Obama’s Prized Chained-CPI

Obama NopeI give up! This morning, Obama announced that he will continue to bargain with himself.

On Wednesday, Jared Bernstein discussed a number of budget items that we face. The most important of which was his argument that Obama should not put Chained-CPI into his budget. Chained-CPI is basically just a way to cut Social Security benefits without explicitly doing it. It allows the cost of living increases of the program to lag behind the actual rate of inflation that seniors face. Bernstein rightly notes that it is just bad negotiating.

What he doesn’t say, but what is clear enough is that the Republicans will take the concession and move on. When the president tries to actually get something for the concession, the Republicans will rebel, “But Chained-CPI is already part of the baseline!” But as I’ve argued before, this isn’t really a sign that Obama is a bad negotiator; it is a sign that Chained-CPI is just a policy that Obama wants. If anything, the concessions that the Republicans in theory will offer are just political cover for the extremely unpopular policy proposals he wants.

This morning, Paul Krugman offered a far more charitable take on what Obama is doing:

So what’s this about? The answer, I fear, is that Obama is still trying to win over the Serious People, by showing that he’s willing to do what they consider Serious—which just about always means sticking it to the poor and the middle class. The idea is that they will finally drop the false equivalence, and admit that he’s reasonable while the GOP is mean-spirited and crazy.

But it won’t happen. Watch the Washington Post editorial page over the next few days. I hereby predict that it will damn Obama with faint praise, saying that while it’s a small step in the right direction, of course it’s inadequate—and anyway, Obama is to blame for Republican intransigence, because he could make them accept a Grand Bargain that includes major revenue increases if only he would show Leadership (TM).

Oh, and wanna bet that Republicans soon start running ads saying that Obama wants to cut your Social Security?

I only disagree with the part about why Obama is doing this. The rest is dead on: Obama will get very little credit for doing it and the Republicans will campaign against Democrats in 2014 by saying that they want to cut Social Security.

With friends like Obama, who needs conservatives?

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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