Thursday, November 29, 2012

Democrats Behaving Republican

Yesterday, the President made clear his New Year's wish:

Now, the good news is there’s a better option.  Right now, as we speak, Congress can pass a law that would prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody’s income.  Everybody's.  And that means that 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses wouldn’t see their income taxes go up by a single dime.  Ninety-eight percent of Americans, 97 percent of small businesses would not see their income taxes go up by a single dime...

So we really need to get this right.  I can only do it with the help of the American people.  So, tweet -- what was that again -- "My2K" -- tweet using the hashtag "My2K," or email, post it on a member of Congress's Facebook wall.  Do what it takes to communicate a sense of urgency.  We don't have a lot of time here.  We've got a few weeks to get this thing done.  We could get it done tomorrow.  Now, optimistically, I don't think we're going to get it done tomorrow -- (laughter) -- but I tell you, if everybody here goes out of their way to make their voices heard, and spread the word to your friends and your family, your coworkers, your neighbors, then I am confident we will get it done.  And we will put America on the right track not just for next year but for many years to come.  All right?  

Yes, we all laughed.

The Daily Kos' Jed Lewison is all atwitter, writes

The Twitter thing (#My2k) is cute and catchy, but the key point here is that Obama isn't treating this as a deal to be made between John Boehner and himself—he's treating this an issue that all Americans have a stake in. That's why he held today's event and that's why he's going to Philadelphia on Friday to press his case.

 "The point President Obama was making here," the usually sensible Lewison contends, "is that he doesn't see the tax cut debate as a negotiation with the Republican Party."

Ah, but he does.  He has thrown down the gauntlet... but solely on the issue of tax breaks for the wealthy, on their income above $200,000 (as an individual) or $250,000 (as a couple).   In the same statement, the putative Democratic president asserted "Our ultimate goal is an agreement that gets our long-term deficit under control in a way that is fair and balanced.  That kind of agreement would be good for our businesses; it would be good for our economy; it would be good for our children’s future"

The President is proposing a deal, however undefined at this point, that is "fair and balanced."  He gets what he wants- reversion to the Clinton-era tax rates for the wealthy- and Republicans get they want.

That may be how it works out in the end.   But Obama is advocating this as his starting point, his position to begin negotiations.   And he makes sure to label it as "fair and balanced," the slogan Republican such as he prefer for their media outlets.

To be fair, Obama isn't the only "Democrat" giving it up in advance.   Monday, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina stated "We want to take a look at what we can do to Medicare and Medicaid, means testing, although we do means test Medicare now. I think we ought to expand means testing and I really think we can take a look at the way we compute the consumer price index."

Zaid Jilani noted the Wall Street Journal reported November 15

On Capitol Hill, it isn’t clear how strenuously Democrats will resist cutting entitlements. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) said he and others were open to changes as long as they were done in a measured way and were part of deal that included tax increases. Mr. Van Hollen also said changing Social Security and increasing the Medicare eligibility age above 65 should be part of negotiations.

“I’m willing to consider all of these ideas as part of an overall plan,” Mr. Van Hollen said Tuesday at the Journal’s CEO Council.

White House officials in 2011 were in advanced talks with Mr. Boehner that would have agreed to some of these changes, notably raising Medicare’s eligibility age. That is one cause of liberals’ anxiety about how the coming talks may unfold.

The same day, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Kent Conrad, was interviewed by The Washington Post.    Asked about raising the retirement age for Medicare, he at least reversed "fair and balanced" to "balanced and fair":

I wouldn’t want that to be the starting point, but as part of an overall package, that’s balanced and fair. Given that we now have exchanges to purchase insurance because of the president’s health-care reform law, it makes it much more acceptable, much more reasonable, over a long period of time to gradually increase the age given that people are living so much longer.

Americans are not living longer and excising 65 and 66 year old persons from Medicare would send some of them into health insurance exchanges, which would make those contraptions less viable.   Clyburn suggests support for Medicare reduction "as part of an overall plan" and Conrad cautions he "wouldn't want" reduction "to be the starting point"- but they have gone a long way to making it the party's opening bid.    And they have done this in return for raising the low rates (on high incomes) which are set to expire automatically

Yes, we all have our price.  Unfortunately for the country, for Barack Obama and his acolytes, that price is very low.  Digby has a right to complain that raising the Medicare retirement age

is basically an offering to get the Republicans to agree to ask those making more than 259k (or a million)a year to "pay a little bit more." Or perhaps it's better understood as a human sacrifice.

It's hard to believe that it was only three years ago that we were close to an agreement to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 55 (which would have been a godsend.) Now Democrats are talking about raising it to 67. After a big re-election victory. Wow. 

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