It was nice to see some push back from the constant drone we're treated to by the talking heads in the media, who apparently will not be happy until Democrats agree to inflict some more pain on their constituents and raise Medicare retirement age along with benefit cuts. As Krugman rightfully noted, all the happy talk about politicians sitting down and having dinner together isn't going to resolve the fundamental policy differences between the two parties -- or the fact that one of them wants to completely take down our social safety nets and privatize them.
He called out George Will as well who was demanding that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz explain whether Democrats would agree to raise the Medicare age:
KRUGMAN: Is it a condition of any Republican support that you have to go for really terrible policies? Because raising the Medicare age is a terrible policy. It raises medical costs, it does very little to improve the budget. It introduces a lot of hardship. Means testing in Medicare is a better policy. I don't particularly like it, but it's a better policy.
That's the whole idea. They know it's terrible policy and they want Democrats to do their bidding for them so they can immediately turn around and run ads against them in the mid-term elections. They were cynical enough to do it before and they'll do it again. So it's not just bad policy, it's bad and stupid politics as well.
The conventional wisdom talk from the Bloomberg White House corespondent here wasn't much better. There's nothing "optimistic" about these politicians potentially sticking it to the poor and the elderly when we've got record income disparity in the United States right now.
Full transcript below the fold.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If he continues -- if the president lays out more far-reaching entitlement reforms on Medicare, for example, will Democrats in the House follow?
SCHULTZ: Well, I -- I think what needs to be happen, the president is going to come up to Capitol Hill this week and meet with both Republican and Democratic caucuses and conferences, and continue the dialogue. I mean unfortunately what we've had thus far is a paralyzed Republican leadership, particularly in the House, who has not been able to act, not felt that all that they have enough -- enough leeway because of their -- the extremism in -- in their Republican conference to -- to do anything with the president.
So reaching out to the rank and file is extremely important. Building those relationships, and building up some of that trust -- because, you know it's really hard to make tough decisions, and reach consensus when there is such a trust gap.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're as skeptical as George Will?
KRUGMAN: I'm really skeptical, because I -- I mean this is not -- this is not about bad personal relations. People are perfectly capable of being polite to each other, being nice, having a nice dinner. This is about a fundamental difference in visions about what America should be.
KRUGMAN: One party really wants to take down the -- the -- the safety net we have. One party really wants...
KRUGMAN: ...to privatize Medicare, wants to, you know roll back, wanted to try to privatize Social Security back in 2005. The other party wants it somewhat extended, wants Obamacare to go into place, would do more if it could. That's not something you're going to resolve with a few dinners.
GOLDMAN: Look, both sides understand what a grand bargain is going to look like. You're going -- Republicans are going to have to give on revenues, Democrats are going to have to give on entitlements. And so there is some case for optimism now that if the president, in trying to build trust -- once these lunches, these dinners, don't become news events that we're covering, but if Republicans see the president moving forward, putting Medicare savings on the table that doesn't just hit providers, but also hits beneficiaries as well, then -- and also going out and selling it to give Republicans some cover, then there could be a sense that you could get some Senate Republicans to -- to help bring the House along.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And they'll have to go first, the Senate Republicans.
WILL: Yes. Let's begin the process right here, right now. Is it conceivable that your caucus -- you're from Florida...
WILL: ...which is full of old people, known as God's...
SCHULTZ: Senior citizens.
WILL: ...known as God's antechamber for a good reason, but anyway...
SCHULTZ: Now, now.
SCHULTZ: I beg to differ.
WILL: Is it conceivable that your caucus would consider, with any concessions from the Republicans, raising the age of eligibility for Medicare?
SCHULTZ: What -- well the only way we've made any progress in careening from crisis to crisis in the last several years is because of Democratic votes in the House of Representatives. The Republicans have been able to get absolutely nothing done with their majority. They've needed our members -- the majority of our members to actually sit down, be willing to make political sacrifice, actually spend some political capital. We supported $1.2 trillion in spending cuts.
The cuts only approach to the debt ceiling deal in the summer of 2011, we -- we did that because it was important to not let the -- the country go over, and jeopardize the full faith and credit of the United States. We need the Republicans to realize that...
SCHULTZ: ...they are going to have...
SCHULTZ: ...no, but...
KRUGMAN: Is it a condition of any Republican support that you have to go for really terrible policies? Because raising the Medicare age is a terrible policy. It raises medical costs, it does very little to improve the budget. It introduces a lot of hardship. Means testing in Medicare is a better policy. I don't particularly like it, but it's a better policy. There are other things you can do. There are other ways you can cut. Even -- I don't like the business about changing, you know the price index for Social Security, but that's not as bad...
KRUGMAN: ...of all of the things on the table...