Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hope for Social Security and Medicare, today's version

I wrote in a recent post about the possibility that the Democrats would find campaigning against the Republican/Paul Ryan end-Medicare budget plan so useful that they would keep on defending Medicare and Social Security and stop yammering about how "entitlements" are going to wreck the country.

As I said there, Social Security and Medicare are extremely popular and extremely necessary. It's possible that by tapping into that popularity to use against the Republicans, the Obama White House will find itself trapped by its own politics into not being able to do the Grand Bargain to eliminate Social Security that he's been talking about since his election. Obama's perspective on policy seems to be too conservative for him to be genuinely committed to those programs on policy grounds. But he and the Congressional Democrats may find it impossible to get the political advantage they want by using those programs as issues without actually defending their substance.

Joan McCarter in Town halls turn hostile for Republicans over tax cuts for rich, Medicare Daily Kos 04/22/2011 focuses on one piece of the evidence that gives hope for such a development. Once Obama highlighted the abolish-Medicare aspect of the Ryan plan, Republican conservatives are taking heat at town hall meetings over the idea:

Yes, there will be backlash, which hopefully Democrats will pounce on as effectively and forcefully as the Republicans did with health reform. Opposition to the Republican plan to keep taxes for the rich low and Medicare out of reach for everyone else is broad and deep. If Dems can coalesce around that, and stop all the austerity, Social Security cutting bull****, they've got their issue for 2012.
The White House may not be reading things that way, though. They may be thinking that defending Medicare for a few weeks or months against the Ryan plan will make it politically feasible to adopt a "moderate" compromise that will go after Medicare and Social Security in a less drastic way.

Once the political firewall around those programs is broken by a Democratic President supporting major reductions in them, the Republicans will go after them more and more aggressively. A cut to Social Security right now, such as that the co-chairs of Obama's Catfood Commission recommend, would be a Social Security Phaseout, for just that reason.


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