Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 9, 2010

DEMINT'S VISION OF BUDGET CUTS.... When it comes to the Senate, no one's further to the right than South Carolina's Jim DeMint (R). And with the GOP planning to slash spending, one would assume that DeMint would be waving the biggest hatchet.

But Jon Chait flagged an interesting exchange from the right-wing senator's recent appearance on "Meet the Press." DeMint emphasized his demand that the country be on a "path to balancing our budget," and noted the need to "look at the entitlement programs." It led host David Gregory to ask a reasonable question.

GREGORY: I want to be very specific, because going back to 2008 spending levels will not get anywhere close to balancing the budget. So, you're saying that everything has to be on the table. Cuts in defense. Cuts in Medicare. Cuts in Social Security. Is that right?

DEMINT: Well, no, we're not talking about cuts in Social Security. If we can just cut the administrative waste, we can cut hundreds of billions of dollars a year at the federal level. So, before we start cutting -- I mean, we need to keep our promises to seniors, David. And cutting benefits to seniors is not on the table.

GREGORY: But then, but where do you make the cuts? I mean, if you're protecting everything for the most potent political groups, like seniors, who go out and vote, where are you really gonna balance the budget?

DEMINT: Well, look at Paul Ryan's roadmap to the future. We see a clear path to moving back to a balanced budget over time. Again, the plans are on the table. We don't have to cut benefits for seniors. And we don't need to cut Medicare -- like the Democrats did in this big Obamacare bill. We can restore sanity in Washington without cutting any benefits to seniors or veterans.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. The first is that arguably the Senate's most far-right member is desperate to cut spending, but when pressed, says he wants to leave Social Security and Medicare alone.

The second is that DeMint twice referenced Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) "roadmap." Maybe DeMint's a little behind on his reading, but there's a disconnect here -- while vowing not to cut seniors' benefits, he's also endorsing Ryan's budget plan, which calls for privatizing Social Security and gutting Medicare. It also fails miserably in the goal DeMint claims to care about -- cutting the deficit. As Paul Krugman recently explained, the Ryan plan "is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America's fiscal future."

Raise your hand if you think Jim DeMint has any idea what he's talking about.

Steve Benen 9:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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It doesn't matter whether demint knows what he's talking about or not. If Gregory didn't call him on it and say that Ryan's roadmap *explicitly calls for gutting both Social Security and Medicare* then it doesn't matter. If a lie goes unchallenged it simply ceases to be a lie, in political terms. It is no liability at all to the unchecked reign of errors, lies, and corruption that the Republicans are aiming to bring us.


Posted by: aimai on November 9, 2010 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

DeMint is uttering the words of a soulless man!

Gobbledygook is the economic message given by DeMint and the newly elected majority in the House. Speaking of which, picture the likes of Darrel Issa welding a gavel!

We're in for a whole lot of hurt the next two years! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on November 9, 2010 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

Plus, he endorsed "Obamacare", which plans to cut administrative waste in healthcare... Wait, if we had a public option...

Posted by: Alex on November 9, 2010 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

of course, had Gregory even perused the so-called "roadmap" of Ryan's, he might have been able to call Demint on his bullshit with a good follow-up question. that would mean we'd have a "functioning" press.

Posted by: ahoy polloi on November 9, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

I can only agree with aimai. But, I would say Gregory's non-followup shows his lack of preparation. He probably doesn't realize Ryan's "roadmap" is out of date and doesn't know any of the details in it. I find this is often the case with national media, that they have heard of something but didn't spend anytime looking at it. Thus you get the meme of $200 million/day travel expenses for Obama. (Actually I am sorta surprised MSM called FOX on that one)

Posted by: Darsan54 on November 9, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

I am sick and tired of the baseless claim that "democrats want to cut Medicare". A major component of changes in the Medicare program is elimination of Medicare Advantage which has been a boondoggle for insurers for years and years. Every reputable actuarial analysis of the program shows that the benefit-to-cost ratio of Medicare Advantage is about 0.15. In other words, 85 cents on the premium dollar for the added coverage under the program is NOT paid out in benefits. This is a no-brainer . . . except for brain-dead reactionaries and teabaggers like Demint, apparently.

Posted by: Bo on November 9, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Why, we're not CUTTING Social Security and Medicare -- we're PRIVATIZING them.

And you know what? Their low-information voters will lap that lie right up.

Posted by: dalloway on November 9, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Another theory: DeMint was flat out lying on Social Security and medicare because Ryan's rediculous and unworkable 'plan' cuts/guts both and still does not reduce the deficit anymore than Obama's policies by 2020 because he gives all the savings to the top 1% in massive tax cuts.

Gregory knew it, and did not have the balls to call him on it and call Bull Shit.

Posted by: robert on November 9, 2010 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

It would seem that the lies about Social Security are already conventional wisdom. Social Security has had no impact on the deficit. The following options will not occur and aren't even discussed by the MSM, removing the ceiling on Social Security wages, which will inconvenience the wealthy, getting rid of Medicare Advantage, which will inconvenience the fat cat insurance companies, and letting the Bush tax cuts expire, which will inconvenience everyone given that the Repugs won't buy into Obama's under $250,000 gambit, which would inconvenience the wealthy.

Posted by: Mudge on November 9, 2010 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

He has to take this position. The seniors showed up for the GOP this time. Up until the election the GOP took the seniors for granted, they now take them seriously.
There is no solution to America's problems that will arise from GOP ideology.

Posted by: Richard on November 9, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

Of course he knows. He's a snake oil salesman and he's selling his favorite brand of toxic snake oil.

And Gregory is the ultimate tool for not calling him on it. He sucks more than my Dysan Ball.

Posted by: MsJoanne on November 9, 2010 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

The real nonsense comes from the claim that there are hundreds of billions of dollars in administrative waste (there might be if you include the Pentagon and stupid weapons procurement, but the right-wing wackos want to waste money on war and criminal mercenaries) that can be eliminated. There will always be some small level of 'waste, fraud and abuse' and the cost of eliminating them quickly becomes greater than the benefit.

DeMint could not save $50 billion in administrative waste if his career depended on it. Why is David Gregory so completely unprepared to do his job?

Posted by: freelunch on November 9, 2010 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

"Raise your hand if you think Jim DeMint has any idea what he's talking about"

-Raise BOTH hands, if you think ANY (save Bernie Sanders) congresscritter has any idea of what they are talking about!

By the way, in 2050 just the interest on the debt will consume the entire budget. (For the folks in Rio Linda, that is like your credit card is maxed out, and you can't use it any more, but the monthly minimum payment is your entire paycheck. . .)

Posted by: DAY on November 9, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

There is only one way to solve the budget problem in an equitable manner:
tax the über rich.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on November 9, 2010 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Hate to mention to DeMented, that there were cuts in administrative costs to the SSA, a few years back. Even though RepuG zealots thought most SDI applicants were scammers, they helped cut spending for the needed examiners of both qualifiers and post payments to see whether any SDI recipient had recovered sufficiently for benefits to be either cut or fazed out. As a result, there have been numerous reports in the Oregonian about SDI misuse due to the lack of examiners. Yes, DeMented, do cut more. You are part and parcel of the Reaganauts who learned how one does not to jettison needed programs, such as OHSA, but, all they had to do was to cut funding for inspectors.

Posted by: berttheclock on November 9, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

It doesn't matter if he knows what he is talking about. Rush Limbaugh and Fox News will be along shortly to explain to us what DeMint "really" meant to say.

Posted by: Stephen on November 9, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Raising my hand here. Yep---right over here; raising both hands and waving them about wildly in the air like a good little minion should---because DeMint knows exactly what he's talking about.

He's talking the "both-sides-of-the-tracks-whilst-walking-mid-track" talk---except that he's imagining hmself able to "talk away" the oncoming team of six locomotives, all coming on with the throttles wide open, with something over TWO-HUNDRED HOPPERS FULL TO THE BRIMS WITH HIS DECADES' WORTH OF LIES packed tightly in.

This one's gonna get messy. Chlidren and all those with weak constitutions should turn away now....

Posted by: S. Waybright on November 9, 2010 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry -- can't raise my whole hand for DeMint. Just the one finger ...

Posted by: ManOutOfTime on November 9, 2010 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Why WOULD DeMint have any idea what he's talking about? His corporate overlords spent MILLIONS telling seniors that the GOP was gonna 'save' their benefits; that Obamacare was taking AWAY their benefits and that pesky donut hole??? Forget about it...Why would DeMint think anything differently? I swear, most of these guys are the Stepford Senators...

Posted by: SYSPROG on November 9, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of snakeoil, it occurs to me that therein lies an opportunity to help the economy and South Florida. The intentional or unintentional release into the Everglades of boa constrictors and their subsequent successful breeding to the detriment of the natural fauna presents a free market solution to an enviromental problem that is perfect for Republicans. Since much of the public is more than willing to purchase snakeoil and the Republicans such excellent marketeers of it, this could be a real profitable business growth opportunity: capturing and rendering those slithering pythons in the Evergaldes thereby decimating that invasive species. I must remember to send this suggestion along to DeMint. It would be perfect earmark and represent a win/win for both the Party and the environment.

Posted by: sparrow on November 9, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

I think he knows exactly what he is talking about! It depends entirely on the definition of the word waste. This is going to hurt a lot of poor people.

Posted by: thebewilderness on November 9, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Two words for the GOP's plans to balance the budget w/o cutting defense or Social Security spending: magical thinking.

To put it another way:

1) Tax cuts for the rich.
2) ???
3) Profit (for the rich)!


Posted by: Zorro on November 9, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

I think it is also important that Mr Gregory either has no idea what journalists should do or chooses to betray his calling. You end the excerpt with DeMint's blatantly false claim. Thanks for providing the link to the transcript so I can post Gregory's follow up

I continue where you cut off

"SEN. DeMINT:...
We can restore sanity in Washington without cutting any benefits to seniors or veterans.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you a final question about 2012. Who's got the inside track for president, and do you think tea party forces--yourself, Sarah Palin--have an inside track moving forward? "

There have always been politicians who are willing to lie and other politicians who remain totally ignorant because they can't be bothered to do their job (just to be clear, I think DeMint is both astonishingly ignorant and shamelessly dishonest). TV personalities who pretend to press them (as Gregory did) and let them get away with blatant falsehoods are another matter.

Think of the impression that the clip would make on someone as ignorant as Gregory is or pretends to be. DeMint is challenged to explain how to eliminate the deficit without touching entitlements. He refers to a detailed document. The debate moves on to the next topic. People who do not have the responsibility to know what's in the roadmap (as Gregory does) naturally conclude that it explains how to eliminate the deficit without touching Social Security pensions or Medicare.

How could Gregory have done more to damage public understanding of the issues ? An openly syncophantic interview would have been immesurably better, but Gregory said "I want to be very very specific ..." and then let a gigantic falsehood pass.

Politicians will lie so long as they benefit from lying (as DeMint will in this case as he did great with people who don't read lefty blogs). Lazy ignorant politicians will be re-elected if those voters who are dedicated enough to watch meet the press 5 days after an election aren't told that they are ignorant or lying.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on November 9, 2010 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

What aimai said. I had a long rambling comment which contained nothing she didn't explain in her brief comment.

I do think it is a grossly unfair to everyone who isn't David Gregory to cut the tape when DeMint finishes uttering his absurd falsehood.

"SEN. DeMINT: ...
We can restore sanity in Washington without cutting any benefits to seniors or veterans.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you a final question about 2012. Who's got the inside track for president, and do you think tea party forces--yourself, Sarah Palin--have an inside track moving forward? "

It would do much less damage if Gregory were openly syncophantic. He said he wanted to be "very very specific" then let DeMint get away with a gigantic falsehood. What could he possibly have done to do more damage to public understanding of the issues ?

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on November 9, 2010 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Gregory did have a point about the futility of going back to 2008 spending levels. But what's so special about 2008, anyway? Why not go back to 1808 spending levels. That would solve the deficit problem with money left over.

Of course, the Air Force would be screwed.

Posted by: tamiasmin on November 9, 2010 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK
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