March 5, 2014

Remember in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure," how Francis (who wanted Pee Wee's bike) just wouldn't take no for an answer? In this scenario, of course, Obama is Francis and he'll do just about anything if he can leave office as the Democratic president who delivered Social Security to Wall Street:

Even though President Barack Obama's formal budget proposal Tuesday omitted cuts to Social Security, the White House strongly suggested that a controversial policy to cut the program "remains on the table" if Republicans are willing to compromise.

"In last year's Budget, the President included a compromise proposal intended as a show of good faith to spark additional negotiations with Congressional Republicans about the nation’s long-term deficits and debt and to encourage all parties to come together to remove the economically-damaging sequestration cuts," the White House said in a fact sheet that accompanied its budget release. "Although that compromise proposal remains on the table, given Congressional Republicans' unwillingness to negotiate a balanced long-term deficit reduction deal, the President’s 2015 Budget returns to a more traditional Budget presentation that is focused on achieving the President’s vision for the best path to create growth and opportunity for all Americans, and the investments needed to meet that vision."

The "compromise proposal" is a thinly veiled reference to a policy known as Chained CPI, which slows the rate of inflation for Social Security benefits. The White House included the proposal in its budget released in 2013 as an olive branch to Republicans. Obama made clear he wouldn't support it without new tax revenues in the mix, which the GOP refused to accept. Liberal advocates had also mobilized against the proposal. But senior administration officials made clear that while Chained CPI is not a policy that the president ideally wants, he's still willing to support it if Republicans reciprocate with tax revenues.

I thought this commenter at Talking Points Memo summed it up well as he responded to other commenters who insisted Obama was simply laying a trap for the Republicans:

How more clear can they be? Obama will toss seniors overboard as soon as Republicans toss in some revenue, which, given that effective tax rates are the lowest they've been in decades, is hardly a bet I'd be willing to take on the hope they won't. You're gambling with our retirement, and it's not even part of the deficit.

There's absolutely no point to this game. None. There's not even a discernible political upside should the optimists be borne out and the Republicans indeed not be able to take advantage of the offer.

Should that be the eventuality, what has Obama won for 2014 and 2016? "Oh, I offered to cut benefits but the Republicans were too big a bunch of leftist socialists?" I never claimed to be the brightest bulb in the drawer, but I just don't get it.

I'm left to conclude he wants it to happen, because Bob Rubin and Jack Lew and Larry Summers and Erskine Bowles are all of a like mind, and of course, to Alan Simpson, we're all a bunch of tit suckers just for expecting the insurance we paid for all our working lives to be there when we need it.

These are the men Obama relies upon for economic advice, and they are unanimous that the money borrowed from the trust fund to keep tax rates artificially low all those decades should be forgiven so the wealthy never ever have to pay America back.

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