Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How Many Democrats In Congress Will Vote To Keep Obama And Boehner From A Grand Austerity Bargain?


Even Bernie Sanders couches his criticism of Obama's willingness to sell out working families and seniors to Republican predators in terms that almost never acknowledge any fumbling by Obama. It's always, "Let's support the president's pledge to protect working families" and stuff like that. That approach is going to get harder in coming weeks as it becomes more and more transparent that Obama starts bargaining away pieces of the social safety net to Republicans whose only motivations are to wreck his presidency and make themselves heroes to the one percent.

Last week a Member of Congress called and asked if Blue America would be interested in hosting a chat about Obama going down the wrong path. "Of course," I responded. "Isn't that what Digby and DWT do everyday anyway? This Obama push behind the chained CPI is going to cause a real break between the corporate Democrats (and the blind Obamabots) and genuine progressives. Sanders actually already uttered the words, that Obama is "dead wrong" to go along with the GOP on this assault against seniors who can least afford it. Kate Nocera did the reporting at Politico:
President Barack Obama may be thinking about a “grand bargain” to address spending and the federal deficit, but there’s a key constituency he has to persuade to come along.


The talk of any deal with congressional Republicans-- and for now, it’s just that: talk-- has liberals worried the White House will give in to changes to safety net programs including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Republicans say such changes are an essential part of any big deal. And Obama previously has been open to a number of reforms that irk the liberals, such as raising the retirement age of Medicare, means-testing and adopting an inflation calculation, known as chained CPI, for Social Security.

Inevitably, if there is an agreement on a big deal, Democrats will have to get on board for it to pass. But the 2012 election brought in new Democratic members of the House and Senate who are more liberal and more outspoken, strengthening the left wing of the caucus.

One hundred and seven of the 200 House Democrats signed a letter to Obama threatening to vote “against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits-- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”

Instead, they want the White House to “rely on economic growth and more fair revenue-raising policies to solve our fiscal problems,” like getting rid of subsidies for big businesses and raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

“I only know one thing: I’m against cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the House. “I don’t really care who is pushing it. It doesn’t matter who says it’s a good idea. It’s a bad idea.”

Ellison said the early resistance from House Democrats to cutting benefits was an indication “they won’t be able to do it.”
And then there's the line-in-the-sand Grayson-Takano letter, co-signed by over two dozen progressives: "We write to let you know that we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits-- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need." This is in line with recent polling that shows the vast majority of Americans do not want to see Congress (and Obama) cut Social Security and Medicare. And that even includes a startling 62% of Republican voters! The Boehner-Obama strategy is to assume voters are so stupid they won't understand that the chained CPI is a significant cut to Social Security. Their allies in the Village are already pushing that implausible line relentlessly. The Progressive Caucus has an entirely different line than that: The Back to Work Budget. This is the antithesis of the failed European (ad Paul Ryan) Austerity agenda:
As our jobs crisis continues, more families are falling behind while the richest 1 percent of Americans take home an ever larger share of our nation's gains. The Back to Work Budget invests in America's future because the best way to reduce our long-term deficit is to put America back to work. In the first year alone, we create nearly 7 million American jobs and increase GDP by 5.7%. The budget gets us to near 5% unemployment in three years with a jobs plan that includes repairing our nation's roads and bridges, and rehiring teachers, cops and firefighters who have borne the brunt of our economic downturn. We reduce the deficit by $4.4 trillion by closing tax loopholes and asking the wealthy to pay a fair share. We repeal the arbitrary sequester and the Budget Control Act that are damaging the economy, and instead strengthen Medicare, Medicaid and programs that give struggling Americans a chance to succeed. This budget proves that if we invest in our middle class, America's best days are ahead.

Job Creation

Infrastructure- substantially increases infrastructure investment to the level the American Society of Civil Engineers says is necessary to close our infrastructure needs gap

Education- funds school modernizations and rehiring laid-off teachers

Aid to States- closes the recession-caused gap in state budgets for two years, allowing the rehiring of cops, firefighters, and other public employees

Making Work Pay- boosts consumer demand by reinstating an expanded tax credit for three years

Emergency Unemployment Compensation- allows beneficiaries to claim up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits in high-unemployment states for two years

Public Works Job Programs and Aid to Distressed Communities- includes job programs such as a Park Improvement Corps, Student Jobs Corps, and Child Care Corps

Fair Individual Tax

Immediately allows Bush tax cuts to expire for families earning over $250K

Higher tax rates for millionaires and billionaires (from 45% to 49%)

Taxes income from investments the same as income from wages

Fair Corporate Tax

Ends corporate tax bias toward moving jobs and profits overseas

Enacts a financial transactions tax

Reduces deductions for corporate jets, meals, and entertainment


Returns Pentagon spending to 2006 levels, focusing on the needs of modern security

Health Care

No benefit cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security

Reduces health care costs by adopting a public option, negotiating drug prices, and reducing fraud


Prices carbon pollution with a rebate to hold low income households harmless

Eliminates corporate tax subsidies for oil, gas, and coal companies
Real progressives are signing the Grayson-Takano letter
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders told Greg Sargent Monday that he's ready to get together with other progressives in the Senate to filibuster any Grand Bargain that chips away at Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid in the name of a balanced budget. Sanders is helping Sragent understand that Democrats need to build a coalition to leverage public opinion to force Republicans to accept a resolution that combines judicious spending cuts with new revenues from the rich and corporations-- while preserving entitlement benefits.
“It’s a question of making Republicans an offer they can’t refuse,” Sanders tells me. “Their position is no more revenues. You and I know that is not the position of the American people. One in four corporations doesn’t pay any taxes. What Democrats and progressives should say is, `Sorry, we’re not going to balance the budget on the backs of the vulnerable.’” Sanders described the idea of cutting education, Social Security, Medicare and veterans’ benefits as an “obscenity.”

...I asked Sanders if he would filibuster any grand bargain that cuts entitlement benefits. “It’s more than just the filibuster,” he said. “That’s a one day tactic. This is about rallying the American people and winning.” He predicted liberals in the Senate (Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown, and Elizabeth Warren come to mind) would likely band together to adopt a range of tactics to block such a grand bargain. “Filibustering may be part of it,” he said.
Don't leave out Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mo Cowan or Ed Markey (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Maybe even Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Tom Udall (D-NM).

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At 1:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom Harkin may not join a filibuster. He has been trying to get rid of them for decades. But he is a champion of Social Security, Medicare, and every other decent thing the government does.


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