(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
As soon as Barack Obama was reelected the austerians were already clamoring for him to enter into the so-called “Grand Bargain” as the only option to keeping the fragile US economy from going over the mythical “fiscal cliff.” Exit polls showed that voters were most concerned about the economy and jobs. They also indicated that raising taxes on the wealthiest was popular, as was preserving Social Security and Medicare as they currently exist. The debt/deficit was at the bottom of the list of voter interests. There has been much talk from Pres. Obama and the Democratic leadership that they now have a mandate to raise taxes on the 1% and they are willing to “bargain” with the Republicans. The problem is the “bargain” they want to cut would increase the burden on the elderly and those most in need of these programs now and in the future by raising the age requirements and tying cost of living increases to a metric that would decrease the ability of social security recipients to stay above the poverty line.
In an interview with economist Bill Black by Paul Jay at RT News, Prof. Black discusses how the “grand betrayal” and the role of the president and “Third Way” Democrats in the destruction of the social safety net:
At FDL News Desk, David Dayen has two important pieces on the “fiscal cliff” and the “grand bargain” and how our politicians are using them as an excuse to cut the social safety net.
Cutting the deficit has been discussed in terms of a moral imperative for the past two-plus years. But now we’ve arrived at a situation where the deficit would get cut a significant amount, and budget analysts make the obvious, inconvenient case that this would throw the economy back into recession. All the alternative explanations from the deficit scolds – a lack of confidence, the threat of higher interest rates – have nothing to do with the fiscal slope. It’s just that it would pull back on federal spending and raise taxes to such a degree that the economy would suffer. [..]
In the hands of someone who didn’t want a bargain on the deficit, this would be the ultimate teachable moment. “All those people telling us for years we have to cut the deficit, suddenly don’t want to cut the deficit,” that leader would say. “They’re warning people of the dangers of cutting the deficit, and saying we have to put a deficit plan together to avoid cutting the deficit!” But Obama wants this deal for his legacy. So he’s not going to disabuse anyone of the confusion over the fiscal slope.
Bob Woodward leaked the deal memo from the proposed 2011 grand bargain, which didn’t happen for a number of reasons, none of them being Barack Obama’s reticence to cut a deal. [..]
This was what the President signed off on, before the Gang of Six embarrassed him by calling for more revenue. He was perfectly willing to not only endorse this deal, but force the Democratic leadership to swallow it as well. And this is why Ryan Grim can be so sure that the next set of talks will include reductions in benefits to the elderly, the poor and the middle class. That’s what happened before, after all. [..]
Any sane observer of economic reality understands that the biggest concern in the near term is that the deficit will end up to small, not too large. We don’t have a deficit problem but a health care cost problem, and it’s not entirely clear we even have that as much as we have a CBO which over-hypes the health care cost problem in their models (the fact that CBO wanted to talk with Naked Capitalism’s Yves Smith for daring to question their model is quite telling). We have countless examples of counter-productive austerity in a time of a slowly recovering economy. [..]
At any rate, we cannot depend on the intransigence of the right this time around. Bill Kristol floated acceptance of higher taxes on the wealthy, following David Koch from a couple months ago. And John Boehner reportedly brought the hammer down with his caucus [..]
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has repeatedly stated that “we are not going to mess with Social Security.” The problem Sen. Reid has with keeping Social Security out of any bargain is President Barack Obama who is all to willing to bargain it away for a deal with the Republicans. The argument over the debt/deficit has never been whether taxes will be raised in any bargain, the goal of the right has been to destroy Social Security and cripple Medicare and Medicaid.
President Obama is still pursuing a “grander bargain” that would betray the trust of the people who returned him to office with the hope that he would change.