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Village orgasms as Obama puts Social Security in play


Obama Pledges Entitlement Reform

Of course, you have to understand what the Village means by "entitlement." You see, Big Money is "entitled" to two trillion dollars of the people's money, and their children's money NOW NOW NOW, without even saying what they're doing with it. That goes without saying. However, the people are not "entitled" to dignity in their old age, the sick are not entitled to care, and the poor are not entitled to help. That's because, as is well known, government is of Big Money, for Big Money, by Big Money. Is everything clear now?

President-elect Barack Obama pledged yesterday to shape a new Social Security and Medicare "bargain" with the American people, saying that the nation's long-term economic recovery cannot be attained unless the government finally gets control over its most costly entitlement programs.
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(Yeah, no shit, Sherlock, on that "error.") Predictable and predicted (01-08-2008).

[Obama] framed the economic recovery efforts more broadly, saying it is impossible to separate the country's financial ills [Well, maybe after you hand over two trillion on the banks, that's true] from the long-term need to rein in health-care costs, stabilize Social Security and prevent the Medicare program from bankrupting the government.

So, why not solve health care costs by putting in single payer? That way you don't have to throw the old people under the bus. Oh, wait. I forgot. It's my responsibility as a citizen to help keep the insurance parasites in business. Sorry.

"This, by the way, is where there are going to be very difficult [for who?] choices and issues of sacrifice [for who?] and responsibility [for who?] and duty [for who?] ," he said. "You have to have a president who is willing to spend some political capital on this. And I intend to spend some."

And here's a nice thumb in the eye for the progressive caucus:

The president-elect has been in frequent conversation with lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats, who repeatedly told Obama they would be willing to support his stimulus package only if he pledged not to lose sight of the larger budget picture. Those who will be invited to attend include the Blue Dogs, Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.), ranking minority member Judd Gregg (N.H.) and a host of outside groups with expertise on the topics, the president-elect said.

Reach me that bucket, wouldja, hon?

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coyotecreek's picture
Submitted by coyotecreek on

When I realized the Great ZerOOOOO was looking at my "entitlement:, I filed quick - like a bunny - so I don't great screwed.....again.

coyotecreek's picture
Submitted by coyotecreek on

Seriously - why not pay back what has been "borrowed" from SS and put it back on a road to solvency. Nooooo, gotta bail out the banks and financial wizards on Wall Street - forget about us.

I call BullS*&T.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

A catchall for all pornographic displays of bipartisanship, though indeed its origins are in Cabinet bipartisanship... and the ensuing wetspot among Beltway pundits.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

To make his "rivals" happy(not to mention a few of his supporters *cough*Wall Street*cough*) so I think rivalgasm applies.

Submitted by jawbone on

Is he going to try to revive Wall Street by privatizing SocSec (or part of it) and make people "play" the market to try to have enough to retire on? Gamble with their retirement, keep the insurance moguls in the levels of remuneration to which they've grown accustomed? Help!!!


Is that why he got all that seed money from Wall Street operators? Was it "quid" for "quo"?

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

I asked that question way back during the "tepid" support days without a very warm welcome. It goes along with the question about progressivism being viable if it is built on the bigotry of the primary.

As for the progressive caucus, well, you reap what you sow, baby. I didn't see many of them trying to get straight answers out of Obama at all, they just jumped on board with no questions asked.

oceansandmountains's picture
Submitted by oceansandmountains on

Your comment should be used as the definition of "creative class."

Submitted by Randall Kohn on

As WAPO reminisced in 2005:

Two days after winning reelection last fall, President Bush declared that he had earned plenty of "political capital, and now I intend to spend it."

And now we know why Obama's Teh One. He's the handpicked Terminator of all things middle class, including and especially Social Security.

Submitted by lambert on

Bush says "spend it" and Obama says "spend some." This indicates, you see, that Obama is "thoughtful."

Submitted by Randall Kohn on

Obama's charging right out of the box with this - not even waiting for his first term, much less his second - suggests that this is Job One for him. More than thoughtful, he seems determined to camp out on the third rail and feed off its electricity, as suggested by this quote from your WAPO link:

"What we have done is kicked this can down the road. We are now at the end of the road and are not in a position to kick it any further," he said. "We have to signal seriousness in this by making sure some of the hard decisions are made under my watch, not someone else's."

His impenetrenable air of arrogance suggests that he thinks it's in the bag - that he knows he can fuck us all and ruin our lives and we'll love every second of it. I've seen scant evidence yet that he's wrong.

Submitted by hipparchia on

and we need to keep reminding obama -- loud and long -- that we're not going to settle for anything less.

meanwhile, we could also keep reminding obama that he needs to stick to his guns and not flip-flop on this promised reform at least. jettisoning medicare advantage is an excellent start.

i didn't find a link just now, but iirc, obama also wants to fix part d by allowing medicare to negotiate drug prices. that's another good step in fixing medicare. all that's left at that point is to raise payroll taxes a tad and open it up to the rest of us, and bingo! home free!

Fredster's picture
Submitted by Fredster on

didn't he mention raising the income cap where S.S. contributions stop, i.e. earnings over xxx dollars are not subject to FICA withholdings? I seem to recall something along those lines during one of the debates.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

King's Knight to King's Bishop 3 [Nf3, yes, if you must, but for me this notational efficiency has robbed the game of romance]. The goal is to control the center, while forcing your opponent to accept your position or make choices in defense that will inevitably be compromising.

I do wish these meetings would be videotaped, so we could see and hear for ourselves exactly what was said rather than rely on the biased selectivity of morally bankrupt "reporters." From what I can find, it appears that Obama has hinted this and suggested that but hasn't actually committed to anything around entitlements except to "keep an eye" on them and set up a multilateral study group so hopelessly conflicted within itself that nothing useful in the way of consensus can possibly emerge. It is, it strikes me, a Wimpy bargain; getting a hamburger today in exchange for a promise to pay for it on some indefinite future date.

Or, what do I know? Maybe he is a stealth rapacious Corporatist, feinting immediately to the Left with multiple pieces of major Progressive legislation (equal pay, expanded SCHIP, economic redistribution of income and tax burden through middle & lower class tax cuts, extending unemployment benefits and food stamps) while secretly planning to destroying what little social safety net and common goodness we in this country have remaining. If so he will create an enormous opportunity for Progressives, who will need to act quickly but should find great success simply by fielding congressional candidates who unequivocally call for retaining Social Security and Medicare and funding them adequately.

Going against these hugely popular programs is as much political suicide now as in the past, and will only become more so with the passage of time and an aging population. I find it hard to believe that Obama is hubristic enough to think he can convince the country to give them up - even BushCo wasn't that disconnected - but if so he will be signing his own political death warrant.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Most of your explanation makes perfect sense. But the fact is, he doesn't need to put this "in play." He doesn't need to talk about putting it in play. All he needs to do, is say Bush is blowing smoke up or your ass about "crisis" and so is everyone else.

But he won't. He plays to the Village instead. And eventually, once he says it enough, people will believe it is about to fall apart, and will need to be dismantled, because it doesn't work. Then the Village's work is accomplished anyway.

He has the trust of a whole generation of voters, many of whom will not be easily disillusioned about him, and if he says SS is in trouble, and "something" needs to be done, most of them will spend the rest of their lives believing it.

It's bad bad bad bad bad, and he needs to be scolded for it.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

but I think it is pretty well stuck. Clinton talked about "fixing" SS, Bush made it a stated high priority to start disassembly, and neither of them had any effect at all. "Let's do a study" with a committee all loaded up with conflicting POVs seems to me an bureaucratically effective way of ensuring that nothing much happens for a long while. I remember how the Church Committee recommended a whole bunch of changes to government, but none of them ever got enacted. Believe we're still only about 30% compliance for the 9/11 Commission.

The latest numbers show the Disability Insurance portion of SS running out of funds in 2017, but the Old Age Survivors Insurance portion is robust and if the two funds were combined (requires legislative action, but otherwise doable) there really isn't a near-term problem. The fearsome Baby Boomers have already paid enough into the system to cover their OASI retirement funding and a simple tweak like expanding an SS surcharge (not a tax!) out to infinity regardless of income level should make everything including DI just dandy for ever and ever.

This study may propagate lots of unsupportable options but the numbers are the numbers and there is no crisis that can’t be solved by adjusting the SS assessments upwards for some high-income people. I’m not sure what I have to fear from that already evident and thus inevitable conclusion.

Submitted by lambert on

If working the phones for a $700 billion bailout for Big Money with no transparency and no accountability isn't being a rapacious corporatist, then it's hard to see what being a rapacious corporatist would take.

No doubt, of course, Obama was "thoughtful" about it. Perhaps that's the difference.

Oh, and sure, I like the little laundry list of programs. It's only that, for a Democrat, a return to some level of sanity sets the bar about two inches off the ground. The country needs single payer, HOLC is still the best solution, and that's not even getting to the financial system being not only broken but still being outright looted, let alone re-establishing the rule of law. While the items on the list aren't school uniform-level programs, the true measure of the proposals. and of the man, is what the country needs and what the time demands, not he can get away with. Or what his fans and apologists "hope" for.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

The rapacious ones made off with another $2 trillion since September, and trillions more over the last 30 years. He hasn't grabbed nearly enough yet to qualify.

And any return towards sanity will appear Progressive, certainly, so I'm not being fooled by these few changes. I don't argue that he is anything other then a Conservative, but that puts him Left relatively from BushCo and Reagan. I don't think he's much different from other Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton or Carter or Truman or Wilson, and he also to my mind isn't on balance doing much differently than Hillary likely would have, the other players and all the pressures are the same. Obama is very much a Democrat.

This is though a change in momentum, even if it is a mix of reversing course in some areas and only slowing the downward course in others. The longer term trends in the direction taken over the last 40 years, however, are reaching the natural limits of their elasticity. Things will either break, as the economic bubble has and fossil fuel dependency is about to, or change course in a more Progressive and communal direction. Slowing the pell-mell rush to destruction is a positive, discussing the problems before us rather than denying them is a positive, and as our problems come into focus more clearly for more people the changes will happen that you - and I - want to see.

FDR, as a Democrat, acted very much like Obama is acting now when he ran for his first term. Only when he had been in office did he come to appreciate the magnitude of the problem and start moving to make sure he didn't get the blame when the next election came around. There may have been some degree of compassion involved, probably there was, but the dominant impetus was political calculation.

Often when we think of FDR we remember his campaign for a second term, when he had gotten programs underway and went on the attack against his critics. Of course, after he won re-election he slid back to the Right, to his natural Centrist comfort zone, and cut back or attenuated the most effective programs thus extending the economic struggle; Obama may do that as well. It may take a significant worsening of global ecological health to motivate us to greater productivity and redirected economic output, as world war did in the 40's, and it may be who ever succeeds Obama that is finally forced to engage and make changes as significant as the New Deal.

I'm not claiming insight, just saying that the complexity now of challenges and , and the delicacy of balance between the different major problems, makes it hard for me to see an clear pattern of direction. Of course I wish it were screamingly Progressive, but this Obama guy isn't going to do that. So far, though, I'm seeing substantive advancement on some things in a Progressive direction and only talk about things in a Reactionary direction.

If that changes, if for instance he tries to take apart SS or Medicare, he'll find himself in a world of hurt. The same for the economy, he needs to get people back to work and the negative slide turned around or it will all become his fault in a big hurry. His support, as I read it, is a mile wide and an inch deep. He needs to get a lot of things right and not screw anything up, or all those goggle-eyed enthusiasts will turn very bitter, very quickly.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

I looked and coudn't find it. You are so clever; thank you.

Submitted by hipparchia on

although you may hate me for this after you listen to it. the conrad-gregg commission gets mentioned [apparently approvingly, though that part's sotto voce], which bodes not well for our entitlements, and so does the fiscal responsibility summit. some other stuff, but those caught my ear.

i cannot tell a lie. clever i may be, but i found this accidentally while i was looking for something else.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Mine as well, for many years now, so that settles several things. He is self-evidently a highly intelligent person with impeccable taste and a robust yet subtle and multi-layered sense of humor. Most certainly he is not evil; evil people don't grok SpongeBob.

Read the transcript. Mumble-mumble. No specifics. A shiny mirror on which to project. Could mean this, could mean that, but when it came to SS he did refer to having said some things during the campaign and the one thing I recall for certain was raising the income cutoff - jake with me.

Regards Medicare, what he says is that the long term management and cost containment concerns are the same for that program as for health care in general. I have no problem with that contention. Looking at efficacy, at cost control as a function of the return on expenditure, is going to have to happen sooner than later even with single-pay non-profit UHC here as it already has in Europe and Canada and Australia. That's just a reality, and it will entail some emotionally difficult decisions and changes in perspective.

None of that, however, evades the additional reality that we are spending 30% or more of each health care dollar on overhead and profits for third-party carriers and we don't have to do that. The Medicare model made universal would bring our current rate of growth for health care costs to 4-5% annually, something along the lines of inflation and near what we can live with. Another 1% growth rate reduction at least can be had by better pricing on drugs, and another 1% by curtailing of ineffective treatments and reducing iatrogenic morbidity and mortality. I see nothing in what Obama says here or elsewhere that is in conflict with this eventually required approach. Maybe he is, and likely he will drag his feet over any changes, but I just don't see overt evidence here that he is a hardcore obstructionist.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

if it makes you happier, whatever. Probably attract the wrong sort of traffic with that term anyway.

Good of you to focus on the substance of my comment, rather than arguing from something tangential. Well played.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

"evil people don't grok SpongeBob."


I suppose that should give me some hope, but it's my daughters favorite show, and I wouldn't trust her to fix our problems, exceptional as she is.

TonyRz's picture
Submitted by TonyRz on

medicare and social security start somewhere about 20:00 iirc 16:30 and again about 22:00.

Yeah, I couldn't get much past 17:00 because of it, especially post-awesome responsibility summit.

I was hoping that I'd just be drained and discouraged this month, but apparently my color for this Winter is pointless and paralyzing rage.

And PB 1.0 will sell us this shit. He'll strike at SS while the iron is hot - early in his administration before he has a chance to develop too many enemies and obstructions.

Kinda lends new meaning to the phrase "Eyes on the Prize", doesn't it?