MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It's back to the Simpson-Bowles cat food for the elderly and poor budget as far as the White House is concerned, according to The New York Times (NYT) on Friday:
President Obama next week will take the political risk of formally proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare in his annual budget in an effort to demonstrate his willingness to compromise with Republicans and revive prospects for a long-term deficit-reduction deal, administration officials say.
Once again, a Democratic president is conceding to the GOP "frame" of austerity being vital to the future of America, when it was the Republicans who ran up the deficit – after Clinton left Bush a balanced budget – with a profligate tax cut for the super rich, two wars, and things like a multi-billion gift to the pharmaceutical industry by prohibiting government negotiations on drug prices in Medicare Part D.
This amidst a historical moment when income redistribution and asset ownership disparities have reached record levels in the US. But Obama appears to have an aversion to discussing or rectifying a morally unacceptable imbalance in wealth in America.
In return, Obama will get some crumbs of revenue enhancement, but take at a look at some of his leaked proposed reductions:
Deficits would be reduced another $930 billion through 2023 as a result of spending cuts and other cost-saving changes to domestic programs, and $200 billion more due to reduced interest payments on the federal debt.
Mr. Obama’s proposed spending reductions include about $400 billion from health programs and $200 billion from other areas, including farm subsidies, federal employee retirement programs, the Postal Service and the unemployment compensation system.
Cutting domestic programs such as pensions and unemployment?
In its defense, the White House claims that it is proposing increased infrastructure investment (too little) and more taxes on the wealthy (not a whole lot more).
Meanwhile the elderly on a pittance of Social Security will have imposed on them the dreaded chained CPI, says the NYT:
Besides the tax increases that most Republicans continue to oppose, Mr. Obama’s budget will propose a new inflation formula that would have the effect of reducing cost-of-living payments for Social Security benefits, though with financial protections for low-income and very old beneficiaries, administration officials said. The idea, known as chained C.P.I., has infuriated some Democrats and advocacy groups to Mr. Obama’s left, and they have already mobilized in opposition.
Obama either continues to believe in the now inexcusably naïve notion of "bi-partisanship" or he is, as some will argue, at heart a fiscal corporate neo-liberal Wall Street true believer:
Together with the $2.5 trillion in deficit reductions that Mr. Obama and Congressional Republicans have agreed to since 2010, that would bring the total deficit reduction to more than $4.3 trillion over 10 years by the administration’s computations — just over the goal that both parties have set for stabilizing the growth of the national debt.
The NYT, which clearly received the leak about the Obama budget from White House sources, is reflecting an Oval Office viewpoint that the president is compromising in order to win over "moderate" Republican votes. Say what? Earth to planet Obama: have you learned nothing from continually starting negotiations with the Republicans letting them advance to 10 yards of their goal – and them allowing them to walk over into the end zone for a victory twist and shake?
If you want to know the low threshold of weakness Obama is negotiating from, read the viewpoint of his aides, as reported in the NYT:
Neither the president nor senior aides privately hold much hope that Republican leaders — Mr. Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader — will compromise. So Mr. Obama’s strategy of reaching out to other Senate Republicans reflects a calculation that enough of them might cut a budget deal with the Democratic Senate majority. If that happens, the reasoning goes, a Senate-passed compromise would put pressure on the House to go along.
Uh, so the White House can't get even a basically Republican budget passed – with some crumbs of federal spending. They have to, as they see it, concede grovel and pray.
Bill Clinton said a long time back: "We [Democrats] have got to be strong. When we look weak in a time where people feel insecure, we lose. When people feel uncertain, they'd rather have somebody who's strong and wrong than somebody's who's weak and right."
Doesn't Obama run the danger, in his budget and many of his legislative proposals of appearing both weak and wrong?
Or is it that he actually believes in what he is proposing?
BuzzFlash at Truthout is not clairvoyant, so we can't say.
But history will judge him – and the seniors, unemployed, and poor who watch helplessly -- as President Obama thrusts a stake through the heart of the New Deal, while perpetuating a system of systemic oligarchy.