Digby highlighted a National Journal article this morning, Did Social Security Cost Democrats a Seat In Florida? It highlights how the Florida 13th district has one of the highest percentages of people over 65 years old. So the Democrat, Sink, tried to use the Republican Jolly’s support for privatizing Social Security against him. But as the article put it, “Jolly had an easy comeback: he denied wanting to privatize Social Security, and fired back by noting that Sink voiced some support for the Simpson-Bowles debt-reduction plan, which included cuts to Social Security.” Ah yes, the Grand Bargain!
What Digby focused on is that support for the Grand Bargain is bad politics. Social Security and Medicare should be a winning issue for Democrats. Remember during the vice-presidential debate in 2012? Joe Biden delivered what I think of as the best line of the whole campaign, “Folks: use your common sense! Who do you trust on this?!” But that doesn’t work when the Democrats run around everywhere pretending to be Very Serious People wanting to cut benefits with absurd mechanisms like chained-CPI. As Digby noted, there is no political advantage to such a deal “unless you count Villagers extolling them for being ‘grown-ups’ which should get them at least a hundred votes in Virginia.”
Last year, I wrote, The Terrible Bargain. It is mostly about how the Grand Bargain is a bad idea just based upon the economics. As usual, what all the Very Serious People just know to be true isn’t. It all comes down to the idea that if something is painful for you, it must be good. Of course, note how cruel these people are: the pain suffered is never by the people pushing these policies. And the notion is ridiculous. Hacking off your hand with a meat cleaver is painful and does no good unless you are in Evil Dead II.
But more to the point, the politics are even worse than the economics. The idea of the Grand Bargain is to raise taxes in exchange for lowering entitlement spending. So it is a lose-lose. No one likes raising taxes and no one likes cutting benefits. And it is especially stupid given that the Republicans will never swap tax increases for entitlement cuts. Now I’m not at all convinced that Sink lost the election because she didn’t have the Social Security issue with which to beat up Jolly. But it certainly would have helped.
As Dibgy noted, some Democrats are waking up to the issue. Not only can Democrats be the party for protecting entitlements, they can be the party for expanding them. After all, the Republican argument is that they are protecting the programs by cutting them. And they are always absolutely clear that they won’t cut benefits for people currently on the programs. But the fact is that our benefits are about the stingiest in the developed world. They ought to be expanded. And if Democrats took up this cause, the voters would have a clear choice.