Everyone seems to pretty much agree with me regarding the administration’s announcement that they are going to put Chained-CPI into their new budget: bad policy, bad politics. But I’ve reached a new place with regards to Obama. I now think that there are two things he wants to accomplish in budget negotiations: he wants to raise taxes and cut entitlements. He does not want one more than the other. So this budget isn’t a compromise; it really is what he thinks of as ideal.
Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo was perhaps the most hopeful with an article titled Bad News Friday. He pointed out that at least this makes everything solid. As he put it, “The question is whether this is a sign that Obama’s willing to go negotiate further toward the right, or whether he’s just re-cementing his final offer.” But that would only be true if Obama’s offer actually moved the Republicans.
This morning I wrote, “When the president tries to actually get something for the concession, the Republicans will rebel, ‘But Chained-CPI is already part of the baseline!'” Well, right on cue (in fact, while I was writing that sentence), Beutler wrote another article, Boehner: Not Good Enough. Here is what John Boehner thinks of Obama’s offer:
Obama is committed to being reasonable and if that requires that he give Boehner 100% of what he wants, so be it!
Matt Yglesias put the point delicately, calling it, “a risky strategy.” But he noted very clearly that the Republicans have already rejected the deal Obama is offering both in a general, philosophical sense and in a specific sense. There really is nothing to be discussed:
And then he notes, “Inside the Beltway, Republicans can say ‘well, look, we disagree about taxes but why don’t we just do these entitlement reforms that even the president thinks we should do.'” And within three hours, John Boehner said:
Jonathan Chait said that this whole thing is not news, but that it was bad politics. The truth is, however, that it is news. As Jonathan Bernstein countered, “The budget is usually the president’s opening offer in the budget game.” The president put cuts to Social Security in his budget. This is the first time that a Democrat has ever done this. That’s news!
But as usual, no one agrees with me quite as perfectly as Digby. In trying to answer why the president wants to cut entitlements, she wrote:
Chain-CPI is his preferred policy. That much is clear. Again, John Boehner:
And you have ask yourself, “Why should this ‘reform’ be held hostage for more tax hikes?” Really! It is clear that Obama really does want these benefit cuts. Sure, he also wants tax hikes. But why should Obama and Boehner not move forward on this one bit of policy they most clearly agree on? I’m beginning to think the Republicans are right when they say that Obama is greedy—that he wants to get everything. We’ve been mistaken to think of Chained-CPI as a concession to get what the tax cuts that he wants. He really wants both Chained-CPI and tax cuts. In that case, he should take Boehner’s offer.
I’m not being sarcastic here. This is what Obama wants. The only way to stop him is to pressure the Democrats in Congress. Please: contact your representatives and make it clear you will not accept any cuts to Social Security. You might add that doing so will fatally wound the Democratic Party for the next generation. Of course, that wouldn’t bother Obama. In fact, he would likely see it as a good thing. It would prove what a transformational figure he has been. Only Nixon could go to China. Only Obama could destroy Social Security.
I watched the election (on my 40th birthday!) with some friends, and after it was called I said, "thank God Romney lost. Now we have to make sure Obama doesn’t dismantle Social Security." The reaction (from some, not others) was angry. How could I say such a thing about our beloved Black (and therefore, by association, liberal) President?
Now I do think Obama’s presidency has been, all in all, a net positive. Not because of anything he’s done, but because he’s done everything Hillary would have done while being Black besides. Black Americans needed this more than female Americans did (although women need it too, and here’s hoping Elizabeth Warren runs in 2016, though she probably won’t.)
You are simply not going to be considered a major candidate for the Presidency if your beliefs deviate from the norm. The norm, right now, the wisdom of the smart people, tells us social programs are unsustainable worldwide. The smart people also predicted that housing prices would go up forever (they’re STILL predicting it) and believe military spending to be sacrosanct and love how hedge funds are bringing market democracy to the world. (They’re not that smart; or, more accurate, they are very smart and very foolish.)
I recently read a shallow and amusing history of the 2008 election, "Game Change." (One portion of it, about Palin, was made into a fun HBO movie, written by the same guy, Jonathan Strong, who wrote "Recount.") It’s all about personalities and gossip, nothing serious (or worth reading, really.) It did strike me as amazing, reading "Game Change," how feverishly these people climb over each other to try and be President, when basically they are all going to enact the same policies. (With some minor differences between Republicans and Democrats, but not much.)
What did Hillary get for her efforts? Secretary of State — where the policies one pimps will be EXACTLY the same as they’ve been for 60+ years! Why would anyone want to do that job?
Political power, it seems to me, is illusory. You don’t get it without raising scads of money, meaning you owe favors to the people who gave you the most money. Which they wouldn’t have given you if you betrayed the slightest inclination to support policies they disapprove of. You’re President, or VP, or SecState — yay for you — but you’re really an employee, a district sales manager.
You do get to behave like an asshole to your staff (who tolerate it, because if they stay in your good graces and backed the right horse, they can get swank-ass consulting/lobbying jobs after putting politicians in high places.) That’s the most memorable thing about the book "Game Change" — they all come off as savage jerks. (Obama doesn’t, but I’m guessing that’s because the people who worked for him are still jockeying for positions.) You might work for the wealthy, and kiss the hindcheeks of the wealthy, but you also get to act as behaviorally indestructible as the wealthy (to staff, other politicians, and anyone except . . . the wealthy.) That’s probably appealing to some.
I did wonder, during the 2008 primaries, if Hillary wasn’t a better potential President. She appeared to believe in absolutely nothing, whereas Obama has definite Chicago-school economic principles. If a popular movement resisted cutting social programs, and if it was big and noisy enough, Hillary, I think, would have gone along. Obama is much less wishy-washy.
As no such popular movement seems likely to arise before the end of Obama’s term (we can always hope, I’m just not betting on it) I’m glad he won. Hillary would have been just the same, and, as I said, Blacks needed the positivity from his election more than women did. Neither Obama nor Hillary would have helped Blacks or women or anyone else this side of day traders, yet the importance of a viciously racist nation electing a Black president can’t be dismissed. Obama won’t do anything good for us today, but his presence in the Oval might do quite a bit of good in the future. Maybe in 2048 we’ll have a liberal Black female President inspired by Obama today.
Ahh, by then we’ll probably all be owned by feudal corporate overlords who require us to tattoo our foreheads with smartphone app links or lose our global-warming (which won’t exist, Jesus wont let it) hurricane and invasive-vermin insurance. Which no insurance company will pay claims on, but failure to pony up for premiums will get us thrown into debtor’s prison. But — hey — we’ll have freedom, so it won’t be all that bad.
@JMF – I saw the movie [i]Game Change[/i], and you are right: it is fun. However, I think it serves as an apology for Steve Schmidt and even more Nicolle Wallace. Both of whom are just soulless political operatives. I can’t believe anything but that Palin was an embarrassment and a losing candidate for them. These two have been hawking for unqualified, stupid, and incompetent politicians for years; what’s the big deal about Palin? They wouldn’t have complained if McCain had won.
I tend to see Obama and Clinton the opposite of you. I think Obama doesn’t believe in anything except "getting along," which is the same as not believing in anything. I think Clinton actually does care more about traditional liberal issues. (She would never have called herself a blue dog.) But it is not at all clear that she would have accomplished as much.
I agree with you that Obama as president has been a good thing socially. What I fear is that in 2048, people like us will be noting that the socialist president will, in fact, be more conservative than Paul Ryan today.