Saturday, April 16, 2011

Senate "Gang of Six" works to destroy Social Security; the Beltway Village applauds

The anti-Social Security consensus among Republicans, some leading Democrats and virtually the entire Beltway Village punditocracy is on display in this fawning news report by Jackie Calmes, 'Gang of Six' in the Senate Seeking a Plan on Debt New York Times 04/16/2011. She gushes that "the severity of the fiscal threat is forging unlikely alliances" because, hey, all Serious People have agreed to pretend that the deficit is a dire threat, it must be true. The fact that every minute of the Cheney-Bush Administration showed how much the Republicans care about the deficit, i.e., not at all, and that Nobel laureate economists like Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz point to plain evidence that the deficit is not at all a current "threat" much less a "severe" one - well, the Serious People don't pay attention to such trivia.

By the Goldilocks measure beloved by the Village, the Gang of Six - six Senators - are looking for a happy bipartisan way to phase out Social Security. And the fact that they are being criticized by the proverbial both sides shows how wise and Serious they are: "The senators have weathered criticism from bloggers and even colleagues, including the leaders of their own parties, who oppose tampering with Social Security or taxes." Damn hippie bloggers, they "oppose tampering with Social Security"!

But fortunately, we have Serious statesmen - the Gang of Six are all men - who know that Grandma needs to eat catfood: "If Mr. [Dick] Durbin and Mr. [Saxby] Chambliss can cut a deal on Social Security and new tax revenues, their associates say, then just maybe all of Washington can come together." Saxby Chambliss being the odious old punk who ran a truly disgraceful campaign against former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, a fact that Calmes gets to in her curiously-worded final paragraph:

For many actual Democrats, Mr. Chambliss remains negatively defined by his 2002 defeat of Senator Max Cleland, a triple-amputee veteran of Vietnam, after a campaign that included an ad picturing Mr. Cleland with Osama bin Laden.
I'm vaguely intrigued over who Calmes thinks of as "actual Democrats." But her wording conjures up a photo of Cleland and Bin Laden standing arm-in-arm; Chambliss' sleazy ad featured Bin Laden to accuse Cleland of being a coward:



The key graf in this story is this one:

Several months ago, with Mr. Durbin as its most surprising yes vote, 11 of the 18 members of the president's fiscal commission [the Simpson-Bowles Catfood Commission] backed a blueprint to pare $4 trillion from projected deficits in the first decade. It would cut domestic and military spending; curb Medicare and Medicaid; and overhaul the tax code, limiting or repealing tax breaks and using the new revenues to lower tax rates and reduce deficits. Separate from its debt-reduction plan, the panel proposed benefit and payroll tax changes to stabilize Social Security for 75 years.
That last phrase is a form of VillageSpeak meaning "proposed to take a major step toward phasing Social Security out of existence."

We shouldn't forget at any stage of this process that it was Barack Obama who established the Commission by Presidential order after Congress rejected setting it up themselves. And Obama stacked it with known Social Security opponents, including its two co-chairmen. Obama has signaled over and over that he's open to the idea of Social Security Phaseout. If the Democrats don't get the idea from public opposition that voting for such a thing would be political poison for their re-election prospects, including Obama's, we could wind up with Social Security and Medicare phaseout as part of a budget deal. Because right now, the White House clearly thinks that Not As Bad As The Republicans is always going to be good enough to make any destructive policy acceptable to the Democratic base.

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