Friday, September 3, 2010

Bob Shrum Joins The Heretics

Democratic pundit and keeper of conventional wisdom Bob Shrum, on why the Democrats will probably lose the House this fall:

Democrats are facing a midterm hurricane without the benefit of a crucial bulwark to blunt the storm surge.

House Speaker Tip O’Neill laid the foundation in 1981 when he exclaimed of GOP designs to dismantle Social Security: “It’s a rotten thing to do. It’s a despicable thing to do.”
So why not campaign all-out, in O’Neill’s plainspoken way, against a GOP that is disloyal to the most successful—and most popular—social program in American history?

Because Democrats have been disarmed by the president’s deficit reduction commission, which plainly intends to propose Social Security cuts.

Saving Social Security -- And Democratic Seats

I've been meaning to write on this issue, but after the pathetic rationalizations and denial progressives used to justify the health care "reform" bill, it's hard to work up the enthusiasm to tackle something like this. People who would buy the idea that we couldn't afford to cover all Americans with real medical care, when both the experience of other nations and the Congressional Budget Office's own numbers showed that it would have been less expensive to the government than the current system, are either too stupid or too cowardly to fight for anything.

And that's where we are.

So, I suggest that you go look at this link from last March on the people who make up the Deficit Commission, and follow the links documenting what those people have written in the past. That should make clear who it is President Obama has asked to be his advisers on this issue.

Make no mistake - this is how to figure out what Obama will do in a particular realm. Find out what the advisers he's chosen believe. It worked on health care. It worked on human rights. And it is going to work when I tell you, in January, that I told you that the Congress would curtail Social Security and Medicare.

Heck, even Talking Points Memo, among the most reliable keepers of Democratic Party conventional wisdom, has flirted with getting the idea:

[W]hile Americans might expect that the commission would look at all spending, some members are seemingly using their positions to advance professional interests. A source familiar with the proceedings of the working group on discretionary spending tells TPM that some commissioners, including one military contractor, would prefer to save money by freezing military pay and scaling back benefits, rather than by eliminating waste in defense contracting.

Source: Debt Commission Fights Over Freezing Military Pay, Slashing Benefits

The one large area of truly discretionary spending, the defense budget, is practically off limits, even though we just about outspend (PDF see page 8) the rest of the world combined on defense. That should give you a clue, too. They'll be happy to freeze servicemembers' pay and benefits, though.

Meanwhile, Social Security is paid for for the next 27 years, and Medicare, while it's in some trouble, could be saved by raising payroll taxes to appropriate levels and controlling medical costs.

Thankfully, Jane Hamsher never tires of schooling people on the obvious, so I'll let her commentary on this serve:

Shrum is willing to utter the uncomfortable truth that Kilgore ignores: it is deeply, deeply cynical and unconvincing for the Democrats to be out there castigating the GOP for wanting to do the very thing that the White House is privately telling journalists they themselves plan to do by way of the Catfood Commission after the election.
Obama bought into the right-wing narrative that Social Security needs to be “saved.” He set up a panel full of Social Security slashers who are telling everyone with a pulse that they intend to raise the retirement age, reduce annual cost of living increases, impose some sort of means testing and add private accounts on top of existing benefits (which is defacto partial privatization).

The very existence of the Catfood Commission forces Democrats on the campaign trail into a position where they either have to engage in double-speak like Van Hollen, run against Obama on the issue, or avoid it altogether.

Bob Shrum to Democrats: Stop the Catfood Commission or Lose Congress

I laid out the numbers on this fall's election a few days ago. This is why those numbers exist as they are. The main reason Democrats will suffer at the polls this fall is that their base is far more apathetic about voting than usual. The bad news for Democrats is that I don't blame them. What the President and Congress have done is fail to help ordinary Americans every time they had a chance.

So, yes, I'm starting to lose my enthusiasm for talking about this. The people who don't want to believe this is happening now will be the ones making the pathetic rationalizations later for why it had to happen. Meanwhile, as has happened with health care "reform", there will be plenty of them willing to call folks like me unreasonable, or too stupid to see the danger of a Republican takeover of Congress. Because, dontcha know, all criticism of the Democratic Party helps the Republicans.

That level of denial is something I can't change. I doubt anything is going to change minds that are so determined to remain unaltered by contrary information.

UPDATE: No sooner do I post this article, then I come on this bit of genius from Sean Paul Kelley at The Agonist. Summarizing yesterday's Glenn Greenwald column, Sean Paul writes:

First, some conservatives are embracing gay marriage. Obama is not, steadfast in his opposition. A solid and consistent block of Democratic voters alienated.

Second, our elected officials are working to prevent the decriminalization of marijuana and thus keep the drug war in Mexico raging, further destabilizing our next door neighbor. A foreign policy disaster in motion Democrats should do better with.

Third, Latino voters are pissed at the Democrats on immigration. Another solid and consistent block of Democratic voters alienated.

Fourth, the Deficit Commission is fixed. They are going to raid Social Security, even after running an election on the premise of saving it. A core liberal value and aspect of the social contract betrayed.

Fifth, Obama is actively working against Unions. Another solid and consistent block of Democratic voters alienated.

Sixth, our prosecution of a child soldier (yes, a child fucking soldier) was a crime. Another core liberal value betrayed.

Seventh, unemployment remains staggeringly high, no matter if you calculate it via workers in the labor market, or those who have dropped out. Another core liberal value betrayed.
I also get told on a regular basis that if I don't shut my pie hole about all this and vote Democratic that it will all be my fault when tEh crazies get elected. Please explain to me in simple, clear, elementary language how the above seven highlights are my fault. To wit: I voted for a candidate who promised to close GITMO within a year. I voted for a candidate who promised to end DADT and provide equal rights for all Americans. I voted for a candidate who promised immigration reform. I voted for a candidate who promised to put Americans, all Americans, back to work. I voted for a candidate who promised to protect our social contract and expand the economic safety net.

Obama has not only not done any of it, he's made shit worse.

Now, tell me why I should vote for the Democrats in 2010? Because tEh crazies are coming? Fuck that: tEh crazies are here.

Slow Boil

[emphasis and link from original] Sean Paul's been at this a long time, and he has, in the past, made any number of good observations about the "optics" of what's been happening in DC lately. And he's been right much of the time. How? The same way I have when I've been right - looking at the obvious and not kidding myself about what's really there.

The Democrats, in the space of three and a half years of power, have managed to honk off, if not marginalize, every one of their bases of power. All they have to show for it is massive campaign contributions from the very people who encouraged them to screw those groups, which will no doubt buy increasingly ineffective get out the vote commercials.

These Democrats, both the politicians and their enablers, are either the most pathetically stupid politicians on the planet, or they've taken care of themselves and told the rest of us to screw ourselves.

Either way, why would anyone want to go vote for more of that?


lawguy said...

What I've been seeing lately are more and more liberal blogs asking just that question. Why are the democrats acting this way when anyone can see what the out come is going to be in terms of the election?

I have yet to see a reasonable explanation, nor have I been able to figure one out by myself. One would think that the least a politician would like to do is be re-elected, but then what do I know. I will say that the more main stream they are the longer it has taken them to get to the WTF place, but most people who are not part of the village are getting there.

I'm inclined to go for either completely corrupt or totally stupid or a combination of the two, but that isn't a very satisfying answer.

Cujo359 said...

They probably don't have to be either all corrupt, all stupid, or even all one or the other.

One of the problems I see is that DC is so isolated from what's going on in the rest of the country. You wouldn't think that, being that the government has offices everywhere, but I think given the circles they travel in, it's true at least for our elite. For instance, in all the time I was in the military, I can only remember a couple of occasions when I had a chance to discuss anything regarding defense procurement with either a senior civilian civil servant or a flag officer. Contact with the worker bees is extremely rare.

That must be even more true of the politicians. They're surrounded by "journalists" and lobbyists, the former none to inquisitive generally and the latter all to interested in being their pals. DC is their world, not the rest of the country, and they do what they can to make DC a place they feel comfortable.

I think that explains the disconnect, or at least a lot of it. Why they ignore concerns like this, though, I have no idea. That may have more to do with the LRF and the guy who hired him. They're going to do just fine in this deal, and my estimation of Obama hasn't changed much since I first called him a con artist.

Cujo359 said...

Gah, change "in the military" to "in the DoD" in that last comment. I was never actually in uniform. Don't want to leave the wrong impression by using the wrong phrase.