Sunday, December 09, 2012

Ready To Kiss The Social Contract Bye-Bye?


By the time Obama and Boehner present their Grand Bargain to the public, it will be too late to stop it. They're both hell-bent on "structural reform" to Medicare, which means, among other things, raising the eligibility age. If they could get away with it, they'd raise the Social Security retirement age as well. Both really want to badly, though neither wants the blame. In return for an inconsequentially small hike in tax rates for the richest in America-- almost all of whom, at least among the billionaire class, have gotten so rich through criminal enterprise-- Obama has an excuse for what he's long wanted-- smashing FDR's populist legacy, a legacy he believes he's entitled to tinker with now that he's been reelected, probably not focusing much on the fact that most Americans think he's, at best, a mediocre president and that he only won reelection because of the much worse Republican that ran against him.

Yesterday, Politico actually posed a worthwhile question for a change: when Obama and Boehner wheel out their monstrosity, will Congress pass it? Not wanting to sound like Dickens' Madame Defarge, it seems obvious to me that Democrats voting to wreck Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security will be slitting their own throats. Who's going to bother going to the polls to vote for a Democrat in the 2014 midterm who voted for the failed Austerity Agenda that's driving Europe into Depression? If you thought the dozens of Democrats who lost their congressional seats in the 2010 Great Blue Dog Apocalypse was big, just watch what happens in 2014 if the congressional Democrats don't standup to Obama and Boehner on behalf of ordinary working families! And Boehner can't-- and wouldn't even try to-- pass this thing without lots of Democratic votes.

There's a certain drama to imagining that rebels on the right and on the left will tank the deal but many DC insiders laugh at the prospect. Former GOP Senator Gregg Judd (NH): “If the speaker and the president reach an agreement, the numbers aren’t going to be an issue at all. The president controls his caucus. The speaker controls his caucus. There’s no question.” We'll see if Judd, who left Congress before the Tea Party and before Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison started whipping the Progressive Caucus into shape, still has his fingers on the pulse.
Boehner’s House remains very much the same unruly place that initially sank the 2008 financial rescue package, sending stock and commodity prices plummeting. The Senate has also done nothing to improve its reputation for deliberating ... and deliberating ... and deliberating.

Add to the mix rank-and-file lawmakers’ resentment over being frozen out of the fiscal cliff talks, atop many other big bills such as the Budget Control Act and health care, which have hit the floor seemingly greased to move, and Washington dysfunction could yet unravel any handshake agreement between the president and speaker.

Interviews with more than a dozen House and Senate lawmakers, many of whom are primed to start whipping votes, underscored the reality that the lame-duck session could still end in tax hikes and across-the-board spending cuts.

“I wouldn’t want to put a percentage on it, but it certainly could happen,” said Rep. Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican who next month will be sworn in as a senator.

“It’s absolutely possible. We’ve seen it happen before,” added Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, a chief deputy whip for House Democrats.

For Boehner to be successful, DeGette said the speaker needs to remember during his negotiations with Obama that a sizable number of Republicans are expected to jump ship on any tax agreement with the White House-- whether it’s a short-term deal or something much bigger.

“The Republican leadership is going to have to realize they have to work with us,” she told Politico.

Boehner has needed Democrats before. In August 2011, 66 mostly conservative House Republicans voted against legislation to extend the debt limit, requiring GOP leaders to find dozens of Democratic yes votes on the bill that mandated about $1 trillion in spending cuts and also set in motion the sequestration ax poised to fall on the Pentagon and other federal agencies on Jan. 2.

Many of those same conservatives are again drawing a line for Boehner, this time with a demand that he make no concessions to the White House to raise tax rates.

...Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp, one of four conservatives stripped of prized committee assignments this week for not voting enough with GOP leadership, said in an interview that Republicans should be fearful of the electoral consequences if they support raising taxes.

“If there’s a clear tax increase in it, quite a few of them, if they vote for that tax increase, that’ll mean a primary challenge in 2014,” he said in an interview. “It’s that important.”

...Senior House aides and rank-and-file members are floating a number of potential scenarios to conclude the session, including House Republicans allowing floor votes on two bills: one that extends the Bush-era tax cuts for all households, including the rich, and another backed mostly by Democrats that extends the rates only on incomes less than $250,000 a year.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he was urging House Republicans to accept passage of the Democratic tax bill by voting “present” on the measure. At that point, the bill would come to the Senate, where he expected it also would pass on partisan lines.

“And then the Democrats are the party of higher taxes and we’re still the party of lower taxes,” Paul said in an interview. “And we have elections over that and people decide which party they like best.”

...Even if House GOP conservatives sunk a bill on the first crack, former Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.) said he thought Congress would be risking too much to reject a deal outright. “It’ll be like the TARP," he said, referring to the House’s 2008 vote on financial bailout legislation sought by the outgoing George W. Bush administration. "They’ll come back and do it until we do it."

Though some lawmakers have indicated an interest in amending any final deal on the floor, Fazio also said it won't be an open process. “At this point, to get us past the cliff, I think it’ll be pretty much take-it-or-leave-it,” he said.

And leading whip counters maintain that they won’t need much time to get a winning coalition together if the White House and Boehner can strike a balanced deal.

“The unique nature of the Capitol is that we’re all confined to this building at that point,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), vice-chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and a former deputy whip. “We’ll all have an opportunity within those next few days, even if it’s very quick, to engage our colleagues and to have the unity that we’ve come to expect in our caucus.”
Crowley? Red flags rising! One of the most corrupt Members of Congress-- who was caught, his pockets literally stuffed with bankster bribes, voting against working families during the House Ways and Means Committee debates on Wall Street reform, was the chairman of the pro-Big Business/anti-working family New Dems until a few weeks ago when he joined the ranks of Democratic Caucus leadership. Last week he so-authored a letter with progressives (eventually signed by 102 Democrats) to Boehner asking him to take Social Security off the table. Crowley is the quintessential kind of corporate shill and DC hack who will do exactly what Obama tells him to do, whether than means gutting Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security or all three. It isn't helpful for progressive leaders like Ellison, Grijalva and Conyers to associate themselves with him-- and the impending betrayal he represents. “Millions of seniors depend on Social Security to put food on the table every day,” the co-authors write. “Contrary to some claims, Social Security is not the cause of our nation’s deficit problem. Under longstanding federal law, Social Security is not part of the federal budget and cannot contribute to the federal deficit. We should not sacrifice our seniors to solve a problem they did not create.” This is way too important for getting involved in any sleazy games Joe Crowley is up to. Remember, Boehner, Cantor, Ryan and their cronies released a plan last Monday that would tie Social Security benefits to a lower level of inflation through a Chained Consumer Price Index (CPI), costing the average 65-year-old retiring now more than $6,000 over 15 years. More than a third of all widowed women rely on Social Security for 90% of their income.

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At 7:30 AM, Blogger John said...

Perhaps not entirely "off topic": below is a notice I received that may be of interest.
John Puma
Ms. Bertha Lewis and the Black Institute are proud to join the Left Labor Project in presenting legendary activists, Angela Davis and Harry Belafonte in “After The Election – Where Do We Go From Here?”

Angela Davis and Harry Belafonte look at the changed political scene after Pres. Obama’s re-election. With the far right kept out of the White House and denied control of the Senate, are there new opportunities for building a progressive alternative? Can working class communities and unions bring more pressure on the government? How can we break new ground to turn things around for the 99%? Join the discussion at this FREE forum.

Monday, December 10, 2012

6:00 pm

Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center

1199SEIU Auditorium

310 West 43rd Street, NYC


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