Thursday, July 01, 2010

Not So Fast

Wednesday night, Rachel Maddow ran video of President Obama taking a well-deserved shot at the House Minority Leader:

The leader of the Republicans in the House said that financial reform was like—and I‘m quoting here—“using a nuclear weapon to target an ant.” That‘s what he said. He compared the financial crisis to an ant.

This is the same financial crisis that led to the loss of nearly 8 million jobs, same crisis that cost people their homes, their life savings. I—you can‘t be that out of touch—with the struggles of American families. And if he is, then he‘s got to come here to Racine and ask people what they think.

And, boy, was the MSNBC host excited!

Well, yesterday, we had another huge political error committed by a leading Republican and again the question was: will the famously ever hapless Democrats realize that they could take advantage of this one, too? It was an interview with “The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review” that came out yesterday and when top—when John Boehner, the top Republican in the House, referred to the giant financial crisis that we‘re all still living through as a tiny little ant. And that Wall Street reformed to address that crisis he said, would be like killing an ant with a nuclear weapon. Who needs reform? Stop overreacting.

In that same interview, Mr. Boehner said Republicans want to raise the retirement age for Social Security to 70. And he demonstrated on tape that he has absolutely no idea what the deep water oil drilling moratorium is. He honestly seemed to just not understand it.

Would Democrats in this case after another Republican failure like this—would Democrats be able to step into the yawning breech and the political fabric? Would they able to capitalize on this unforced error?

It turns out that they will. I am not an inside-the-Beltway enough person to know who exactly gets credit for the fact that Democrats are all over this stuff all of a sudden—but Democrats are all over this stuff all of a sudden. Within hours of the “financial crisis is an ant” quote being published yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s office responded, quote, “An ant, Mr. Boehner? It was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression—Americans lost 8 million jobs and $17 trillion in retirement savings and net worth.”

Today, President Obama also took his best shot.

Yep, that was a good shot taken at a guy carrying water for the financial services industry. But Boehner had the previous day also

said he'd favor increasing the Social Security retirement age to 70 for people who have at least 20 years until retirement, tying cost-of-living increases to the consumer price index rather than wage inflation, and limiting payments to those who need them....

"We need to look at the American people and explain to them that we're broke," Boehner said. "If you have substantial non-Social Security income while you're retired, why are we paying you at a time when we're broke? We just need to be honest with people."

John Boehner, who probably would become Speaker of the House if the GOP takes control in January, wants to cut the heart out of arguably the most successful anti-poverty program, and most popular government program, in American history. Make citizens work longer to collect from the fund they've paid into and turn it into a welfare (translation: unpopular, and easily slashed) program.

And what did President Obama say about Social Security in the speech in Racine, Wisconsin which Maddow heralded?

....there have been times when only government has been able to do what individuals couldn’t do and corporations wouldn’t do. That's how we have Social Security, a minimum wage....

And there was this:

There have always been those who’ve said no to these ideas and policies. There were accusations that Social Security would lead to socialism, and that Medicare was a government takeover. There were automakers....

Social Security was necessary and was not socialism. But what did the President comment about Boehner's remarks?

Nothing- nothing from the president who appointed as co-chairman of his deficit-reduction commission a former senator committed to undermining Social Security. And still is.

So let's applaud the President for jumping on John Boehner's metaphor- but be wary that he is leading the effort to weaken the programs which have lifted our parents and grandparents out of poverty and given them the medical care they've earned.

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