Friday, November 30, 2012

Grand Bargain-- Not All That Grand, Not For America's Working Families


Baucus, eager to sell out working families,  faces the voters in 2014. Will he have a primary?

Progressives inside the Beltway veal pen want so badly to believe Obama and the Democrats won't sell out working families as part of the Grand Bargain that they're buying into the bullshit as Glenn Greenwald predicted they would in his step-by-step look at how progressives would be outmaneuvered once again.
Labor and progressive leaders came away from a private meeting with White House officials Tuesday encouraged as well, according to an attendee who spoke with the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. In particular, hopes are rising that the president is willing to go over the so-called fiscal cliff on Jan. 1 in order to force Republicans to pass a bill that preserves the Bush tax cuts for the bottom 98 percent of income earners. Combine that with loud grumbling among some Republicans about the right’s resistance to tax increases and the outlook is looking even better on the revenue side.

The composition of the Senate is also a factor. Several popular progressive candidates will join the Senate in January, most notably Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin, while some of the left’s most hated centrists are on the way out, most notably Joe Lieberman. Activists think they’ll have a powerful set of messengers for their favored deficit reduction ideas, like allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and reducing military spending, especially if negotiations continue past the lame duck session.

That said, it’s early in the game and liberal groups are doing all they can to keep the heat on wavering Democrats. There are still concerns that the markets might grow jittery as the new year approaches, pushing nervous lawmakers toward the first deal House Republicans offer.

AFL-CIO organizers from around the country descended on Washington this week to lobby lawmakers to protect entitlement benefits and hold firm on ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest top 2 percent of Americans. And the PCCC released a poll of New Hampshire voters on Tuesday showing that a plan championed by Elizabeth Warren to raise taxes on the rich while reducing subsidies was a political winner. And is hand-delivering letters to every representative in Congress telling them to oppose benefit cuts.

“We’ve been heartened by some of the things we’ve heard,” Ilya Sheyman, campaigns director for, told TPM. “But there’s so much at stake that our members don’t feel like they can wait on the sidelines and not apply pressure.”
This is a sad joke-- and Obama is probably enjoying watching the veal pen liberals make fools of themselves. He and Boehner have already agreed to "at least" $400 billion in cuts to Medicare in return for some not very significant tax increases for the wealthy. Remember, the negotiator-in-chief is Barack Obama, not Franklin Roosevelt. He's said all along that all he wants is to increase taxes for the rich moochers and freeloaders by "a little bit." He was never talking about bringing the tax rates back to FDR's or Eisenhower's time-- when they were fair and when the middle class in this country-- and democracy itself-- exploded into an era of widely shared prosperity. Nope, Obama never wanted much, never asked for much, and was always willing to give away the store to get a little. And most Beltway Democrats-- inside and outside Congress (including union officials)-- will stupidly back him.
Listen to top Democrats and Republicans talk on camera, and it sounds like they could not be further apart on a year-end tax-and-spending deal-- a down payment on a $4 trillion grand bargain.

But behind the scenes, top officials who have been involved in the talks for many months say the contours of a deal-- including the size of tax hikes and spending cuts it will likely contain-- are starting to take shape.

Cut through the fog, and here’s what to expect: Taxes will go up just shy of $1.2 trillion-- the middle ground of what President Barack Obama wants and what Republicans say they could stomach. Entitlement programs, mainly Medicare, will be cut by no less than $400 billion-- and perhaps a lot more, to get Republicans to swallow those tax hikes. There will be at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and “war savings.” And any final deal will come not by a group effort but in a private deal between two men: Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The two men had what one insider described as a short, curt conversation Wednesday night-- but the private lines of communications remain very much open.

...To those involved in the talks, it’s not really a mystery how big the overall hike will be. Boehner was for $800 billion before the election, and Obama slapped down an opening bid of $1.6 trillion after. So it doesn’t take Ernst and Young to add those numbers, divide by two and know the president wants to end up close to $1.2 trillion.

House Republicans, already worried about possible primary challenges in 2014, are pleading to keep that number below $1 trillion, even if it is by a hair. Still, they know it’s likely to come in a shade higher. The safe bet is just over $1 trillion for the final number. A bit less, and that’s a notable win for Boehner.

...There is only one way to make the medicine of tax hikes go down easier for Republicans: specific cuts to entitlement spending. Democrats involved in the process said the chest-pounding by liberals is just that-- they know they will ultimately cave and trim entitlements to get a deal done.

...Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told Morning Joe on Tuesday that he could see $400 billion in entitlement cuts. That’s the floor, according to Democratic aides, and it could go higher in the final give and take. The vast majority of the savings, and perhaps all of it, will come from Medicare, through a combination of means-testing, raising the retirement age and other “efficiencies” to be named later. It is possible Social Security gets tossed into the mix, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to fight that, if he has to yield on other spending fronts.
Democrats will try to get their grassroots to buy into this load of crap as a partisan "win"-- one of those "our side won moments... yah!" And it will probably work. Maybe they'll even throw a "win" for pro-corporate-war advocate Susan Rice into the pot as a sweetener for "progressives," as if that elite-vs-elite crap matters to anyone Outside-the-Beltway. Hopefully no incumbents will come to Blue America for reelection help in 2014 who have bought into this betrayal. and it looks like Blue America won't be the only bunch reminding voters who stabs them in the back.

In the past the Progressive Caucus has had trouble holding its members together when Obama wanted something his way. In fact, some of the members are pretty lax about what it means to be a progressive anyway and slip slide over to the corporate Dems when it suits their purposes. What ever happened to the public option line in the sand, for example? In any case, the one hopeful note that's floating around the Beltway today is Keith Ellison's vow that the Caucus he co-chairs with Raul Grijalva will not budge when it comes to eviscerating benefits to working families. Keith: “Any agreement to meet our end-of-the-year deadlines will need a large portion of the House Democratic Caucus to pass. Progressives will not support any deal that cuts benefits for families and seniors who rely on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to put food on the table or cover their health costs." The author, Alex Seitz-Wald, goes on to point out that "while Ellison and progressives have said they oppose benefit cuts, they’re open to other means of cutting costs in entitlement programs. 'There are better options that protect seniors, children and disabled Americans,' Ellison said, citing the elimination of the income cap on Social Security taxes or letting Medicare negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, something Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin also floated yesterday."

Ilya Sheyman, the campaign director at, was even more aggressive in his reaction to the trial balloon that Obama and Boehner had settled on, taking $400 billion out of Medicare. “More than 80 percent of MoveOn’s seven million members say they want us to fight a deal that cuts those benefits, even if it also ends all of the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent. And that’s a mainstream position everywhere except in the lobbyist-cash-infused DC cocktail circuit... Bottom line: Any Democrat who votes to cut Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits does so at his or her own peril, and shouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to be held accountable by MoveOn members in the next primary election.”

As Krugman reminded his readers today, Romney may have been overwhelmingly defeated but class war is not over, "this time [it's being fought] with an added dose of deception."

And this, in turn, means that you need to look very closely at any proposals coming from the usual suspects, even-- or rather especially-- if the proposal is being represented as a bipartisan, common-sense solution. In particular, whenever some deficit-scold group talks about “shared sacrifice,” you need to ask, sacrifice relative to what?

As regular readers may know, I’m not a fan of the Bowles-Simpson report on deficit reduction that laid out a poorly designed plan that for some reason has achieved near-sacred status among the Beltway elite. Still, at least you can say this for Bowles-Simpson: When it talked about shared sacrifice, it started from a “baseline” that already assumed the end of the high-end Bush tax cuts. At this point, however, just about all the deficit scolds seem to want us to count the expiration of those cuts-- which were sold on false pretenses, and were never affordable-- as some kind of big giveback by the rich. It isn’t.

So keep your eyes open as the fiscal game of chicken continues. It’s an uncomfortable but real truth that we are not all in this together; America’s top-down class warriors lost big in the election, but now they’re trying to use the pretense of concern about the deficit to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Let’s not let them pull it off.

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At 5:43 PM, Anonymous me said...

Progressives inside the Beltway veal pen want so badly to believe Obama and the Democrats won't sell out working families

Hey, that's pretty funny. He just spent the last four years selling out.

A leopard doesn't change its spots.

At 5:47 PM, Anonymous me said...

they're buying into the bullshit

Time and again, voters have proven themselves to be world-class dumbasses, so that's no surprise.


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