the country.


The whole notion of a “fiscal cliff” is an invention that implies an urgency that does not exist. There is almost no consequence to not having a deal in place by the end of 2012. The dire projections of recession and rising unemployment assume that we don’t ever get a deal on the budget.


The fixation on the debt certainly cannot be justified by any objective standard. Clearly the most pressing economic problem facing the country is that tens of millions of people are unemployed or underemployed as result of the collapse of the housing bubble. These people and their families are seeing their lives ruined due to a monumental failure by policymakers.


Furthermore, it is easy to show that the large budget deficits of recent years are entirely the result of the economic collapse. If the economy were back near full employment, the deficits would be relatively small, as was the case before the collapse. Yet, it is the deficits and debt that dominate news reporting and debate questions, not the overall state of the economy.


The other way in which the media have been pushing the agenda of the corporate honchos is by refusing to press candidates on their support for the cuts to Social Security that are a likely part of a grand bargain. Does President Obama support reducing Social Security benefits by 3 percent by cutting the annual cost-of-living adjustment? Does he support raising the age of Medicare eligibility to 67? How about your candidates for the Senate or the House?


It’s unlikely that many people know the answers to these questions, because the reporters have not been asking them. Yet, these policies and other cuts that would likely be part of a grand bargain would have a much more direct impact on most people’s lives that the tax proposals being touted by President Obama and Governor Romney.


To be specific, the reduction in Social Security benefits from the cut in the cost-of-living adjustment that is being pushed as part of a grand bargain would have more impact on most future retirees’ living standards than ending the Bush tax cuts on the richest 2 percent would have on their living standards. While the media have done endless pieces on the impact of this possible tax increase on the wealthy, they have done almost nothing on the impact on retirees’ living standards if the cost-of-living adjustment is cut.


This, of course, fits the needs of the corporate honchos who are pushing the agenda for cutting Social Security and Medicare. They don’t want these cuts to become an issue before the election because it will make it harder for members of Congress to vote for them.


This is why the reporters covering this election deserve nothing but contempt from the public. It is their job to highlight the issues that will matter to people’s lives, not to help push the agenda of corporate America. But clearly they have decided to do the latter.

3 thoughts on “How dumb does Washington think we are?

  1. We are pretty dumb. There’s lots of evidence to prove that. Like the millions of people who will vote for the lying, shape-shifter Mitt Romney in November. Or the thousands who will vote for Todd Akin of Missouri. Or the Democrats who believe that Democratic Senatorial candidate from North Dakota Heidi Heitkamp is right when she says that “Obama’s energy policy is all wrong” because he doesn’t support “clean coal” and the “pipeline from Canada to Texas.” Heidi is as much a dumb-ass as Akin is.

  2. I applaud Dean Baker.

    How about those of us who are personally on a fiscal cliff? Or already over the cliff? I am talking about a real fiscal cliff, not some manufactured hooey so the PTBs don’t have to replace the money they “borrowed” from Social Security. (If the government doesn’t repay its debts, then why should any of us?)

    Their purposeful blindness concerning the terrible circumstances most of us are in or nearing is shocking in its callousness and stupidity. Without a middle class, this country is done.

  3. I have often marvelled that the pool of suicide bombers doesn’t just dry up when the obvious answer to the recruiter’s pitch about wonderful rewards in the hereafter is “You first!”

    So Congressman, I will listen to your tale of urgency when it rises to the level that you push the vesting of your pension and defer post service health care to age 67, reduce benefits by 3% and issue yourselves vouchers that decline in value over time. Then I promise to THINK about those cuts.

    Meantime Asshole, “Where are the jobs?”

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