Friday, March 15, 2013

Nancy Pelosi Owes Her Legacy A Classier Swan Song Than This


One fought off GOP efforts to stop Social Security & the other is working with the GOP to dismantle it. Can you guess?

Nancy Pelosi's place in history is assured. She was the first woman elected Speaker of the House and, until Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren becomes president, Nancy will be remembered as the highest-ranked woman elected official in American history. I was living in San Francisco when she was elected chairman of the California Democratic Party and when she won a special election in 1987 that brought her to Congress. In 1991 she was one of the founders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, though she quit in 2003 when she was elected Minority Leader. Since becoming Leader-- and then Speaker and now Leader again-- she has been scrupulous about never leaning in favor of progressives and their agenda. She bends over backwards to be "fair" to more corporate-oriented and reactionary members of her caucus... and certainly doesn't argue with Obama, at least not publicly, about his ConservaDem agenda. Remember, Obama has reassured the Blue Dogs that he's a Blue Dog too-- but he's never assured the progressives of anything... other than opposition to their ideas and programs.

Yesterday it was widely reported that Pelosi is willing to look at Obama's latest sell out of working families-- his deal with Boehner to cut benefits that seniors have earned through the Social Security system FDR Democrats passed long before Obama was born. Social Security is more important than Barack Obama... and if Pelosi wanted to serve him well, and serve her party well (not to mention the American people), she would remind the president of that. Instead she appears to be willing to sacrifice her own somewhat tattered reputation to give him cover for the Grand Bargain he and Boehner want so badly.
Ahead of a meeting between President Obama and House Democrats, Pelosi said moving to a less generous formula for adjusting Social Security benefits to inflation-- if it protects the most vulnerable Social Security beneficiaries-- would be preferable to other entitlement cuts Republicans are urging, like raising Medicare's eligibility age.

..."If we can demonstrate that it doesn’t hurt the poor and the very elderly, then let's take a look at it," Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. "Because compared to what? Compared to Republicans saying Medicare should wither on the vine? Social Security has no place in a free society?”

Citing a Kaiser Foundation analysis indicating that raising Medicare's eligibility age would cost the government money, Pelosi said such a move is simply "trophy-taking."

“It's just a scalp,” she said. “It doesn't save money.”

The president has repeatedly said he's willing to index future Social Security updates to the so-called chained consumer price index (CPI), which would reduce payments over the long term, and he reiterated that message in meetings with Senate Democrats and House Republicans this week.

The proposal-- and Obama's willingness to embrace it-- has infuriated liberal Democrats in both chambers, who argue that Social Security hasn't contributed to deficit spending and should therefore be left untouched in any deficit debate.
Needless to say, Pelosi hasn't signed the Grayson-Takano No Cuts letter which emphasizes 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." Greg Sargent reported early yesterday that progressives in Congress are not responding well to Pelosi's willingness to sell them out so fast.
“Why are we doing this?” Dem Rep. Keith Ellison, a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said to me in an interview today. Asked which is worse, continued sequestration or a grand bargain that cuts entitlement benefits, Ellison said: “It’s like saying, 'Which of your kids do you want to sacrifice to the monster?’ Neither one.”

Ellison is backed up by over 100 other House Dems who have pledged to fight any cuts to retirement benefits, including Chained CPI, a way of indexing Social Security benefits to inflation that amounts to a real benefits cut.

...“Leader Pelosi has always encouraged members to offer their own sincerely held views,” Ellison told me. “My sincerely held view is that Chained CPI is a benefit cut for people who have very little. An overwhelming number of people who are on Social Security have fixed incomes. We have a lot of people across America who agree. Most of our caucus is opposed to this.”

...“Once we do that we’re already in the territory of bargaining away Chained CPI,” Ellison said. “We’re already saying we’re open to negotiating on Chained CPI. And we’re not.” Senator Bernie Sanders has similarly insisted that liberals must not allow the choice to be framed this way, and has instead called on the White House and Dem leaders to try to leverage public opinion to force Republicans to accept a long term deal that includes increased revenues and cuts spending judiciously without targeting entitlement benefits.

Ellison pointed out that Republicans aren’t as quick as Dems to signal a willingness to trade away core priorities at the outset. “Republicans don’t do that,” he said.

The sharp language from Ellison, Sanders and other liberals shows that Obama and Dem leaders will face a stiff headwind from the left if they stray too far on to “grand bargain” territory. The endgame here, however, remains murky. If Obama and Dem leaders do reach some kind of deal with Republicans in the Senate, some liberals might support it in the end if the President asks them to, just as liberals have previously proven willing to give away core priorities to advance his agenda. Or a deal might simply pass without liberals. Wherever this is headed, for progressives who want to make their opposition to any “grand bargain” benefits cuts known, the time is now.
Pelosi came out on top when she opposed Dick Gephardt in 2002. He was party Leader and she was Whip. He backed Bush's attack against Iraq and she opposed it. Most Democrats-- being progressives-- sided with her. This time she's backing the wrong side and most Democrats are not going to back her, although because a Democrat sits in the White House, this is a fight that will tear the party apart. Obama's legacy.

Thursday, when Obama lectured House Democrats that they have to be ready to "sacrifice their scared cows" for the sake of a bipartisan Grand Bargain with the vampires who would like to reinstate slavery, someone should have stood up and said, "With all due respect, Señor Presidente, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are not our sacred cows. They're a social contract fought for and won by the American people with their blood and tears-- so go fuck yourself." (I believe that's the first time in 8 years I used the f-word on DWT-- although Ken uses it frequently. Apologies to everyone, except Obama.) Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid aren't bargaining chips, any more than the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, Emancipation of the slaves, the right to form unions, Women's Suffrage and all the other progress America has made that has been opposed by conservatives.

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At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Jim Pence said...

CPI=Diet COLA. As a Progressive I'm ashamed of what the Democratic Party has become.

At 3:28 PM, Anonymous me said...

[Pelosi] has been scrupulous about never leaning in favor of progressives

Pelosi showed her true colors when she passed on the opportunity to impeach the war criminal and worst president in history, GW Bush.

At 3:36 PM, Blogger John said...

Ms Pelosi became irrelevant as a political force when, as House minority leader, she proclaimed she was not interested in considering impeachment of Bush II.

This was 8 months before she became speaker.

John Puma

At 11:49 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

And she doesn't deserve another chance to be speaker again after she blew it with Bush it's time to seriously replace her Steny Hoyer & the establishment dems (blue dogs new dems) & elect smarter & better progressive dems with a backbone.

At 6:48 AM, Blogger Stentor said...

No, DWT what that Progressive member of Congress should have said to Obama was, "Fuck your Grand Bargain, fuck balancing the budget on the backs of the poor, disabled, elderly, veterans, & not the wealthy, & fuck austerity. Grow a spine Mr. President & raise the goddamned taxes on the wealthiest & the corporations because we're going to repeal the sequester." instead so that he would clearly get the message about everything.

At 12:40 PM, Anonymous robert dagg murphy said...

Nancy Pelosi is all establishment, and who expected anything more.

Our politics are very sad, and who expected anything more.

The retirement age should be lowered to fifty (50) and the benefits at least doubled.


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