Sunday, April 7, 2013

Progressive Idiocy: Who Could Have Predicted?

Image credit: Twitter image via Matt Stoller

Over the next few days, there will be an opportunity to discover which progressive political commentators have been paying attention and which ones haven't. That opportunity is described by Jon Walker at FireDogLake:

If it wasn’t already abundantly clear there is now more proof President Obama really really really wants to cut Social Security benefits for current retirees. Obama will include the chained-CPI, which is a yearly and continuously growing cut to your Social Security benefits, in his budget.

Obama Is the Driving Force Behind Cutting Your Social Security

He quotes this Politico piece:

The budget proposal sets Obama up for major fights on his right and left. Republicans will not accept any new tax revenues and liberal Democrats have already signaled they will resist any cuts to Social Security and other entitlement programs that Obama is proposing.

The White House says the budget proposal would reduce the deficit by $1.8 trillion over 10 years, but it assumes the elimination of the sequester, which would otherwise account for $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.

Already, Obama’s budget proposal goes farther than many in his own party and base said they would bear by including “chained CPI,” the adjustment that would over time reduce cost-of-living increases to Social Security and other federal benefit programs — effectively, a cut to Social Security benefits by tying them to inflation.

Boehner rejects Obama cuts-revenue proposal

The only good news there is that, once again, the Republicans are playing hard to get.

Still, Walker is one of the people who have been paying attention. It's not hard to figure out that President Obama has had a fetish for cutting Social Security since the Democratic presidential primary back in 2008. In his interview with George Will, he said quite clearly that something needed to be done about Social Security to "save" it. Why someone feels the need to "save" a program that's been funded for the next few decades is beyond me, other than as an excuse to cut it. Since then, he's hired Wall Street pirates as economic advisers, and set up a commission to resolve the "budget crisis" that was stacked with folks well known for their desire to cut entitlement programs.

So, if you're surprised that Obama would be cutting Social Security now that he doesn't have to worry about being re-elected, you weren't paying attention.

And who hasn't been paying attention? Let's start with Paul Krugman. After offering a good explanation for why cutting the CPI is a bad idea (worth reading, if you're not familiar with the concept), he then writes:

So what’s this about? The answer, I fear, is that Obama is still trying to win over the Serious People, by showing that he’s willing to do what they consider Serious — which just about always means sticking it to the poor and the middle class. The idea is that they will finally drop the false equivalence, and admit that he’s reasonable while the GOP is mean-spirited and crazy.

Desperately Seeking “Serious” Approval

Of course, this is absurd. President Obama is one of the "Serious People". He always has been. He has never said otherwise, near as I can recall. Yes, he promised not to cut Social Security once back in 2008, but he clearly misspoke. He was going to "save" Social Security and Medicare, even if he had to destroy them.

Over at Talking Points Memo, Brian Beutler seems similarly confused. He starts out well enough, explaining that Obama has always had a hankering to mess with Social Security, then goes off the rails:

First, policy. Obama has been clear about his willingness to reduce cost of living increases to Social Security for years — but only if Republicans agree to higher taxes on rich people simultaneously The not-so-secret truth is that some people in the Obama administration simply think it’s a good idea, which is why you occasionally hear them slip and call it “correcting the CPI” or some other euphemism.

But for some reason this has never been good enough for Republicans and media elites many of whom continue to act as if Obama’s never given an inch to Republicans on entitlement spending. So now it’s officially official. And the good news is we’ll soon have some closure on this frustrating chapter in U.S. politics. If throwing a benefit cut into his budget was the Kabuki concession Republicans needed to cut a deal, we’ll know soon. If they remain adamant that rich people’s taxes aren’t going up anymore under their watch, then this charade can come to an end and everyone can move on. That would leave sequestration in place, and thus many more months of weak job growth in the months ahead. But, the Obama administration hopes, at least opinion makers would have to stop playing the false equivalence game and tell the country who’s really at fault.

Bad News Friday

Yes, to some extent this is Beutler explicitly passing on conventional wisdom from the Obama Administration, but does anyone really believe that things are going to in some different direction if the press, which in DC is largely owned by conservatives, gives up on portraying this as "both sides" being unreasonable? There's not a chance of that happening.

As an aside, Robert Reich posted a video, explaining what the CPI is. He seems to have figured out the politics, too:

Why are Democrats even suggesting the inflation adjustment be reduced? Republicans aren’t asking for it. Not even Paul Ryan’s draconian budget includes it.

What’s The “Chained CPI,” Why It's Bad For Social Security, And Why The White House Shouldn't Be Touting It

So, for the moment at least, Reich appears to get it. He describes this budget proposal as clearly Democratic in origin, that the GOP had nothing to do with it beyond being intransigent supporters of the rich. These days, though, it's getting really hard for anyone with any sense of perspective to think they're the only major party who are on board with that platform.

Speaking of having no sense of perspective, several outlets, including NPR, have quoted as saying:

From the liberal group's Executive Director Anna Galland:
"Millions of MoveOn members did not work night and day to put President Obama into office so that he could propose policies that would hurt some of our most vulnerable people. Just as we fought and defeated President Bush's plan to privatize Social Security, we will mobilize and stop this attempt to diminish the vital guarantee of Social Security."

Obama Riles His Own Party With Social Security Offer
Image credit: Parody by Cujo359 (See NOTE)

Now, let me just pause for a moment, Dear Reader, and explain to you why are idiots. When a political candidate tells you over and over and over again that he is going to cut Social Security when he gets into office, and you work for him anyway, you put him in office so he could do that. There were alternatives, including not supporting any candidate because they all suck too much, should MoveOn's membership have felt that way, yet they supported this con artist. This is obvious to the point of absurdity, yet MoveOn still seems unable to grasp this basic fact.

That's why they're idiots.

Oh, and another bit about perspective - note NPR's lovely headline. If NPR ever got over its urge to punch hippies I swear I'd never be able to stand up again, the vertigo would be so bad.

So, there you have it, a small sampling of the genius that makes progressivism the powerful force in politics that it is today. Ever onward, ever downward. As soon as the Progressive Caucus folds, we can get on with the process of lowering our expectations.

UPDATE: The often-entertaining Class War Kitteh gets the last word, at least for now:

Image credit: Class War Kitteh

Check the image credit link for commentary, and you can "like" it there, or some such.


Expat said...

It's now to the point when hearing or reading the word
it is like I've been chewing on a stick of chalk,
it leaves a taste and a substance in the mouth
I'd rather not have, and can live without.

Cujo359 said...

I've never quite understood what the divide is, if any, between liberalism and progressivism. I consider myself to be both. To me, liberalism is the idea that government should be used when it's feasible to make the economy work better for all citizens. Progressivism strikes me as being a bit broader, meaning it is generally aimed at making society more humane.

In any event, people who identify themselves as both liberals and progressives show some annoying tendencies toward foolishness when it comes to politics.

In short, by talking about "progressive idiocy", I'm not referring to a particular part of that group who don't self-identify as liberals. There's plenty of idiocy to be found in this part of the political spectrum.

Expat said...

There is no telling what the divide is anymore, the language itself has been abused to the point that it is useless to carry on exchanges of complex ideas. This phenomenon is related to the process that whitewashes history out of memory, conflates one ideology with its opposite and allows propaganda to dominate thought. A carnival's house of mirrors has been substituted for the Republic, the guard dogs did not bark and the bank has been robbed. Entrance stage right - Keystone Kops (Has it ever been noted the enormity of conversation that references either TV or motion picture iconography to relay an idea? Or how few conversations there are that an original idea is expressed?). This will not end well (so walk this way …)

Cujo359 said...

Yes, unfortunately, words that can be used as labels for people soon come to mean whatever people think they should mean. Just in the last few days, I've seen the terms "racist" and "Islamophobia" misused by people who ought to have known better.

Television entertainment has been such a huge part of our lives, I am not surprised at the references. What I've also noticed is that while those references have a very specific meaning for the speaker, his audience quite often does not. That's one of the reasons that when I use them, I also explain them to the point of boredom.

In any event, that's what I mean when I use the terms "liberal" and "progressive". It seems like quite a few people who consider themselves one or the other use the other term to disparage the people they think are wrong about something, but clearly aren't conservatives.

And yes, I'm sure I've been called both in disparaging terms...