Bruce Reed, Social Security Foe And DLC Chief, Named As Biden's New Chief Of Staff


Looks like the Obama administration has now brought on just about everyone of any import from the Clinton administration, except the one we wish he had: Robert Reich. And while theoretically, it may not be deeply significant that the head of the DLC and former head of the Catfood Commission (the same strategist who's pushing to cut Social Security) is Joe Biden's new chief of staff, it would be disingenuous to pretend he won't have any influence:

When President Obama named Bill Daley his new chief of staff, there was muted grumbling on the left. Daley, a banker and commerce secretary under Bill Clinton, had publicly criticized the Democratic Party and Obama administration for governing too far from the left. But his appointment was not presented as an ideological repositioning so much as a pragmatic choice. At the time, many liberals—in the words of Robert Kuttner, the coeditor of The American Prospect and a fellow at Demos, a progressive think tank—saved their fire for bigger potential fights to come, especially potential cuts to Social Security benefits.

Now the administration is bringing in one of the architects of the proposal to cut Social Security benefits and other domestic programs: Bruce Reed, who has been named chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden.

Reed recently served as executive director of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which Obama created to fashion a bipartisan compromise on long-term deficit reduction, and is also known as the Bowles-Simpson Commission, after its co-chairs. The commission report was criticized on the left for agreeing to what liberals considered arbitrary and unnecessary limits on domestic discretionary spending.

"Reed is someone who has been very open for a long time in his desire to see Social Security and Medicare rolled back," says Dean Baker, codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

Putting Reed in charge of Biden's shop is especially troubling to some economic liberals because Biden is viewed as a relative populist among the administration's top players, and Jared Bernstein, the most left-leaning economic adviser in the White House, works for Biden.

And while chief of staff to the vice president is far from the most influential policymaking role in the administration, Reed's selection, especially coming on the heels of Daley's, may be a signal that the White House is taking more a more conservative tack on economic policy. "By itself, his appointment is not a big deal, since this is not a top-level position," says Baker, "but in the context of the Bowles-Simpson Commission recommendations and other recent appointments, this is not good news from the standpoint of people who value these programs."

Another mark against Reed for the left: he is the CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council. The DLC, long an object of scorn for the Democratic Party's left wing, is a centrist think tank that was associated with the Clinton-era party's "New Democrat" reinvention. Reed served as a domestic policy adviser in the Clinton administration. Colleagues of Reed's say that he will be loyal to whatever political direction Obama sets. "Bruce is a very smart man with his own policy views, but he’s also a team player as I think he demonstrated during the Clinton administration," says Ed Kilgore, managing editor of The Democratic Strategist, who worked with Reed at the DLC.


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