Saturday, August 25, 2012

Obama on Medicare in his weekly address

What he doesn't say: the Democrats will go to the wall to oppose any reduction in Medicare benefits.

When he says, "strength these programs now and preserve them for future generations," that's his slogan for the Grand Bargain to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He repeats it in a slightly different form near the end. And he uses another weasel-word statement of the same thing: "I’m willing to work with anyone to keep improving the current system, but I refuse to do anything that undermines the basic idea of Medicare as a guarantee for seniors who get sick."

As John Kenneth Galbraith once said in another context, Old Man Bush was not the only President whose lips needed to be read with some care.

Here's his weekly address of today:

This signals that Obama doesn't intend to jam the Medicare issue down the Republicans' throats. And that, given the presence of Paul Ryan on the ticket who is so identified with abolishing Medicare, Obama doesn't intend to use the single most potent issue available to the Democrats against the Romney campaign against them.

This address does not respond effectively to the simple and plainly false charge that the Romney campaign has been making against Obama: that he cut, stole, took away $700 billion from the Medicare program to "fund Obamacare". Obama talks about savings and improved benefits in a technocratic, stereotypically Democratic list-making way. But he certainly doesn't jam the lie down his opponent's throat.

And if he wants to claim his re-election as a mandate for the Grand Bargain to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, he can't use the issue to maximum effect against the Republicans. Because the politically most potent response would be: Romney and Ryan want to eliminate Medicare, but the Democrats will oppose any cuts to Medicare benefits.

But Obama wants to build at least a superficial mandate for the Grand Bargain to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Digby points out in Prosperity for all: It's on the menu Hullabaloo 08/24/2012 that Obama was promoting the same Grand Bargain talk just this past week:

Obviously, if Romney/Ryan wins the election we have no reason to believe the Republicans will not fulfill their campaign promise to enact unprecedented spending cuts and tax cuts. But even if the president wins another term and the Democrats hang on to at least one House, we have had the Pete Peterson deficit hawks circling behind the scenes all this summer to get a consensus for a Simpson Bowles style plan to cut the safety net programs in exchange for a vague agreement to raise some sort of "revenue". Sadly, this basically reflects the president's "balanced approach" as well, which he characterizes in campaign ads, as being 3 trillion dollars in spending cuts while "asking the wealthy to pay a little bit more." Two days ago he told the White House press corps that the Grand Bargain he envisioned with John Boehner remains his preferred approach:

[T]he biggest thing that Congress could do for the economy would be to come up with a sensible approach to reducing our deficit in ways that we had agreed to and talked about last year.
Last week he lamented to the New York Times that the Democrats don't get enough credit for being willing to cut social security and medicare. [my emphasis in bold]
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