Monday, September 03, 2012

Cut And Lose

Sometimes the truth and wise political strategy intersect.   Amid numerous flights from reality exhibited in his acceptance speech, Paul Ryan claimed

He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.

Republicans stepped up with good-faith reforms and solutions equal to the problems. How did the president respond? By doing nothing— nothing except to dodge and demagogue the issue.

Here is how the stridently partisan, evil President chose "to dodge and demagogue the issue" in a recent interview with Time's Michael Scherer:

I will continue to reach out to them and work with them wherever I can. And I think it’s important to note that even in the two years that Republicans have controlled the House, we’ve gotten a lot of stuff done. We have passed a payroll tax cut that affected almost every American. We’ve helped veterans get hired as they come home. We’ve gotten two major trade deals that open up markets and are contributing to us doubling exports.

So even in a pretty sour political circumstance, we’ve been able to get some things accomplished. And I believe that in a second term, where Mitch McConnell’s imperative of making me a one-term President is no longer relevant, they recognize that what the American people are looking for is for us to get things done.

And I will continue to insist to my Democratic colleagues that not all good ideas just come from Democrats and that if we’re going to reduce our deficit in a serious way, we are going to have to cut some spending even on some programs that I like. If we’re going to be serious about energy independence, then we can’t just have a knee-jerk opposition to the incredible resources that we have in our country. We’ve got to have an all-of-the-above strategy that develops oil and gas and clean coal along with wind and solar.

I will continue to reach out to them and work with them wherever I can.... even in a pretty sour political circumstance, we've been able to get some things accomplished... And I will continue to insist to my Democratic colleagues that they must do what Republicans want them to do.   Holy Batman!  The man is a terror, vicious and vengeful.  He must be stopped.

Lyin' Ryan, of course, never noted what those "good-faith reforms and solutions equal to the problems" were which were proposed by the Gas and Oil Party, presumably because there has been none.     But that might not stop Obama, with Democrats dutifully following his lead, from stopping themselves.   The President went on to tell Scherer

My message to Democrats is the same message I’ve got to Republicans and independents, and that is, I want a balanced approach to deficit reduction that combines additional revenue, particularly from folks like me who can afford it, with prudent cuts on both the discretionary side and the mandatory side but that still allows us to make investments in the things we need to grow.

And that means I’m prepared to look at reforms in Medicaid. I’m prepared to look at smart reforms on Medicare. But there are things I won’t do, and this is part of the debate we’re having in this election. I do not think it is a good idea to set up Medicare as a voucher system in which seniors are spending up to $6,000 more out of pocket. That was the original proposal Congressman Ryan put forward. And there is still a strong impulse I think among some Republicans for that kind of approach.

I’m not going to slash Medicaid to the point where disabled kids or seniors who are in nursing homes are basically uncared for. We’re not going to violate the basic bargain that Social Security represents.

Now, the good news is, if you’re willing to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires, then you can make modest reforms on entitlements, reduce some additional discretionary spending, achieve deficit reduction and still preserve Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid in ways that people can count on. The only reason that you would have to go further than that is if there’s no revenue whatsoever. And that’s a major argument that we’re having with the Republicans.

Digby responds

Well hell. I'm sure glad he isn't willing to cut Medicaid to where the disabled aren't "basically" cared for. And, you know, it's good that he's not going to violate the "basic bargain" that social security "represents." Big relief.

Vote Obama/Biden 2012 -- We won't cut your benefits quite as much as the other guys. 

It would be both good policy and good politics for top Democrats to modify their approach to one by which the Party traditionally appealed to voters.   Surely, many Democrats at their national convention this week will point out that Representative Ryan, a member of the Simpson-Bowles commission to which he was alluding on Wednesday night, voted against the commission's draft plan.

But it goes beyond that.    Ryan stated "he created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. "  But "they"- the bipartisan debt commission- did not "(come) back with an urgent report."    They (really, "it," but why argue with the Genius that is Paul Ryan?) did not come back with any report at all.   Dean Baker highlighted the pervasive misunderstanding when he wrote in February

The New York Times badly misled readers by repeatedly referring to a report of the deficit reduction commission led by former Senator Alan Simpson and Morgan Stanley Director  Erskine Bowles. There was no report from this commission.

The report discussed in this article was exclusively the report of the co-chairs. It did not receive the necessary support of 14 members of the commission that would have made it an official commission report, a point noted only in passing toward the end of the piece.

The Administration, however, has chosen not to challenge the inaccurate perception that the commission agreed upon a plan and submitted a report.   Instead, the President emphasizes "we're going to reduce our deficit in a serious way."  

Walter Mondale can tell us how well that works.   Upon accepting the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984, the Minnesota Senator argued (video below) "we are living on borrowed money and borrowed time.... Mr. Reagan will raise taxes and so will I.  He won't tell you.  I just did."  Courageous and wise words, met with considerable applause and the loss of 49 states in the election.

David Dayen recognizes

The fact that you can draw a line in inverse proportion between what party embraces austerity and what party has the dominant position in the politics of the age should tell you what you need to know about its importance. By and large, we saw a liberal era in the 1950s and 1960s (regardless of what party actually ruled) followed by a conservative era in the 1980s that stretches to this day. And the factor of austerity politics plays a big role in that.

Noting that John Maynard Keynes 75 years ago found "the boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity," Paul Krugman explained "even if you have a long-run deficit problem- and who doesn't ?- slashing spending while the economy is deeply depressed is a self-defeating strategy because it just deepens the depression."  And becoming the tax collectors for the austerity state is not only a bad policy, but bad politics, one which Democrats would be wise to eschew in Charlotte.

                                               HAPPY LABOR DAY

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