Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Waiting for Wednesday's deficit speech

The White House has been putting out two distinctly different story lines on what to expect from Obama's deficit speech Wednesday. Sunday and Monday, the story was that Obama would go for cuts in Medicare and Medicaid and maybe Social Security. Tuesday a competing story line was pushed to friendly journalists that the President would come out in strong defense of those programs.

A story by Tim Fernholz from Tuesday evening (10:00 PM EDT) in The National Journal, Bowled Over: Why is Obama Embracing Simpson-Bowles Now? 04/12/2011 goes with a version that says that Obama will embrace the approach of the Simpson-Bowles Catfood Commission, whose main notable recommendation was (blather aside) the phaseout of the Social Security program:

The White House's studied distance from the Bowles-Simpson report, named after the commission's cochairmen, led Republicans and some Democrats to complain that the president wasn't leading on fiscal reform.
In a side of the sloppy reporting so sadly common in respectable publications these days, journalists commonly refer to a report from the Catfood Commission. It didn't actually issue a formal report. They couldn't get the required votes. So the co-chairs released their own recommendations, which is what is normally referred to when sloppy reporters talk about the Catfood Commission's report. Fernholz technically get it right in that quote. But he also refers to when the Catfood Commission "released its long-term plan last December"; and in the immediately continuing paragraph he refers to "the commission's proposals":

That will change on Wednesday, when Obama is expected to endorse some version of the commission’s proposals as a template for a grand fiscal bargain.

Coming just two months after the release of his fiscal 2012 budget, which included none of his commission’s proposals, the move is jarring. But White House aides say it makes sense: If Obama had introduced an ambitious plan, Republicans would have immediately tarred it as partisan and dismissed it as a legislative nonstarter.

But Democrats say House Republicans gave them a new opportunity to stake out the fiscal high ground when Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled a sweeping plan that would drastically cut spending and overhaul the social safety net—yet would not significantly reduce the deficit over the next decade.

Obama administration officials say the Republican plan allows Democrats to establish themselves as fiscally responsible by embracing a bipartisan plan and characterizing the GOP approach as extreme. ...

... By contrast, Democrats hope their embrace of Bowles-Simpson—while then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. deemed it “simply unacceptable” when first released, now-House Minority Leader Pelosi said it contains “many good suggestions”—will give them credibility as the party more interested in solving problems than fighting. [my emphasis]
This would be the scenario that Digby has been warning about for a while: setting up the Catfood Commission's (unofficial) Social Security Phaseout recommendation as the "moderate" approach.

I don't know why Democratic voters should accept the Party being "more interested in solving problems than fighting," when the chosen solutions are bad ones.

The Democrats' main political message right now, especially from Obama, is: At least we're not as bad as the Republicans!

When a Democratic President is unwilling to go to the wall fighting for Social Security and Medicare - that message has definitely ceased being a political program and has become a partisan racket. Democratic voters are not mainly concerned with whether Obama and the Congressional Republicans get praised by Beltway pundits. They are interested in seeing them deliver on their own professed programs. And they certainly expect the Democrats to defend Social Security.

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