Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Different Kind Of Democrat-- A Republican Kind


Max Baucus, an Obama kind of Democrat

The PCCC has a wonderful list of 97 Democrats-- over half the caucus-- who, they say are committed to voting against the chained CPI. And some of them won't. But I'm betting a great many on that list won't even think twice about doing whatever Obama, Pelosi and Hoyer tell them to do. "We," writes the PCCC "did a cross-check of the two lists and found that 97 sitting and voting Members (we excluded non-voting delegates) of the House Democratic caucus have signed onto statements either last year or this year saying they would not vote for legislation that uses chained CPI to cut benefits. That’s a majority of the caucus, which includes 191 members." Does it sound like when they wouldn't ever, ever, ever agree to health care reform that didn't include-- at the minimum-- a public option? I remember that battle and saw how easy it as for so many of them-- mostly the same names as the ones on this list of 97-- abandoned that "pledge" or whatever you want to call it... and I've seen how that lack of a public option has jeopardized the entire health care reform package and made it barely worth fighting for.

There are names on this list who will certainly stick to the fight to save Social Security to the bitter end because they understand it and embrace it-- men and women like Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Maxine Waters (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), José Serrano (D-NY), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Brad Miller (D-NC), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) who are in Congress primarily to work for the interests of ordinary American families. But, not everyone on that list is so trustworthy and many have bigger (careerist) priorities. There are some extremely untrustworthy names on the list that make it a farce-- corrupt Philly political machine boss Bob Brady, mediocre political hacks like Kathy Castor (D-FL), Gene Green (D-TX), Eliot Engel (New Dem-NY), Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Nick Rahall (D-WV), Mike Thompson (Blue Dog-CA), André Carson (New Dem-IN), even a Blue Dog, Joe Baca!

Marcia Fudge (D-OH) is in Congress fighting for the interests of working families. She's not going to punk out the way so many on that list will. Marcia was elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and last week she released this powerful sttaement that flies in the face of the bullshit we're hearing from Obama, Pelosi and Hoyer (who has already announced he'd whip for any deal that Boehner could agree to even if he can't deliver Republican votes, offering up the universally hated (universally outside of Wall Street and K Street, where these people's souls reside) TARP as a model:
Let’s call it for what it is; the chained CPI index is a reduction in Social Security benefits over time, a benefit older Americans earned through a lifetime of hard work. The notion that seniors need less of an increase because they can reduce their living expenses is out of touch with reality. Health care costs consume a disproportionate share of their meager income and those costs continue to rise faster than inflation.  Moreover, since Social Security benefits do not contribute one dime to the national debt, they have no place in deficit reduction negotiations. I will not throw America’s seniors over the cliff to avoid the fiscal cliff.
Anything less than that kind of statement indicates the speaker is... well, a "different" kind of Democrat, a Republican kind of Democrat-- like Obama loves painting himself. In fact, this week, writing in the Fiscal Times Bruce Bartlett, tries to explain exactly what kind of a Democrat Barack Obama is. [If you're a proud Obamabot, save yourself the heartache and don't read it.]
Many on the left are puzzled by Barack Obama’s apparent willingness to support dramatic reductions in federal social spending. It is only because Republicans demand even more radical cuts in spending that Obama’s fiscal conservatism is invisible to the general public. But those on the political left know it and are scared.

Yesterday, left-leaning law professor Neil Buchanan penned a scathing attack on Obama for abandoning the Democratic Party’s long-held policies toward the poor, and for astonishing naiveté in negotiating with Republicans. Said Buchanan:
“The bottom line is that President Obama has already revealed himself to be unchanged by the election and by the last two years of stonewalling by the Republicans. He still appears to believe, at best, in a milder version of orthodox Republican fiscal conservatism-- an approach that would be a fitting starting position for a right-wing politician in negotiations with an actual Democrat. Moreover, he still seems to believe that the Republicans are willing to negotiate in good faith.”
Others on the left, such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and others raise similar concerns. They cannot understand why Obama, having won two elections in a row with better than 50 percent of the vote-- something accomplished only by presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan in the postwar era-- and holding a powerful advantage due to the fiscal cliff, would seemingly appear willing to gut social spending while asking for only a very modest contribution in terms of taxes from the wealthy.

The dirty secret is that Obama simply isn’t very liberal, nor is the Democratic Party any more. Certainly, the center of the party today is far to the right of where it was before 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected with a mission to move the party toward the right. It was widely believed by Democratic insiders that the nation had moved to the right during the Reagan era and that the Democratic Party had to do so as well or risk permanent loss of the White House.

It is only the blind hatred Republicans had for Clinton that prevented them from seeing that he governed as a moderate conservative-- balancing the budget, cutting the capital gains tax, promoting free trade, and abolishing welfare, among other things. And it is only because the political spectrum has shifted to the right that Republicans cannot see to what extent Obama and his party are walking in Clinton’s footsteps.

One of the few national reporters who has made this point is the National Journal's Major Garrett. In a December 13 column, he detailed the rightward drift of the Democratic Party on tax policy over the last 30 years.
“In ways inconceivable to Republicans of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Democrats have embraced almost all of their economic arguments about tax cuts. Back then, sizable swaths of the Democratic Party sought to protect higher tax rates for all. Many opposed President Reagan's 1981 across-the-board tax cuts and the indexing of tax brackets for inflation. Many were skeptical of Reagan's 1986 tax reform that consolidated 15 tax brackets into three and lowered the top marginal rate from 50 percent to 28 percent (with a "bubble rate" of 33 percent for some taxpayers). They despised the expanded child tax credit and marriage-penalty relief called for under the GOP's Contract With America.

“Now all of that is embedded in Democratic economic theory and political strategy. The only taxes that the most progressive Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson wants to raise are those affecting couples earning more than $267,600 and individuals earning more than $213,600 (these are the 2013 indexed amounts from President Obama's 2009 proposal of $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for individuals). Yes, some of this increase would hit some small businesses. But that can be finessed.”
I think that a lot of the Democratic Party’s rightward drift resulted from two factors. First is the continuing decline of organized labor from 24 percent of the labor force in 1973 to less than half that percentage in 2011. And the decline among private sector workers has been even more severe.

When the AFL-CIO was strong, it looked out for the working class as a whole. Its leadership understood that improving the pay and benefits of all workers was ultimately to the benefits of unionized workers. Labor support was critical to the passage of every important piece of social welfare legislation since the 1930s. Hence the decline of unionization has deprived liberals of their most important ally.

...[W]hatever the reason, the result is that the nation no longer has a party of the left, but one of the center-right that is akin to what were liberal Republicans in the past – there is no longer any such thing as a liberal Republican – and a party of the far right.

In a little-noticed comment on Spanish-language television on December 14, Obama himself confirmed this typology of today's political spectrum. Said Obama, "The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican."

I think this is correct and explains a great deal about why Obama refuses to use his leverage to pursue liberal policies and keeps inviting Republicans back to the negotiating table again and again on the budget. He wants a deal, he wants to cut spending and balance the budget if possible. This may or may not be a wise course for a Democratic president to follow, but that is who Obama is.
That's what we're up against-- and Obama and his conservative allies have every intention of remaking the Democratic Party in their own image. Standing up to him and pressuring your two senators and your congressman to reject the Obama-Boehner sellout to the wealthy and their mania to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class is going to be very serious over the course of the next few weeks and months. Just think of Obama as Bush and proceed accordingly. Keep in mind something economist Dean Baker, not on Obama's short list to be Treasury Secretary, a position he's given America's worst and most deadly enemies-- the Wall Street predators-- veto power over: "Among voters across the political spectrum the chained CPI is a huge loser. It only wins among the DC money crowd."

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At 6:36 AM, Blogger Avedon said...

You left out that they're not just talking about changing the calculation on Social Security, they're talking about chanfing it altogether. Which means under chained CPI, your tax bracket creeps up. In other words, on a highly regressive scale, your taxes go up.

And they're not talking about doing this "for future retirees" while protecting current and near-future retires; they're going to do it to everyone, all at once, immediately.

At 12:27 PM, Anonymous robert dagg murphy said...

At a time when science has made wealth far greater than ever imagined and available for mans immediate use we are playing politics of scarcity.

We should be thinking about lower the retirement age and raising the benefits which would make our antiquated economic system work much better. Many seem to we want depression and dust bowls.

We are being held back by our vision. Conservatives want to live in the past while reluctantly backing into the future. It is time to redesign the future by recognizing our leaps forward doing more with less and eliminating many jobs that we do not need. It is time to design a debt free future based on abundance. We don't owe the Sun which is showering abundant energy on our beautiful planet Earth.


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