Friday, February 13, 2009

No More Footsie for Obama


Via Digby, a "must read" article byWilliam Greider on the disaster that awaits Obama if he caves into "the grand bargain" devoutly desired by Wall Street and the (mostly Republican) elites. At risk are Social Security, Medicare, and children's health programs.
Obama is also playing footsie with the conservative advocates of "entitlement reform" (their euphemism for cutting benefits). The president wants the corporate establishment's support on many other important matters, and he recently promised to hold a "fiscal responsibility summit" to examine the long-term costs of entitlements. That forum could set the trap for a "bipartisan compromise" that may become difficult for Obama to resist, given the burgeoning deficit.
As Greider says, "When official America talks of 'bipartisan compromise,' it usually means the people are about to get screwed."

If, as some have heard, the Obama administration believes progressive America will give Obama a "pass" on the issue, it is very much mistaken. Striving for bipartisanship is one thing; but as Digby says, "You can't bargain with political sociopaths."

2-13 pm
Coincidentally, Dean Baker at TMP reports rumors are circulating among 'insiders' "that President Obama intends to appoint a task force the week after next which will be charged with 'reforming' Social Security."
According to inside gossip, the task force will be led entirely by economists who were not able to see the $8 trillion housing bubble, the collapse of which is giving the country its sharpest downturn since the Great Depression.

This effort is bizarre for several reasons. First, the economy is sinking rapidly. While President Obama's stimulus package is a good first step towards counteracting the decline, there is probably not a single economist in the country who believes that is adequate to the task. President Obama would be advised to focus his attention on getting the economy back in order instead of attacking the country's most important social program. The second reason why this task force is strange is that Social Security doesn't need reforming. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it can pay all scheduled benefits for the next 40 years with no changes whatsoever.
There are more reasons Dean elucidates to explain why this would be a bonehead move. To them, we would add one more: Obama, just weeks into his presidency, already is on the cusp of alienating a large segment of his core constituency with all of his ineffectual efforts to curry favor with the Right Wing. Needlessly targeting Social Security for "reform" by the same crowd that peacefully slept while the current economic storm was brewing would tear it for many.

The Republicans again today with a unanimous GOP House vote against the stimulus bill showed that they are content to put party politics ahead of everything, including national interest. They are lost to Obama no matter how much he may wish otherwise. If, nevertheless, he bulls ahead with a Bush-Lite call for Social Security reform, he will alienate the Democrats, as well.

How much "Change" can we "Hope" for if the president's persistently unsuccessful efforts to woo Republicans and Blue Dogs Democrats winds up isolating him from both Right and Left? That just might be the only 'bipartisanship' he's likely to achieve if the rumors Dean Baker is hearing are true.

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