Who Will Stand Up To The Boehner-Obama Steam Roller After The Elections?
Boehner and Obama have a bridge they want to sell you after the election... but before the new Congress is sworn in. It should be pretty ugly and we need to wonder who's going to stick up for any citizens out there who can't afford to hire lobbyists. Will a strange bedfellow coalition of Progressives and Teabaggers be strong enough in the House. How about a filibuster led by Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the Senate? And, if I read David Atkin's post at Digby's place right on Monday, maybe Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will be joining them as well. he and Dante sat down with Whitehouse in Charlotte and asked him about protecting Social Security and Medicare, particularly about the Obama/Boehner plans for a Grand Bargain which looks like quite a bargain for the rich and the shaft for working families. Whitehouse felt, like many progressives, that the fatal flaw in Simpson-Bowles is how the right wants to use this to get at Social Security. Fatal is a good word next to flaw in this instance, but Obama wants this bad and he'll probably fight harder and smarter to wreck Social Security for Wall Street than Bush did after he won his second term. White House says Social Security cannot be rolled into the equation and that the Defending Social Security Caucus will fight. There are 15 members and at least two of them, Schumer and Menendez are total Wall Street puppets and will probably cause more harm inside the caucus than if they weren't part of it. The other members are Dan Akaka (D-HI), who's retiring, Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Whitehouse.
Whitehouse: Social Security has a $2 trillion surplus. It contributes virtually not at all to our national debt and deficit. It has long been kind of a bogeyman to the Republican Party that we have Social Security. They want to get rid of it, they want to privatize it, they never liked it. We cannot use this debt and deficit discussion as an excuse or vehicle to go after Social Security which is a separate discussion. It's sound until 2027, I think, at this point. It has got a huge surplus, and we need to make sure there is airspace between our debt and deficit discussion and Social Security. That's one of the reasons I helped found the Defending Social Security Caucus, and one of the things I think has happened in the Senate, not invisibly perhaps as it might have, but visibly to those of us who are there, setting Simpson-Bowles aside, the discussion about using Social Security to solve the deficit, has really gone away. And I think in part it's because I believe we're up to thirty Senators who have signed on and said, "No way. No way. Not going to happen." And we make a blocking minority that makes that very difficult for the White House. They've backed off, everybody has backed off. And I think that's an important line. We have a success so far. But when you look at $2 trillion that Wall Street would love to get its hands on, and privatizing Social Security that Wall Street would love to do, this is a fight that's not going to go away. We're in a good position on it now, we should not give in, and we need to be alert really for the rest of our lives to protect against those efforts to encroach on it.
...Atkins: Thrilled about your answer on Social Security and thank you for all your activism on that. In terms of the other major issue which is, of course, Medicare, I guess a lot of plans have come out and I'm surprised there hasn't been more of a push for raising the caps as opposed to making earned benefit cuts. What is going on there, and what do you expect to see happen during the lame duck session?
Whitehouse: Well, either in the lame duck session or assuming we do a continuing resolution in March when we have the sort of big budget discussion, I think those are issues that are going to be on the table. I'd love to raise the cap on Social Security, so that someone who is making $100 million isn't paying the same amount into Social Security as someone making $100,000. That just doesn't make to me any logical sense. If Social Security could use the support in way out years, why not get started now when it's an easier foundation to build?
I think the Medicare discussion is one that we need to grab a hold of and win. And we need to do two things: one is to point out that there's a difference between savings in the Medicare system that come from making a better healthcare system for people, and cutting people's benefits and giving them less access to the healthcare system. And there's a clear distinction between those two strategies, and the Republicans have worked very hard to blur those two, and to say that the $716 billion in savings in the Affordable Healthcare Act is actually a cut. It's not. Unless you're a big insurance company or a provider. Then maybe it's a cut to you, but it's a signal to get more efficient and deliver the care better. And to kind of get that morphed into the plan for the Republicans to take Medicare and get it turned into a voucher program is something we've got to be really, really clear on. And the last point I would make, even though this gets a little bit techy and geeky, is that there really is a huge savings potential not in Medicare per se but in our healthcare system from better healthcare delivery, more primary care, more prevention, less administrative overhead, electronic health records, paying doctors for results and keeping patients healthy rather than procedures and treating them when they're sick, that whole arena of activity is estimated to saving between $700 billion a year and $1 trillion a year in American healthcare, and that needs to be a Democratic issue. That is how you bring down the cost of Medicare and veterans' care, and TriCare, and Blue Cross and United and all of it, in a way that people in the country can see difference in their lives in better care that costs less because you're not getting sick, you're not taking drugs that react badly with each other because nobody kept track that they do react badly with each other and you prescribe both of them. I mean, that's an arena we need to put light into and we need to own. It's good policy, it's innovation, it's high tech, it's all the things that we're for.
We need to strengthen the Members of Congress who are willing to hold the line for working families. In the House, we've found 16 candidates from every part of the country using the Prosperity Economics framing as a way for campaigning against Ryan's and Romney's and Wall Street's toxic Austerity Agenda. And, of course, in running for the crucial Massachusetts and Wisconsin Senate seats are two stalwarts for economic justice issues, Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin. Brother, if you can spare a dime, spare it now.