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December 07, 2012 4:03 PM Keeping Calm About Fiscal Talk Strategy

By Ed Kilgore

Yesterday afternoon, Jonathan Chait wrote a post suggesting that since Obama concessions on the entitlement front will ultimately be made if there is to be any kind of fiscal agreement, maybe accepting a Medicare eligibility age increase wasn’t such a bad idea, because (a) conservatives value this concession well beyond its actual cost, and (b) by shifting a two-year cohort of citizens from reliance on Medicare to reliance on Obamacare, it might boost support for the latter among older folks. Chait made it clear he thought it was a very bad idea on the merits, and the whole thing read like a contrarian throw-away to me.

For the record, I don’t think argument (b) is very strong at all, and argument (a) is immensely speculative, and also contingent on what other “entitlement reform” ideas wind up on the table.

But color me appalled by David Dayan’s piece at FDL early this morning barbecuing Chait as a sell-out peddling “idiocy,” among other choice epithets. Atrios piled on by naming Chait his “Wanker of the Day” (characteristically, Chait tweeted that his acceptance speech would be issued in due time).

Dayan’s lede immediately raised some questions:

Since Jon Chait has never met a concession he didn’t like, he comes out with an endorsement of raising the Medicare eligibility age as part of a long-term deficit deal. So his cover for what is universally regarded as a terrible idea surely led deficit scolds seeking to use the problem to weaken the safety net to give each other high-fives.

Whatever else he is, Jonathan Chait is one of the most joyfully vicious partisans around. His extensive writing on the fiscal talks, far from embracing the principle of promiscuous Obama concessions, has redundantly focused, for nearly two years, on the leverage Obama enjoys from the fact that he doesn’t have to make any concessions at all in order to achieve most of his goals. And he’s also been routinely critical of the “deficit scolds” Dayen suggests Chait is aiding and abetting.

So why the categorical vitriol aimed at Chait? I dunno. Maybe it involves old grudges, which Chait is pretty good at inspiring (those who remember his savage “Diary of a Dean-o-Phobe” blog at TNR back during the 2004 presidential cycle know what I mean). Or maybe it’s precisely Chait’s relatively hard line recently on the fiscal talks that leads folks to fear a sudden lurch into surrender-monkey behavior on his part. Or perhaps it’s something personal. Or it could be just the first skirmish in the inevitable “struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party.”

But I do think it’s kind of important that progressives allow each other a bit of liberty in discussions about big fiscal issues: after all, even the Right-Wing Noise Machine is in a bit of disarray on the subject at the moment. I know some people think resisting anything that affects Social Security or Medicare benefits is the ultimate Red Line that cannot be crossed. Personally, my own fear is that in defending that Red Line, congressional Democrats will wind up making concessions on Medicaid and other low-income programs that in my opinion are more morally compelling than keeping Medicare precisely the way it is today.

Maybe my fears are misguided, or maybe I just don’t share the obsession of some liberals in keeping Medicare pristine as a potential model for a universal single-payer health care system somewhere in the distant future, even if that means today’s poor folks have to suffer as a lower priority.

But we ought to be able to talk about these things calmly—particularly at a time when it doesn’t appear conservatives know what they are doing, other than shifting blame and trying to get to the next election.

UPDATE: The esteemed Digby makes it clear her own hostility to Chait is mostly about Iraq.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Barbara on December 07, 2012 4:10 PM:

    Ed, I suspect that the Medicare-centric focus of commenters here comes from familiarity with the program, if not for themselves then through their parents. So here is a statistic to jolt them into paying attention to Medicaid: 40% of women giving birth in the United States have health care services covered through Medicaid. The need for Medicaid to be better than it is is so much more compelling than the need for Medicare never to be touched.

    But I am not and never will be in favor of raising the age of eligibility, not in the near term at least. The last thing we need is to enlarge the pool of uninsured.

  • JackD on December 07, 2012 4:18 PM:

    What's annoying about Chait's "concession" is the implication that some cuts to benefits are necessary to complete "the deal". Obama, himself, has pointed out repeatedly that cuts to a program (such as reduced payments to providers) do not require cuts to benefits to beneficiaries. It has the appearance of a floated balloon which those of us seeking to protect the safety net do not appreciate.

  • FlipYrWhig on December 07, 2012 4:26 PM:

    There's also the factor that David Dayen is an outrage addict. He's jonesing for a potential betrayal so he can feel the sweet release of righteous umbrage. You can't be in the FDL fold unless you're on a hair trigger about how that dastard Obama is just about to stab you in the back LOOK OUT BEHIND THERE HE IS OH MY GOD!!

  • gdb on December 07, 2012 4:32 PM:

    Chait does far less damage to negotiations than BHO. Like taking the 14th amendmenent off the table in debt ceiling nogotiations. Progressives should NOT be optimistic that BHO has learned that much in the last 4 years on how to negotiate with those whose main goal is your destruction. I'll be pleasantly surprised if he avoids snacting defeat from thbe jaws of victory as an end result 6 months hence.

  • Peter C on December 07, 2012 4:40 PM:

    I agree with you, Ed. I saw Chait's column and was prepared to be very angry, but when I read it, I understood his point. Part of the point of Obamacare was to make healthcare available more widely and affordably. It would cover the people excluded from Medicare through the raising of the eligibility age.

    Nevertheless, I would not like to see the medicare age raised. I'd like to retire someday, and one of the most important milestones of retiring is getting into Medicare. PERHAPS Obamacare will make healthcare affordable for someone who retires before 65, but it hasn't yet (as far as I can tell). If the Medicare eligibility age goes up, I probably will not be able retire until I'm 67, and that's disappointing.

    I'd also like to see 'Medicare for all' (otherwise known as a public option). So any move toward 'medicare for fewer' is contrary to my wishes.

    Lastly, I'm disgusted with the idea that raising the eligibility age of Medicare is REQUIRED to make the program solvent. It actaully does relatively little to improve the programs budget. The years from 65 to 67 aren't high-cost years for most.

    The biggest part of the fiscal problems of Medicare is that medical costs are rising uncontrollably. I think it is clear that the rise in costs is primarily due to the structural imperfections of the 'market' for health care. These imperfections mean that Medicare (as a healthcare organization) is relatively more effective at controlling costs than the commercial market. By moving citizens from Medicare to the private market, we'd be removing people from a sector of the health care market that most effectively contains costs and putting them in the part of the system which least effectively controls costs. That will do more harm than good.

  • lou on December 07, 2012 4:42 PM:

    Got a feeling that premiums for 65 year olds in ACA exchanges are going to be very costly even with gubment subsidies. Not likely to boost support for ACA among the olds. Sad fact is that a large chunk of the boomer population does not have enough savings for health care costs even with Medicare coverage.

    Raising the age of eligibility is the most unfair and regressive idea to come down the "bipartisan" pike from the get go. Compromising on this low hanging fruit for the sake of getting the Bush tax cuts rescinded on the upper 2% is the easy street for dems if it should come to this "bargain". Another bad deal for the country.

  • Th on December 07, 2012 5:04 PM:

    Raising the Medicare age makes the cost per enrolled higher and premiums higher. To offset this, I recommend letting people buy Medicare in the exchanges down to the lowest age I could away with. At least demand a one-for-one trade: if you raise the Medicare age to 67, you allow 63 and above to buy in.

    Medicaid should be a federal program and not left to the states. What good are economic stabilizers when you are required to run a balanced budget?

  • bmoodie on December 07, 2012 5:06 PM:

    You hit the nail on the head when you say Chait is "one of the most joyfully vicious partisans around." His latest post on Krauthammer is a perfect case in point. If I were a conservative, I would hate him more than any other lefty pundit because of the real glee he takes in making fun of right-wing clownishness. With Krugman, say, he's always making a substantive argument; Chait just twists the knife. Gotta say, I love him to death for it. I'm guessing he actually kinda enjoys the hate from other lefties as well.

    Incidentally, my reaction to his proposal was largely the same as yours, though less articulately worked out.

  • Andy Olsen on December 07, 2012 5:17 PM:

    We need to stop the retreat that centrist Dems, DLC and Third Way Dems have championed for years. It is hurting people. It's not hurting the centrists but it's hurting people who, for example, would lose health care at 65 or be saddled with huge costs. People who work with their bodies and make lower wages need that mostly symbolic (not expensive) Medicare eligibility.

    But raising the eligibility age will not satisfy the right wing. They will come back for more and this will be a template for more such deals. Really, screw it. Fight back! No mas!

    Many Democrats who came of age in the 1980s and 90s know political bargains to be things where Democrats give up previously won gains for crumbs. Basically, they sell off the family heirlooms for some glory. That needs to change.

  • Registeredguest on December 07, 2012 5:18 PM:

    An email I sent to Ed.

    Hello,

    Read your post re: Keeping Calm and Jonathan Chait.

    I too like his articles and have followed him for a long time but what has bothered me for some time now, whether it's Chait, the Washington Monthly (which I read every day), or say Chris Matthews (who loves him some Simpson Bowles) is that the discussion rarely ever turns to significant cuts in our bloated defense spending. Defense cuts are sometimes mentioned in passing but it never comes close to the level of scrutiny or discussion as do entitlements.

    I wish the Democratic party and liberal commentators like you Ed would hammer on the notion of defense cuts in much greater proportion than you speak of entitlement reform.

    I would also like you and the Democratic party to shout from the rooftops that the middle and disadvantaged classes of this country have already paid enough to the top 2%. More than enough giving up 40% of family income since 2007. Don't talk about sharing the pain. We are living the pain now.

    I would suggest we not even talk about entitlement reform until:

    1. Defense spending is cut 30%
    2. Tax cuts for the rich go up to Clinton era rates.
    3. Hedge fund investors pay the same tax rate as the working man.
    4. Subsidies for farms and oil are ended.
    5. Laws that favor sending jobs overseas be done away with.
    6. We borrow all the cheap money China and Japan will lend us to revitalize our infrastructure.

    After we do those six things then let's see where the economy is. I would bet it would be so healthy we would not have to talk about entitlement reform at all.

    I know the immediate response will be that as laudable as those items are we'd never get agreement with the republicans. True enough but liberals should still be out in front in defining what is really fair and not letting the republicans lead the debate. Liberals have to long ceded the talking points to them.

    Regards
    Registeredguest

  • Gangis Khan on December 07, 2012 5:20 PM:

    I think the concern over the "vitriol" here is a bit misplaced. Earlier this week, Ed pointed out the trouble liberals are having with message discipline regarding the terminology of the Fiscal Drop-in-Altitude-of-Some-Sort. Here, the left is trying to come up with a single, coherent message (no cuts to Medicare benefits, including eligibility-age increases), and John Chait is undermining that message by breaking ranks. That Chait knows that no concessions are necessary makes his comments more galling.

    Without being able to see into Dday or Atrios' heart of hearts, I'm gonna say this probably isn't all that personal against Chait. He muddied the message, so a strong show of disapproval was necessary to show that the left is not behind his proposal.

  • lou on December 07, 2012 5:23 PM:

    I am not appalled by Dayan's piece at all. I wholeheartedly agree. Not sure "vitriol" best describes the critique. I thought it was reasonably mild and well argued.

    But, nonetheless, both Chait and Kilgore are incredibly good writers and I enjoy reading both of their usually well thought out pieces.

  • CharlieM on December 07, 2012 5:29 PM:

    Chait deserves to be bonked for this one. It does double damage - removing the healthiest eligibles from Medicare and adds them to ACA where they'd be expected to comprise the least healthy.
    I'm still convinced that Repubs aren't really maneuvering to protect the 2%. That's just an bargaining chip for what they're really after - trashing Medicare and SS. And Chait doesn't do anyone any favors by conceeding that, well, we're going to have to conceed *some* trashing and so it might as well be...
    No we're not. You and Chait need to quit burbling on about it.

  • DougMN on December 07, 2012 5:37 PM:

    Ed,

    Your comment regarding your interpretation of Digby was dishonest. She is not basing her comments about Chait on her dislikes of his Iraq war stand. She believes, rightly, that he is a fool (or VSP if you prefer to be polite) and uses his comments/actions regarding Iraq as an illustration of what a fool he is. I think the difference is important.

  • Doug on December 07, 2012 6:02 PM:

    If anyone wants to raise the Medicare eligibility age, wouldn't it make more sense to first have something actually in place to assist those who will need HCI converage between the time they retire and do become eligible for Medicare?
    Obamacare is just getting off the ground and there's still much that needs doing for it to operate as planned (can you say: "exchanges"?). AFTER Obamacare is up and running, after we've had some time to see what, if anything, needs adjusting/changing, THEN we can talk about raising the eligibility age for Medicare.
    Now isn't the time and Chait should know better.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on December 07, 2012 7:26 PM:

    Nope. Kilgore and his Third Way-ianism is wrong (again) and Dayan is right. There is no justification for Medicare being on the table AT ALL. All this does is allow starve the beast to succeed.

    Understand what is happening here, folks:

    Obama is fighting to keep the W tax cuts. Seriously! His 2012 victory for President was to get 2 cents on the dollar on income over $250,000? That's fucking it?

    Obama's already saved the Republican party once. If he makes this stupid-beyond-belief deal, Obama will have gone much, much further: saved the Republican party twice, decimated any Democratic enthusiasm, pissed away his victory this November, and made 2014 to be a rerun of 2010.

    Surely all man's invented gods won't let Obama be this spinelessly stupid. Surely.

  • Aaron Morrow on December 07, 2012 9:11 PM:

    Whatever else he is, Jonathan Chait is one of the most joyfully vicious bipartisans around. While he's a much better writer and thinker than a Joe Klein, he has a history of playing the "pox on both houses" card. He has a history of being a Marshall Wittman-esque liberal basher, and Digby's quote illustrates this.

    Granny-starving may be bad politics, but it's also bad policy. How dare people take Chait at his word?

  • Aaron Morrow on December 07, 2012 9:31 PM:

    P.S. For what it's worth, Chait has supported bipartisan plans to cut Social Security and Medicare for over a year:

    http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/91039/give-coburn-and-lieberman-chance

  • Neildsmith on December 07, 2012 10:17 PM:

    There are times the progressive agenda seems to consist exclusively of taking money from young people and giving it to old people (and their doctors) who, ironically, hate the progressive agenda. I guess we're prepared to tax the rich too, but it's just not clear to me that our support for useless old republicans is terribly smart.

    Methinks we're being played.

  • billb on December 07, 2012 11:25 PM:

    None of this chaf matters except the historic opportunity to cut a bit of the bloated military budget. Our beloved troops have SIX times the capacity of the potential enemies. They need a haircut.
    Wave your arms high as we merrily sail off the cliff!

  • Peterh32 on December 08, 2012 1:52 AM:

    No no no no. Give up two years of Medicare to keep the fat cats' taxes nice and low? Screw that. I'd rather go over the damned fiscal cliff. Why the hell is anyone even talking about this? Why do we even HAVE Democrats if they're this anxious to sell out working people?

  • lou on December 08, 2012 7:41 AM:

    Chait's argument that raising the age of eligibility will strengthen the olds' support for ACA by substituting for Medicare for 2 more years may prove to be very weak or even have the opposite result. No one knows how much premiums will cost under the ACA exchanges. The private insurers are not going to lose money on these deals. And medical costs are still rising rapidly. So, I expect premiums under ACA to not be more affordable than they are now. Govt. subsidies to help defray those costs to the lower income seniors may prove to be much higher than anticipated. And ACA could turn out to be more more of a deficit creator than a deficit reducer. Which would significantly strengthen the conservative arguments against it from the get go. Plus, this will only drive the providers to charge more, reinforcing the vicious cycle of health care inflation.

    So, how exactly does one justify bad policy? By the same "bargaining" that has undermined the interests of the common man for the past 40 years. We are in the era of putting the least worst options on the table instead of envisioning an alternate to the unsustainable American Way. We are in the era of the cascading of tipping points. Hold on.

  • AF on December 08, 2012 8:41 AM:

    I have to say I'm very disappointed by this post.

    Raising the Medicare eligilibity age undermines the project of universal health coverage. Policy-wise, the ACA is a weak substitute for Medicare for all. There's still huge resistance to it among Republicans, who are, with still trying to kill Medicare and Medicaid. This would raise costs both for the ACA and Medicare, because moving 65 and 66 year olds make both pools sicker.

    And then there's the facts that Americans hate the idea and Obama never mentioned it during the campaign. This is unbelievably bad politics. Would Democrats ever have any credibility saying they're the protectors of Medicare?

    Just awful. And for what? Tax rates go up automatically.

  • Cranky Observer on December 08, 2012 9:50 AM:

    = = = the Washington Monthly (which I read every day), or say Chris Matthews (who loves him some Simpson Bowles) is that the discussion rarely ever turns to significant cuts in our bloated defense spending. Defense cuts are sometimes mentioned in passing but it never comes close to the level of scrutiny or discussion as do entitlements. = = =

    Keep in mind that the Washington Monthly's editorial position is to strengthen the move toward transforming our society into Sparta by requiring all colleges to host ROTC programs, regardless of any objections those colleges (whether public or private) may have to US military policies. So this is hardly a surprise.

    Cranky

    settGui FROM - 1st try

  • Phil Perspective on December 08, 2012 12:27 PM:

    DougMN:
    You are 100% right re: Chait.

  • Howlin Wolfe on December 08, 2012 12:45 PM:

    As Atrios points out, it's not high school; it's not about the moral character of Jon Chait. But if someone's reasoning is suspect, as is Chait's in his post, people are going to come down on them.
    The point of "wanker of the day" isn't to make fun of that person (although it does, it's not the point). The point is, as Atrios uses the word "wanker" isn't to call the proposed wanker a bad name. It's to point out that they're engaged in futile, spurious Broderesque "bipartisanship" which usually means beating up on DFHs. The rancor is part of the internet culture. If one is afraid of starting a blood feud, maybe they shouldn't be posting on the 'tubes.
    For me, Atrios brought to my attention what a bad idea raising Medicare eligibility is, even for Chait's reason. It most likely won't help the ACA be more accepted. It would cut the legs out from under the ACA. That's the point of all the vitriol (which is pretty mild by comparison to the right's internecine struggles).
    I don't think Chait's some kind of ideological traitor who must be shunned in polite society and all cocktail happy hours; I just think his argument is bad, and if the terms get a little sharp, well, as he's shown already, he can handle it, and I'd bet, even maybe change his mind.

  • scott on December 08, 2012 1:04 PM:

    Color me appalled by your moral blindness and tone-deafness. This isn't a game. It involves the very real risk of endangering people's health and lives if the eligibility age is raised. So people like you and Chait, who seem to think this is an intellectual parlor game, can calmly play your "would it be a good idea or not if we made granny's life harder?" while making fun of people who react strongly and emotionally to the idea. Your reaction doesn't prove that folks like Atrios are shrill and OTT, but it does prove that you're one of those milk-water liberals morally disengaged from the real-world impact of your abstract discussions. So, shame on you rather than shame on him. Wanker.

  • Blaarg on December 08, 2012 1:17 PM:

    If Republicans want Democrats to agree to Medicare cuts, perhaps they should stop attacking Democrats for cutting Medicare.

  • scott on December 08, 2012 1:19 PM:

    I also agree with DougMN and Phil Perspective that the aside about Digby is pretty dishonest. She made clear in her posts that she disagreed with Chait on the merits and linked to a piece that throughly demolished his arguments. Her point about Iraq was only to show that the same deficiencies in evidence, reasoning, and logic that characterize his views on Medicare were also present in his views on Iraq. So she was saying that not only is Chait wrong now but that he has a habit of being wrong, illogical and unreasonable on some pretty important matters. That's a long way away from saying that she's hostile to Chait "mostly about Iraq," suggesting irrelevant and possibly improper motives. This is either a very sloppy reading of her or deliberately dishonest misreading.

  • Wapiti on December 08, 2012 1:21 PM:

    I'll echo scott and DougMN and others. Reading the Digby piece, it seems clear that her problem with Chait is that his "solutions" seem strictly political. He doesn't seem to gives a rat's ass about what happens to the people that will be affected by his policy proposals.

    So invade Iraq because of WMD; death and suffering from war doesn't need to be considered. Oh, that didn't work; so reimpose Saddam on the Iraqi people (as if imposing dictators in the ME isn't part of a long-term problem. And we need a bargain so let's raise the Medicare age to 67; never mind all of the people that will effectively be unable to retire from miserable jobs because they desperately need medical coverage; never mind all of the people who aren't working that will not have medical coverage for another two years.

    Great ideas, if you don't give a rat's ass about consequences.

  • Citizen Alan on December 08, 2012 1:24 PM:

    I can imagine a targeted increase in Medicare availability that would not only be acceptable but would actually improve the status quo greatly. Just off the top of my head:
    (1) raise full eligibility to 67 for most recipients;
    (2) HOWEVER, allow full eligibility beginning at 65 or preferably even younger for (a) people who make below a certain income when they reach that age and (b) people who have worked for a certain number of years in occupations with a higher risk for long term health issues (cops, firefighters, miners, construction workers, etc).
    (3) allow workers to buy into Medicare as a public option health care plan starting at 50.

    I just don't think we're going to get anything like that and will probably just get a flat increase to 67 across the board because the people who support that policy honestly don't care how many of their fellow citizens will suffer and die just to finance reduced tax rates for some of the richest people in the world.

  • Nancy cadet on December 08, 2012 1:44 PM:

    Jon Chair, Steny Hoyer...we don't need them like we didn't need JoeLieberman! Raising the eligibility age for Medicare is a terrible idea that will hurt many people, but I guess for some , the human cost doesn't matter. With my union brothers and sisters, I've fought for many years to extend insurance coverage to part time workers. Now that fund is runningout of money and our municipal employer is refusing to replenish it. I have colleagues aged 60-64 who can't wait to qualify for Medicare and don't know what they will do once the insurance expires. And in NYC an office visit can cost $500 in cash.

    Needless to say, Medicare should have been extended to younger ages in lieu of the ACA for profit mess.

    I do think support or opposition to the Iraq war is a good rule of thumb when assessing columnists' (or friends) judgment. Digby is right to criticize Chair on both counts, Atrios is not a middle school bully and Dayen is not a hysteric. They're acute and smart and unapologetic leftists.

  • BigBuck on December 08, 2012 2:08 PM:

    Here's my entire reaction to Chait.

    Good government does not mean "Try to make Republicans like you."

  • beb on December 08, 2012 2:11 PM:

    I think what's happen re Chait is that progressives have drawn a line in the sand - no cuts to social security. No cuts to medicare. No more cuts to any of the social safety net. The republicans, they argue, will just keep nibbling away at SS and medicare until it's all gone. So never - never - never allow them to be on the table.

  • liberal on December 08, 2012 2:23 PM:

    scott wrote, Her point about Iraq was only to show that the same deficiencies in evidence, reasoning, and logic that characterize his views on Medicare were also present in his views on Iraq.

    Well, he's a TNR alum, right? How could he not support invading Iraq?

  • pseudonymous in nc on December 08, 2012 2:35 PM:

    Raising the Medicare entitlement age is stupid policy. It is counter-productive policy. Even contemplating it empowers the Catfood Caucus in Washington, which is Very Serious about starving grannies.

  • hoosier on December 08, 2012 2:48 PM:

    Your triumphant postscript to this post -- see! it's all about old grudges over Iraq! -- reminds me of that scene in the Breakfast Club ...

    Brian: I'm an idiot because I can't make a lamp?
    Bender: No, you're a genius because you can't make a lamp.

  • Teddy Partridge on December 08, 2012 3:01 PM:

    Spell David's damn name right, and we'll talk.

  • some guy on December 08, 2012 3:30 PM:

    anybody who thinks that, much less writes that, Chait is a progressive is in need of some serious medication.

  • Anthony McCarthy on December 08, 2012 3:47 PM:

    Yes a lot of liberal bloggers have a chronic case of chicken-little complex, no, they are not wrong about the dangers of being sold out, yes, some of them can be rather unfair at times, no, they are not being unfair to Chait, yes, real people will be hurt by the usual pieces of crap (Coburn, Lieberman), no, no, no, no, real Democrats shouldn't try to give the stinking Republicans something in exchange for increased taxes on the stinking rich who have been trying to steal everything they can get their hands on forever.

    Lieberman and Snowe will, Thank God, soon be some dirt stains on the rather sordid history of the Senate. There is no reason to give them and their like anything.

  • Teddy Partridge on December 08, 2012 4:01 PM:

  • dannzymusk on December 08, 2012 5:39 PM:

    "The esteemed Digby makes it clear her own hostility to Chait is mostly about Iraq."

    lulks

    troll betta, edda

  • UVP on December 08, 2012 5:55 PM:

    "UPDATE: The esteemed Digby makes it clear her own hostility to Chait is mostly about Iraq."

    Digby directly addresses Chait's position about raising the Medicare age, *then* reminds people of Chait's past dubious positions. The idea that bringing up Chait's idiotic Iraq position means that she doesn't really care about his Medicare position is your own dishonest spin, as anyone who just clicks over to read her can see.

  • Vr on December 08, 2012 7:31 PM:

    If you're premise is that it is never appropriate to inject emotional outrage in a politically oriented blog post then fine and good, Dayen, Digby and Atrios are in the wrong. Though the fact that it's you invoking it in support of Chait (especially) raises such an assertion to grotesque hypocrisy.

    If your premise is that it's never appropriate for liberals to attack Chait (irrespective of the inanity of his argument) in the manner and with the intensity he's been attacked, then again: OK. But I would expect somewhere along the line a case to be made as to made, or referenced, as to why such exceptionalism is justified in the case of Chait; something not made in the above post.

    If, as appears to be the case, you're arguing that the specific attacks level against Chait are deficient, then I would expect some type of reasoning that addresses the arguments and teases out the way in which they are disproportional, based on faulting logic or founded on a false premise. I mean, if you have any type of professional responsibility or intellectual integrity, that is an imperative of the first order.

    Instead the line of reasoning is as follows: I read Chait's post and felt it to be slightly off key but not egregious, therefor anyone making a stronger case against it is being hyperbolic. That is not something worthy of a response in comment section, let alone of a major contributor to what is supposedly one of the nation's leading political reporting institutions, the Washington Monthly.

    Nowhere is Atrios' primary contention that millions of Americans will be forced into the ranks of the uninsured, or poorly insured, by dint of living in a state that opts out of Obamacare addressed, or the fact that thousands, perhaps millions, will suffer needlessly or die because they did not get the appropriate treatment early enough, or at all. And his corollary, that that due to the age demographics involved many of the diseases inadequately treated will been ones like various cancers where the difference in outcomes is stark, short treatments, with total remission and high 10 year survival rates, when detected early and treated, vs extremely costly and agonizing, lengthy, and debilitating treatments with slim chances of success, when detected and treated later. It's hard to imagine why such a policy choice is not worthy of emotional outrage. Surely, it part of your, uh, job, to either enlighten us as to how such scenario really isn't that bad, or make a case against why it's impossible or at the least sufficiently improbably as to make a gamble on such a risk acceptable.

    And instead of addressing Digby's argument that once such defects are discovered that history indicates it will be impossible to rollback the increased eligibility claim, or Dayen's rather devastating argument that even if somehow one could rationalize the policy aspects of such an increase, the politics of it would be catastrophic for Democrats and their policy initiatives, even ones that never have to face the wrath of the ballot box again, the best that we get are ad hominem attacks and worse a red herring about how Digby criticized Chait on Iraq, so one, apparently shouldn't take her Medicare critiques seriously. And of course, even there are told about how here attacks on Chait were unfair? Or how they, even if unfair, undermine her independent attack on Chait's suggestion of raising the eligibility claim? Of course not.

  • bluememe on December 08, 2012 8:41 PM:

    Granted, Chait isn't committing a crime on his own, but he is contributing to one by playing a bit part in a larger drama, ably documented by Glenn Greenwald (step two below):

    STEP ONE: Liberals will declare that cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits -- including raising the eligibility age or introducing "means-testing" -- are absolutely unacceptable, that they will never support any bill that does so no matter what other provisions it contains, that they will wage war on Democrats if they try.

    STEP TWO: As the deal gets negotiated and takes shape, progressive pundits in Washington, with Obama officials persuasively whispering in their ears, will begin to argue that the proposed cuts are really not that bad, that they are modest and acceptable, that they are even necessary to save the programs from greater cuts or even dismantlement.

    STEP THREE: Many progressives -- ones who are not persuaded that these cuts are less than draconian or defensible on the merits -- will nonetheless begin to view them with resignation and acquiescence on pragmatic grounds. Obama has no real choice, they will insist, because he must reach a deal with the crazy, evil GOP to save the economy from crippling harm, and the only way he can do so is by agreeing to entitlement cuts. It is a pragmatic necessity, they will insist, and anyone who refuses to support it is being a purist, unreasonably blind to political realities, recklessly willing to blow up Obama's second term before it even begins.

    STEP FOUR: The few liberal holdouts, who continue to vehemently oppose any bill that cuts Social Security and Medicare, will be isolated and marginalized, excluded from the key meetings where these matters are being negotiated, confined to a few MSNBC appearances where they explain their inconsequential opposition.

    STEP FIVE: Once a deal is announced, and everyone from Obama to Harry Reid and the DNC are behind it, any progressives still vocally angry about it and insisting on its defeat will be castigated as ideologues and purists, compared to the Tea Party for their refusal to compromise, and scorned (by compliant progressives) as fringe Far Left malcontents.

    STEP SIX: Once the deal is enacted with bipartisan support and Obama signs it in a ceremony, standing in front of his new Treasury Secretary, the supreme corporatist Erskine Bowles, where he touts the virtues of bipartisanship and making "tough choices," any progressives still complaining will be told that it is time to move on. Any who do not will be constantly reminded that there is an Extremely Important Election coming -- the 2014 midterm -- where it will be Absolutely Vital that Democrats hold onto the Senate and that they take over the House. Any progressives, still infuriated by cuts to Social Security and Medicare, who still refuse to get meekly in line behind the Party will be told that they are jeopardizing the Party's chances for winning that Vital Election and -- as a result of their opposition - are helping Mitch McConnell take over control of the Senate and John Boehner retain control of the House.


    You wouldn't be thinking along the lines of step 3, would you, Mr. Kilgore?

  • Maryinchicago on December 08, 2012 10:33 PM:

    Raising the eligibility age is the dumbest idea on the planet, not simply because it cuts the federal government's costs by raising costs for seniors, their employers, and ACA exchange insurance programs, but because increased life expectancy is a class-mediated phenomenon. It's NOT construction workers or waitresses or cabdrivers or retail clerks who are living well past 90: it's Wall Street moguls and U.S. senators! Poor and working class Americans are lucky if they make it to 80; white collar workers, to 85. So raising the eligibility age is simply more "voodoo economics": shoveling billions of dollars from the poor and working and middle class to the richest of the rich. Now why does ANYONE think THAT's sound public policy?