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April 11, 2013 12:17 PM More Chutzpah on “Entitlement Reform”

By Ed Kilgore

In yesterday’s Day’s End post I noted this predictable development, as reported by TPM’s Brian Beutler:

Remember those warnings about how instead of welcoming President Obama’s adoption of Chained CPI, Republicans would continue to deny him a budget deal and attack him for proposing to cut Social Security?
Well Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) — who also happens to be chairman of the House GOP’s re-election committee — just showed how it’s done, saying Obama’s budget “lays out a shocking attack on seniors.”
“I’ll tell you when you’re going after seniors the way he’s already done on Obamacare, taken $700 billion out of Medicare to put into Obamacare and now coming back at seniors again, I think you’re crossing that line very quickly here in terms of denying access to seniors for health care in districts like mine certainly and around the country,” he said on CNN Wednesday afternoon.

So after not only begging but demanding that Obama embrace “entitlement reform” generally and curtailment of Social Security benefits in particular, Republicans will now blast Obama for taking them up on it, according to the guy who will be in charge of funding 2014 House campaigns for his party. Note that Walden also reiterated past Republican attacks on Obama for “Medicare cuts.”

So far, the only intra-communal criticism of Walden for this hypocritical demagoguery has come from the Club for Growth’s Chris Chocola, who has demanded the Oregon solon “clarify” his remarks lest someone get the impression Republicans don’t actually favor “entitlement reform” (Joe Scaraborough also took a shot at Walden, but last time I checked he doesn’t sign off on Republican campaign ads).

As Walden’s own reference to Medicare illustrated, he was really just following the precedent set in 2012, when Paul Ryan was literally posing with old folks to demonstrate his brave resistance to Obama’s “cuts” even as he promoted a budget proposal that contained the very same provisions.

Now Republicans may claim that both Ryan and Walden were technically correct in that their own favored “reforms” to both Social Security and Medicare involve benefit cuts for future beneficiaries while “grandfathering” current retirees (this doesn’t absolve Ryan for incorporating Medicare provisions affecting current retirees in his own budget, but does distinguish that particular bit of hypocrisy from his broader Medicare voucher proposal). That has indeed been part and parcel of the intergenerational warfare many GOP pols have conducted, suggesting that virtuous old white conservative “base” voters would suffer so that Obama could reward those people with more of old folks’ money.

The most you can say about this gambit politically is that it once agains shows Republicans are willing to sacrifice any chance at bipartisan budgeting in order to put out some fresh chump bait on the campaign trail. At Daily Kos, Jed Lewison is actually thanking Walden for “saving the Democratic Party from itself” by not only rejecting but attacking Obama’s gesture of willingness to violate Democratic taboos on Social Security. Deficit hawks may tut-tut and ask for the Great Big Adults of the GOP to rebuke Walden. But any Democrat who actually has to run for election or re-election any time in the near future has gotten the message loud and clear.

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

  • Stetson Kennedy on April 11, 2013 12:29 PM:

    The most you can say about this gambit politically is that it once agains shows Republicans are willing to sacrifice any chance at bipartisan budgeting in order to put out some fresh chump bait on the campaign trail.

    No, what else you can say about this gambit politically is that Obama should have seen this coming. He's tried this "gambit" before, offering concessions before the negotiating begins, and getting his had bitten by rabid RepubliCONs. Now, however, the RepubliCONs are joined by an overwhelming majority of the Dem caucus.

    For someone who is alleged to be such a good politician, how Obama didn't account for this is absolutely mind-numbing. I could see using this offer as a way to blame sequester cuts on Repubs, but not when YOUR OWN CAUCUS rejects it en masse!

    I am seriously having second thoughts about Obama. I understand he is dealing with an opposition party that is completely unwilling to govern, but that doesn't mean he should continually play into their hands. And by invoking the political third rail, he is endangering every dem running in 2014.

    If he thinks it's bad now, how doea Obama think it will look in 2015 if he's dealing with RepubliCON majorities in both houses?

  • esaud on April 11, 2013 12:38 PM:

    It's not just chutzpah, you can't find a thimble full of integrity or seriousness of purpose anywhere in the GOP.

    That Obama is hellbent on negotiating with them is out and out foolish. What a chump.

  • j on April 11, 2013 12:39 PM:

    Obama should say now 'OK I will take chained CPI off my budget to please republicans'
    I have been unable to find the republican budget anywhere online, I find vague statements with no numbers, so how can we equate the two?
    I am one of those who still thinks Obama knows exactly what he is doing and what will be the outcome.

  • Gandalf on April 11, 2013 12:55 PM:

    I never cease to be amazed at what a bunch of spineless jellyfish liberals relly are. Obama is trying to adress a serious problem by doing what the american people have repeatedly said they're in favor of i.e. raising taxes and cutting spending. So what do liberals do? Thet nash their teeth.

  • a new yorker on April 11, 2013 12:57 PM:

    I'm still waiting for Republicans to point out that, because it slows the increase in adjustments to income tax brackets, the chained CPI will also constitute an income tax increase for millions of middle-class taxpayers.This is clearly a violation of PBO's pledge not to raise taxes on those making less than $250K (taxpayers in the top bracket won't be affected by this bec. they already are in the top bracket).

    Add this to the implications for military benefits, and the Republican ads for 2014 just write themselves.

  • Steve LaBonne on April 11, 2013 1:04 PM:

    I never cease to be amazed at what a bunch of spineless jellyfish liberals relly are. Obama is trying to adress a serious problem by doing what the american people have repeatedly said they're in favor of i.e. raising taxes and cutting spending. So what do liberals do? Thet nash their teeth.

    I suggest you check the poll numbers on chained CPI and then get back to us on this. No, this is not what "the American people" want. Nobody except a handful of Beltway deficit chickenhawks wants it.

  • c u n d gulag on April 11, 2013 1:14 PM:

    This was entirely, 100% predictable!

    And, though it will be the pinnacle of hypocricy, I can easily see the Republicans running on “SAVING” SS in 2014 and 2016 – much like they did with running as the great “protectors” of Medicare in 2010.

    Basically, they will be a pack of hungry wolves accusing the vegetarian shephards out shearing their sheep, of actually wanting to make rare lamb-chops and roasts out of them.

    And once the shephards are out of the way – DINNER!!!!!

  • bluestatedon on April 11, 2013 1:16 PM:

    My longtime political scientist brother and I have been scratching our heads trying to figure out just what in the fuck Obama was thinking. We hope that this is just another example of rope-a-dope, with Obama knowing in advance that the GOPers would reject his proposals out of hand. The problem is that Obama already proposed it, and now he owns it, regardless of what happens next. Every Democrat in every district with even a small number of retirees will run, not walk, in the opposite direction from Obama for the next 18 months because of this. Why any President would do this to his own party members is beyond me, and just confirms again what my brother and I have believed since 2009: Barack Obama might have great abilities and instincts as a candidate, but as a President his political skills and acumen are ridiculously over-rated by his most ardent supporters.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on April 11, 2013 1:20 PM:

    @j

    I hope to the heavens you're right. Since the President's budget proposal is nothing more than ink on paper, I'm hoping that this is just an attempt to give the GOP more rope to hang themselves with.

    Really, how many acts of public flagellation does Obama have to commit before he's satisfied that we're convinced that the GOP are bunch of unreasonable asshats? I think (or hope) by this point, Obama has earned enough cred to tell the GOP take their obstruction and just shove it already! True, nothing will really happen afterwards, but at least I think it would light a quick fire in the media. (He can also call out the both-sides-do-it hack-mongers while he's at it).

    I don't like the olive branch method, anymore.

  • Rick B on April 11, 2013 1:25 PM:

    I don't think we will see a more clear demonstration of what the Republicans want. They refuse opportunities to actually govern and instead do everything possible to regain power over the government.

    Elect the Republicans back into power and I will absolutely guarantee that they will create another unnecessary war in order to stay in power. But govern? Only for the upper class. They clearly don't give a damn about the '47%' as they characterize most Americans.

    Today's Republican Party is more of a danger to America and Americans than the Communists every hoped to be.

  • Rick B on April 11, 2013 1:42 PM:

    Although I sometimes have my doubts, I also agree with @j above. I think the White House really does know what it is doing.

    I also suspect that the reason we don't know out here in the sticks is because of that information got out the enemy could block most of what the White House is trying to accomplish. The goal of the Republican party is to literally stop all efforts at governance by the Democratic President - and then run to elect the Republican slate based on the Democratic incompetence in governing.

    It's literally all-or-nothing tribal style warfare by the (rural and primitive culture) Republicans, while the Democrats can't respond in kind because to do so would destroy the modern urban culture that most of America today is based on.

    Ernest Gellner described such destructive tribal behavior as being based on people too blind to realize that they would cease to have the political power and freedom they are using if they achieved what they are trying to do. Modern liberal democracy is in fact rather fragile if it is misused the way the Republicans and Southerners are doing.

  • Gandalf on April 11, 2013 1:43 PM:

    Steve LaBonne i'll repeat what I said. What the american people have siad repeatedly in polls is that they want taxes raised along with spending cuts. Now I never mentioned CPI. Somewhere somehow somebody has to give in on their entrenched positions to get something done.

  • Anonymous on April 11, 2013 2:00 PM:

    @Gandalf

    Cutting spending is a vague term that, survey after survey shows, evaporates when you specify the cuts. In particular, cutting Social Security is incredibly unpopular. People might accept it as a last resort - even though it would be of marginal utility for short term deficits anyway - but we as a country have barely, barely looked at raising revenues.

  • RaflW on April 11, 2013 2:06 PM:

    "Barack Obama might have great abilities and instincts as a candidate, but as a President his political skills and acumen are ridiculously over-rated by his most ardent supporters."

    Its worse than that. He has a cadre of advisors who have totally drunk the deficit scold koolaid. I think they actually believe that chained CPI is an answer. While totally abandoning the tens of millions of people who ain't got work now, ain't earning money and ain't paying into SSI now and, if they ever find work again, will pay in based on lover lifetime earnings for decades to come.

    His advisors are the Wall Street Barrons and "geniuses" who've been engineering the massive migration of wealth upwards. Its the biggest scandal of his administration. Except it isn't a scandal because its how the deal gets done in American politics.

    (This is not to suggest that Dems=Repubs. Obama is better on many other things, but on econ policy & tax policy, he's pretty damn lame/in with the elite + Villager class).

  • gdb on April 11, 2013 3:07 PM:

    Progressives need recognize that BHO is NOT a Progressive... or, if one, is politically terminally dense and spineless. The Neville Chamberlain or James Buchanan of the 21st century.

    Progressive Dems need oppose BHO now--- and start looking for a Dem to support from the Dem wing of the Dem party who consistently advcocates Progressive policies(and, no, that is not Hillary.. BHO has been following Clintonesque economics from 2008, using Clinton advisors). The political game is on for 2016.. someone need come forward and advocate Keynesian economic policies in contrast to BHO's moderate to Reaganesque policles AND farther-right TEA policies.

  • jeri on April 11, 2013 3:12 PM:

    Oh, please. Obama's budget proposal includes the cuts he wants and excludes other alternative cuts/revenue increases he doesn't want. He's not an idiot, and he knew exactly what the Republican reaction would be. And he also knows it is a deal-breaker for many but doesn't care. It isn't the first time.

    I don't believe for a minute that this was some sort of 10-dimensional chess move by Obama. I think he truly supports cutting SS benefits. And increasing middle class taxes to reduce the burden on the downtrodden wealthy. He has surrounded himself with Goldman Sachs people and he agrees with their view of who deserves what. The budget proposal is exactly in line with Blankfein's comments last November that the middle class should lower its expectations (despite a rising per capita GDP!).

    And Walden's criticisms were spot on whether they were cynical or not. Truth is truth.

    I'm getting tired of Ed making excuses for Obama. Obama proposed the cuts and he owns them.

  • gdb on April 11, 2013 3:13 PM:

    @Gandolf. I never cease to be amazed at how spineless and politically dense most Blue Dog Dems are. If born a century ago, they still be praising Munich as the best hope for "Peace in our time" in 1944 --- or non-defense of Sumter in 1864 as the lost best chance to avoid a conflict.

  • Stetson Kennedy on April 11, 2013 4:11 PM:

    I never cease to be amazed at what a bunch of spineless jellyfish liberals relly are. Obama is trying to adress a serious problem by doing what the american people have repeatedly said they're in favor of i.e. raising taxes and cutting spending. So what do liberals do? Thet nash their teeth.

    Well, Gandalf, maybe you can enlighten us on exactly how tying SS to the chained CPI helps "control spending"? For one thing, SS is funded entirely independently from federal withholding; secondly, it is solvent for another 20 years or so; and lastly, even the WH admits that its impact will be negligible and won't be felt for some time.

    So what was the point? Why take arrows from RepubliCONs, Democrats and everyone in between? If there's a greater play here, I'll be very interested to see what it is. Unfortunately, I suspect it is another negotiating misstep.

  • Doug on April 11, 2013 5:34 PM:

    Stetson, have you forgotten those interest-earning Treasury Bonds purchased by the SS Trust Fund to fund my and the rest of the "Boomers'" retirement? $2.7 trillion worth of 'em, I understand and it will take something along the lines of $100 billion or more a year out of the general fund to redeem them. *That* contribution to the deficit?
    Frankly, as long as the Democrats get a majority in the HOuse in '14 and keep the Senate, I rather doubt if President Obama cares whether or not Democrats feel they must run against his CPI proposal. I'll even suggest an ad. Something along the lines of: "The President has proposed a new CPI for determining SS to help reduce the deficit. I don't agree. Let's first close loopholes that only benefit those who don't need help."?
    And no, being on SS myself, I don't like the idea of the chained CPI and have written to protest it.

  • Rick B on April 11, 2013 7:03 PM:

    @RaflW

    BHO was not perfect going in. He did not plan on the financial collapse and organized his team around achieving universal health insurance of some kind. At that he succeeded in restructering the American way of financing healtgh care and who can get it. He did not plan on or prepare for the economy falling out of bed.

    On the fly he had to hire staff to deal with the financial collapse of September 2008. That was no time to get intellectuals. He needed guys capable of understanding and dealing with the banks (yes, the source of the problem.) The fact that we are not talking about the Great Depression II tells you he did rather well. But like a general in combat, there have been a lot of battles lost, some of them long term.

    He did not get any real economists on his team who he trusted. He is still getting bank/finance/accounting advice and if you read Krugman you can tell where that is now idiotic. But if he fires some of them and hires real economists his political enemies have leverage to attack him. Besides, the economists who understand the problem (like Krugman) probably don't want to put their careers through the right-wing media frenzy. The ones who might be willing would be too partisan to get Senate approval or to get listened to in office.

    That said, who is there that Obama trusts who can school him in real economics? Even if he could convince Krugman, for example, to come on board can you imagine the firestorm in the conservative media? It would damage other things that the White House hopes to achieve, generally below the radar.

    It's either that or BHO is an undercover conservative bent on destroying liberalism from inside. I really don't buy that, and even if I did -- McCain/Palin? Romney/Idiot (sorry, McCain/Libertarian or McCain/Ryan. Synonyms right)? There was really no choice who to vote for, was there?

  • Rick B on April 11, 2013 7:05 PM:

    I don't think we will see a more clear demonstration of what the Republicans want. They refuse opportunities to actually govern and instead do everything possible to regain power over the government.

    Elect the Republicans back into power and I will absolutely guarantee that they will create another unnecessary war in order to stay in power. But govern? Only for the upper class. They clearly don't give a damn about the '47%' as they characterize most Americans.

    Today's Republican Party is more of a danger to America and Americans than the Communists every hoped to be.