There’s a fascinating, or should I say, depressing, debate occurring in Washington over how much federal spending should be cut as a condition for raising the debt ceiling, which everyone except the Tea-GOP crazies understands must be raised. There is a somewhat less important debate about the President’s strategy in getting to an answer.
Over several nights, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell (Last Word) has argued that Mr. Obama has pursued a brilliant strategy that has not only split the Republicans over their unwillingness to accept any tax increases but also put him in an advantageous position for getting a “clean” debt limit bill without egregious cuts, as well as gaining political traction as the only responsible adult in the room.
I’ve noted that this theory, while implying Mr. Obama is lying, conveniently ignores important facts and consequences about Mr Obama’s assumed strategy.
Never mind that with Mr. Obama’s consent/direction, Harry Reid is trying to make the “clean” bill as dirty as he can so that a least a few Tea-GOPs can vote for it and not force cowardly Democratic Blue Dogs to vote as though the country was more important than their reelection. I’ll only add that in yesterday’s press conference, the President reinforced points that increase my concerns about the economic message he keeps sending.
The President has again told voters that dramatically reducing our debt has to be the nation’s priority; we can’t fix the economy nor adequately relieve the real unemployment crisis unless we first solve the faux debt problem. So if we only raise the debt limit (McConnell’s original “clean” bill that Mr. O’Donnell thinks is Obama’s clever goal) without a major “down payment” on debt reduction, Washington and voters will continue to be preoccupied by the debt.
Well, as long as the President and the Tea-GOP both insist that we can’t fix the economy or create enough jobs unless we dramatically reduce the debt, then there’s no reason to expect this President or this Congress to fix the economy or create enough jobs.
That’s a very clever argument for not fixing the economy or creating jobs, or being blamed for it, but apparently, the perversity of relentlessly promoting that false belief has escaped Mr. Obama’s supporters, who seem to pay no heed to the dozens of economists telling us our leaders have their priorities backwards.
Pointing out this perversity is causing severe angst among Obama fans, who have now latched onto Lawrence O’Donnell’s lecturing progressives for their thoughtless criticism of Mr. Obama’s brilliant strategy.
In this wondrous article, progressives are accused of being naive, ignorant of American history, hypocrites in complaining about raising retirement ages now but ignoring that already happened, and best of all, simply too young and immature to know much, compared to O’Donnell who knows how to use a computer to edit the number in the debt limit statute. Read it all; it’s a treasure.
So what evidence is there of these crimes, and particularly the crime that hypocritical progressives are indifferent to the current eligibility ages in Medicare and Social Security?
I guess that when most progressives were proposing, in the health care debate, that Medicare be extended to everyone, or failing that, at least extending it down to 55, and failing that, at least let people buy into Medicare as an option on the Exchanges, and failing that, at least offer a public option linked to Medicare rates on the exchange that might one day become the equivalent of Medicare, that must have meant that none of us ever had a problem with raising the eligibility age of Medicare.
And when progressives argued for temporarily lowering the age for Social Security to help relieve the jobless crisis, and when Jane Hamsher this week front paged an article by James K. Galbraith in which, among other things, Professor Galbraith recommends, as he did in 2009, that we lower the eligibility age for Social Security at least temporarily as a jobs recovery measure, and when Jon Walker and I (and probably many others) endorsed that idea during the stimulus debates and again when they first started talking about “reforming” Social Security, and when we noted during the Cat Food deliberations that it was looney to consider raising the eligibility age further when millions of newly jobless were already being pushed prematurely onto lower benefit levels of Social Security and Medicare, that that obviously meant progressives were just fine with the fact the eligibility age for full benefits had been raised already.
It’s only slightly annoying that, without having any facts, Mr. O’Donnell’s friend assumes that those of us criticizing Mr. Obama’s economic views and who oppose putting Medicare and Social Security benefit cuts on the table must be too young and immature to remember much history. Ignoring the gratuitous insult to younger people, many of us are retirement age or older, and some of us recall being drafted to help kill little brown people in Vietnam. I guess none of us was wise enough to learn anything about politicians claiming to be against things like needless war and torture and indefinite detention but then engaging in or covering for them.
It is no revelation that Mr. Obama may think he can benefit with independents by insulting progressives. And it’s possible that when progressives push back, that helps him in some perverse way disconnected from the public interest. He and his brilliant political team now have the economy languishing, unemployment at 9.2 to 17 percent and the Tea-GOP holding US credit and the economy hostage. They’ve got him running several points behind the generic representative of one of the stupidest, most destructive political parties in American history. But O’Donnell’s friend concludes that every time progressives push back against Mr. Obama’s flawed policies, they’re helping Mr. Obama.
By that logic, the way for progressives to pressure the Administration to adopt policies in line with progressive values is to stand on a chair and clap as hard as they can every time the President reenforces Tea-GOP talking points, publicly criticizes liberals or undermines the progressive elements of the New Deal that produced a 50 year run of rising incomes, expanding middle class, and success for the country, never mind the Democratic Party. Of course, that would only confuse the independents, wouldn’t it?
Step down, Doug Feith; you’ve lost the title.
Related Updates from Americablog: Larry Summers on Obama’s 2009 plan to “reform” Social Security and Medicare.
From DeLong, citing David Dayen: No, no, no; first loot, then burn