Thursday, August 26, 2010

Catfood Commission for killing Social Security

Catfood Commission co-chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles: On a jihad against Social Security

The most consequential political event this year is likely to be, not the election or the enactment of health care reform, but the report of the President's Deficit Commission and how Congress responds to it. Liberal bloggers have appropriately labeled it the Catfood Commission, as in "let Grandma eat catfood."

Jane Hamsher describes how President Obama stacked the Commission for a heavy bias in favor of Social Security cuts in President Obama, It’s Time to Can the Catfood Commission Firedoglake 08/26/2010.

In January of 2010, a bill sponsored by committed Social Security slashers Judd Gregg and Kent Conrad which would have created an official Catfood Commission to make recommendations about the nation’s deficit was defeated by the Senate on a bipartisan vote — 22 Democrats and 24 Republicans voted no.

Undeterred, on February 18, President Obama issued an executive order creating a Catfood Commission anyway.

Unlike Bill Clinton’s Danforth Commission, which ended in deadlock, Obama set this commission up in such a way that it was stacked with deficit hawks who largely agreed on what needed to be done: 12 of the 18 members were to be appointed by Senate and House leaders in each party, and 6 would be appointed by the President. This virtually guaranteed that Social Security privatization fetishist Paul Ryan would be on the commission, as would Gregg and Conrad. [my emphasis]
No one should be fooled about what further raising the retirement age would mean. As Jane puts it, "raising the retirement age to 70 — resulting in a 20% benefit cut to Social Security recipients."

And if the deficit hawks win this round, they'll be going for even further cuts very soon. It won't be 27 years this time, the length of time since Reagan signed into law the changes raising the retirement age to 67.

Obama appointed the disgraceful Alan Simpson, a stereotypical mean old man, to be co-chairman of the Catfood Commission along with Erskine Bowles, another Social Security opponent. Brian Beutler at TPM gives us some background on Simpson's history of trying to destroy Social Security in Tit's A Big Deal: Alan Simpson's Long History Of Advocating Social Security Cuts 08/26/2010. This is what the miserable old Republican punk Simpson that Obama appointed to co-chair the Catfood Commission caught some criticism for saying about his fellow Americans:

Yes, I've made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know 'em too. It's the same with any system in America. We've reached a point now where it's like a milk cow with 310 million tits!
The Catfood Commission's report is due in early December, safely after the election. (Safely for politicians, not for most citizens.) And both Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have agreed to give their recommendations an up-or-down vote during the lame-duck portion of this Congressional session after the November elections.

This is taking on all the looks of a massive system FAIL! The Beltway Village elite have adopted it as an article of faith that Social Security needs to be cut. It's a successful program that is vital to the country. But billionaires like Pete Peterson, a main leader of the jihad against Social Security, hate it. Before Social Security, being old for most people meant being poor. If Obama and the Democratic Congress - I can barely believe I've writing this - if Obama and the Democratic Congress succeed in cutting Social Security and opening the way to its near-term complete abolition, being old in the US will once again mean being poor.

The Village all thinks its necessary. Obama from all appearances thinks its necessary. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi both signed off on a procedure to maximize the chances of this destructive idea being enacted into law this year.

I'm guessing that part of the calculation of trying to do this in a lame-duck session relates to the Progressive Caucus in the House. They took a firm stand on keeping the public option as part of the health care reform. It was their "red line," they claimed, without which they would oppose the bill. But when it came down to it, the Blue Dogs were more willing to remove that critical aspect of the reform. And enough House members who had pledged to never ever vote for the bill without the public option went along. The White House came down hard on the Progressive Caucus, not on the Blue Dogs, and the enough of the Caucus caved for Obama's deal with the insurance companies to win the day.

In other words, the White House knows that the Progressive Caucus in this Congress can be rolled. And I imagine that's part of the calculation of scheduling the Social Security phase-out vote during the lame-duck session. The Progressive Caucus in the next Congress may be less willing to cave on critical issues.

The vast majority of the public doesn't want Social Security cut. Poll numbers may change some when the Catfood Commission rolls out its recommendation and the White House and the Peterson Foundation put on an advertising and publicity blitz in favoring of the Social Security phase-out. They won't call it a "phase-out", of course. But this is an issue where the conventional wisdom of the political class and the CEOs and the tame pundits and kept reporters are advocating a policy that will drastically impact the lives of a majority of the country and in a bad way.

If the Democratic Party enacts this, the chances for progressive reforms on any front will be badly set back. Our system isn't amenable to third party solutions. But any Democratic Senator or Representative that votes to cut Social Security deserves to be voted out in their next primary in favor of candidates who will fight to roll back the Catfood Commission's destructive recommendations.

If Obama endorses a Social Security phase-out, not matter what the marketing brand-name, that will be his main legacy for the future. And it will be a sorry one.

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