I don’t know why Obama wants to cut Social Security benefits. I do know that Obama has been honest about it from the start.
Jane goes on to hazard a conjecture as to “why”:
It’s clear the oligarch class has decided that this is what must happen, and that in order to be considered a “serious” person, this is what a President must do. Perhaps Obama simply wants to be considered a “serious person” by those in the ruling class.
I have a different theory, one that’s based on Bill Moyers’ interview of the moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, which focused on the theories in Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind. The following is Haidt’s comment on the infamous let-him-die exchange between Wolf Blitzer and Ron Paul:
JONATHAN HAIDT: This is a perfect example of what the culture war has turned into. It’s a battle over ideas about fairness versus compassion. So the reason that that video went viral is because of the applause at the end.
So I got sent this video by a lot of people because, oh, my God, these Republicans are so heartless. They’re so evil and cruel and terrible. But it’s exactly Aesop’s ant and the grasshopper. The grasshopper fiddles away all the summer while the ants are working and working and working, preparing for the winter. The grasshopper says, “Oh, you’re being silly, working so hard.” And then winter comes. The grasshopper comes, knocks on the ants’ door and he’s starving to death, he’s freezing. He says, “Take me in. Feed me.” And as some liberals see it, the point of the ant and the grasshopper and that the ants are supposed to feed the grasshopper. But that’s not what Aesop meant.
And that’s not what most Americans think it means. So what they’re applauding for there and what they’re saying, “Yeah, let him die,” the reason they’re saying that is because they want a world in which karma functions. This guy made a choice. He made a choice to be a free rider. He made a choice to not buy health insurance. And if karma works as it should, no one will pay for it and he will die. Now, if you care, if you value the care foundation, that is extremely cold. But if you value fairness as proportionality, that’s what has to happen.
The bottom line is that conservatives believe that it’s granny’s karma to have to eat catfood. And, Obama is a conservative, a self-proclaimed “Blue Dog” (Bob Woodward, Matt Bai). His true values are nowhere near the center of the electorate; at best, they’re close to the center of the money. And, Obama, like his fellow conservatives, believes that granny deserves to eat catfood.
Please understand that this so-called Grand Bargain has nothing to do with debts and deficits; that’s just a smoke screen. Social Security is running a surplus and has $2.7 trillion in its Trust Fund. It has contributed absolutely nothing to the deficits (and by law cannot). The only thing is has contributed to the debt is money to finance it, just like the Chinese have.
This Grand Bargaining is about karma. Two conservatives, Obama and Boehner, are trying to make sure that the lesser people get the karma they deserve for not having been more productive during their working lives. And they’re trying to spread the credit (with their sponsors) and the blame (with the voters) so that neither party gets an advantage. The best we can hope for is that they will again deadlock and take us over the fiscal cliff.