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The White House's Internal War: Guess Who Won This Battle?

Remember this article from The Hill, about a split in the Obama administration on Social Security reform? Social Security reform is splitting President Obama’s economic and political advisers. Obama is being pulled in opposite

Remember this article from The Hill, about a split in the Obama administration on Social Security reform?

Social Security reform is splitting President Obama’s economic and political advisers. Obama is being pulled in opposite directions by those whose priorities are fiscal and those whose No. 1 concern is electoral Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and Sperling’s deputy, Jason Furman — leading figures in the president’s economic team — are pressing Obama to cut Social Security benefits if necessary, say sources familiar with their positions.

But Obama’s political team, led by David Axelrod, David Plouffe and Jim Messina, are urging the president to understand that backing benefit cuts could prove disastrous to his 2012 reelection hopes, sources say.

The political team is winning the argument so far, but internal debate rages at the White House as Republicans in Congress insist sweeping efforts to restore government finances must include Social Security reform. “Gene Sperling and Jason Furman and some of the Treasury people started with the posture that we’re the best people to reform Social Security — that was when the Democrats had a majority in both houses of Congress,” said a Democratic policy expert who has met Obama’s economic policy team over the past two years.

“The same people have continued to make that argument even as they’re now responding to conservatives who are stronger in the Congress,” the source, who strongly opposes benefits cuts, told The Hill. “There are two camps,” the source added. “One camp wants to be able to throw a bone to Republicans and some [centrist] Democrats.

“The political people would prefer not to be accused of being the party that cuts Social Security in those ways. Some political people would like to see the president out there defending the program and making the case that it has nothing to do with the deficit.”...read on

Every poll shows quite clearly that even Republican voters do not want a cut in these benefits.

If Sperling's argument is about reforming Social Security and Medicare without taking away from them, then OK, but that's not what I'm reading here. Do these creatures only listen to Villager gasbags who want working-class Americans to be the only people to "share" the sacrifice and suffer in America after Wall Streeters and their partners caused the Great Recession?


Guess who won?

President Obama will deliver a major speech this week about plans to reduce federal budget deficits and long-term debt, senior adviser David Plouffe said this morning. "He's going to lay out his approach very clearly," Plouffe said on CNN's State of the Union, one of a string of Sunday talk show appearances he made.

Obama will address cuts to defense and domestic spending, as well as what to do with the growing entitlement programs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, Plouffe said. He will talk about "dollar amounts" over "a period of years." "We have got to make sure that we are taking a balanced approach to this," Plouffe said.

The president's deficit speech is set for Wednesday.

It comes as the nation is set to hit its $14.3 trillion debt ceiling in mid-May.

It's interesting that Plouffe didn't want this to happen, but he was put on the Sunday talk-show circuit to be the one to tell us about Obama's upcoming speech.

If the President approaches it with no cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and actually frames the debate by demonstrating that Paul Ryan's ludicrous budget plans are in fact ludicrous, then it may not be as bad I think it will be. But I don't have much faith in that, now that more information has been released on the budget deal. Also, once he sets out his plans for what appears to be austerity, then I'd calculate that it'll be at least 50% worse than what he's going to propose nationally, since they terribly negotiated the 2011 budget.

Steve Benen says as much:

But then there's the flip side. Once Democrats commit to systematic debt reduction as policymakers' principal goal -- as opposed to, say, economic growth -- it sets the terms of the debate. The unyielding dynamic locks everyone into answering the same question: how do we tackle the deficit and the debt?

That's the question Republicans (and much of the media) want as the central focus, but there are more pertinent and important questions that should be prioritized, such as, "How about a jobs plan to reduce unemployment?" Or maybe, "How will taking money out of the economy and reducing public investment lead to more growth?"

What's more, it also sets baselines for a "compromise." If Obama presents a credible vision for long-term debt reduction this week, we'll have one pillar, which will serve as a counterweight to Paul Ryan's radical House budget plan presented a few days ago. But a moderate counterweight may not be wise -- if recent history is any guide, negotiations will produce a deal that's somewhere between them.

In this case, that'd be a disaster. Even halfway to Ryan's roadmap would destroy much of the modern American social compact, and prove devastating to the middle class.

mcjoan of DKos explains:

With Republicans coming off of their big win Friday night, with an additional $6.2 billion more in cuts than they went into the negotiations asking for, it's hard to see getting out of the budget and debt ceiling negotiations with Medicare and even Social Security largely intact. Now that Obama is offering up Medicare, well, get that spare bedroom ready for the parent or grandparents.

But in case the administration really wants to think about some policy alternatives to save Medicare and Medicaid some money, they might start with breaking the the policy they helped kill during the Affordable Care Act negotiations. It'd be a start.

Paul Krugman writes:

You might have expected the president’s team not just to reject this proposal, but to see it as a big fat political target. But while the G.O.P. proposal has drawn fire from a number of Democrats — including a harsh condemnation from Senator Max Baucus, a centrist who has often worked with Republicans — the White House response was a statement from the press secretary expressing mild disapproval.

What’s going on here? Despite the ferocious opposition he has faced since the day he took office, Mr. Obama is clearly still clinging to his vision of himself as a figure who can transcend America’s partisan differences. And his political strategists seem to believe that he can win re-election by positioning himself as being conciliatory and reasonable, by always being willing to compromise. But if you ask me, I’d say that the nation wants — and more important, the nation needs — a president who believes in something, and is willing to take a stand. And that’s not what we’re seeing.

Wednesday is his chance to lead.

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