Saturday, April 20, 2013

I Understand The Strategy, But Obama May Be Making Worst Mistake Of His Career

By Manifesto Joe

I've taken a lot of time to weigh the pros and cons of President Obama's proposal for a "chained CPI" to bring about cuts in Social Security, etc. I've read a piece in defense of it, from the Democratic perspective. And, of course, it's not hard to find plenty of excoriations from the left.

I've decided that my sentiments are more with the left. I can appreciate that Obama is a practitioner of "real politics," but he's already tried that with the Republicans for over four years. They've made clear that they're not interested in actually governing.

Obama now stands on the verge of his worst mistake -- not just of his presidency, but of his entire political career. He is about to alienate his core constituency in one more desperate bid to "compromise."

Social Security is indeed a different program than the one created during the New Deal in 1935. Participation isn't voluntary, and demands on the system are far greater. But it has mostly done what it was intended to do. The poverty rate among elderly Americans was once around 50%. Thanks to a compulsory pension system, it's now down to about 10%.

I understand why Obama is trying, one last time I hope, to compromise here. He hasn't been able to get Republicans who still control the U.S. House to sit down at the table and give something up on their "no new taxes" (i.e., no new taxes on big corporations and the super-rich) pledges. New revenue is clearly needed, and two-thirds of big corporations are paying no federal income taxes. In addition, super-billionaire Warren Buffett has acknowledged that he pays a lower percentage of his income in federal personal income tax than does his secretary. And he's far from alone among the richest elite.

Something clearly has to give. But Obama is giving first, as usual. As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich phrased it, "The president throws things on the table before the Republicans have even sat down for dinner."

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has strong misgivings about the president's strategy. The general feeling among Democrats was expressed well by U.S. Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey: "If he's trying to do it to show he is forthcoming as a negotiator, then why doesn't he wait until he gets to the negotiating table? There's a lot of talk about the fact that politically this is not a winner. Our brand is the party that brought you Social Security."

In America, this is the day of the locust. I spent 27 weeks unemployed just recently, and for a long time was falling through the cracks. Oh, there are plenty of part-time, temporary and contract jobs, if you want them. Having a lot of medical ailments, I don't have the option of taking jobs that don't offer health insurance. And Social Security is a cornerstone of my someday retirement. It's not an option for me, and I've been paying into the system since I was a teenager.

And the same big corporations that are offering these feces-paying jobs with no benefits are the ones getting by paying little or nothing in corporate income tax. Oh, the rates are comparatively high -- for those who don't have tax attorneys good enough to get them out of paying. It just came out that Facebook not only isn't paying any income tax for 2012, on profits of $1 billion, they may actually get a refund worth nearly $430 million.

I've understood why Obama has done much of what he's done in a game of political hardball with Republicans. But as many times as he's felt their spikes, it's time to start digging his in and saying no. Otherwise, he unwisely risks his core Democratic constituency, and it should be clear by now that nothing's going to get done anyway. The Republicans, who are interested only in power, not in governing, are already trying to score political points by turning up their noses at this idea.

The president needs to abandon the idea of the "chained" Consumer Price Index now, while he still can. Then he should take his case directly to the American people. It's been estimated that U.S. senior citizens could lose as much as $112 billion over 10 years if this idea floats. If they know the facts, they'll certainly say no.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Anonymous said...

There was a saying that "Only Nixon could have gone to China." In other words, as a Conservative who'd built strong anti-communist credentials, Nixon was able to do what he did.
I think the same principle applies for "market-friendly" "centrist" politicans like Bill Clinton and Obama. Clinton, recall, gutted the nation's welfare programs. Now, Obama is starting the long process of phasing out Social Security as we know it. And he'll probably have more success at this than Romney/Ryan ever could have had, if they'd won the election.
But why would Obama choose to do this, one might ask. It's because it's not really his choice. America's Real Powers That Be are telling him to do it. And when they speak, you do what you're told---even if you're President of the United States.

Old Scout said...

I think you're both wrong.
I think that this looks like one thing, while it's another. I'm confident - on one hand that 'chained CPI' can be finessed into just as robust a program as current Social Security, or it's a stalking horse to set-up the republi-can'ts into a programmed mis-step. I give Clintons and Obamas credit for having Machiavellian and rasputinesque vision.
As long as the Clintons are backing the play, either loudly or silently, I'm backing the play.
Respectfully submitted
THE Ol'Scout

Old Scout said...

As for anon's comment ... that conspiracy theory went out with the wooden buckets, chamber pots and "Jesus Loves Me".

Anonymous said...

Old Scout, you think it's a "conspiracy theory" that America's Rich & Powerful control all the real levers of power in this country?
That's no conspiracy theory. It's just common sense.
Please, listen to some George Carlin and read some Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn and educate yourself.
You are being lied to by the corporate media. Please seek the Truth.

Old Scout said...

Anon -
If I must read the writings of others to find the truth, then - from your perspective - I'm only being lead by your Trojan Horse, not someone else's.

There is no great conspiracy. There is though a convergence of self-satisfaction among the wealthy and those who wish to emulate them.

I am wealthy. Not like Rockefellers, but no one descendant from me will HAVE to work - for at least 100 years, or until the trees and vines are not replaced.

I don't act like your wealthy icon. I cut my own trees for fencing; wash my vehicles and tractors, cook, clean, hire only US citizens and thumb my nose at the chamber of commerce. What do you do to expand our economy ... other than tell others to alter their reading habits?

I have read Chomsky since returning from my period of Israeli service. Howard Zinn is intoxicated by his own language, and is as easily dismissed as a weighty source by any current or past member of the IDF.

Anonymous said...

>>"I am wealthy. Not like
Well, actually, it was the Rockefellers and their ilk that I was referring. These are the people who are on a first name basis with their Senators. These are the people who personally and directly profited from the Iraq War (while the rest of us sent our kids there to get blown up). These are the people who own America and make all the important decisions.
Sure, we the Little People, get to decide on a few minor things. We get to vote on who sits our local school board. And we do get to vote on which corporate-controlled party will occupy the White House (that is, unless the Ownership Class disagrees with our choice, as they did in 2000).
>>What do you do to expand our
Well, I built a highly successful business from absolutely nothing. I'm now well-off. But I have no illusions (as you do) that America is a country of the people, and by the people and for the people. Maybe we were at one time. But not today. Today, the oligarchy controls everything. At least everything that is important.
Are you from Israel by any chance? If so, I really don't think you should be commenting on what it's like to be dirt poor in America. You can read about it in a book if you'd like. But the only way you'll ever know what it's like to be hungry is to live through it yourself (as I did).
I have friends from Israel and they've told me that that nation has a very advanced European-style social welfare net that most Americans would have a hard time even fathoming. One in five U.S. kids lives in poverty. I don't think anything like that exists in Israel (a nation with universal health care).
As the late, great Gore Vidal said, the only real purpose of today's America is to steal from the working class and give to the rich.

Manifesto Joe said...

When you look at the highest of the elite, the "super-rich," I'd say there's no need to conspire. I'm talking not about the 1%, but rather about the 0.1%, the richest of the rich. They're the ones getting by paying, in some cases, little or even no personal federal income taxes, and when you look at how much money they have, no conspiracy is necessary. Such people can buy and sell Mitch McConnell a thousand times over.

Old Scout said...

Joe -
How true! But ... methinks the .01 to 1.5++% vote Democratic. Education delivers Democrats to the millieu, while ignorance perverts education and reason.

As for Anon's sour attitude ... when given lemons, as were the kibbutzniks, make lemonaide.

My life-partner and I are first-generation US born Jews of European extraction, whose parents survived Nazi domination in Russia (her) and France (me). We have been educated here, formally, and in Israel, experientially. I was drafted and later served in Israel, where and when we met. Parenthetically - we are both from LA, she San Pedro - poor, hungry, acoholic parents, earning an MS in Nursing, and I from Laurel Canyon area of Simi Valley: No hunger, no poverty, athletic scholarship and alchy parents, Phi Beta and multiple summa's.
The facts Anon presents are only as accurate in his presentation as his perspective. His ascension from poverty and hunger to middle-class, entreprenneurial and proprietary success is more important to US cultural and social mores than anything I've done, and says more in his success than any meager success I may have attained ... but regardless and irrespective of my gifts and talents, I still vote Democratic, eschew all republi-can'ts as Cher's " ... gypsys, tramps and thieves ... "; as I vote with ballots and dollars from my farm in Kentucky.

Old Scout said...

Upon reflection ... Obama's illuminated strategy from this morning looks like an extension of the Trojan Horse of offering the Chained CPI for costs of Living increases.
I learned patience from the practice of delegating tasks to subordinates. They ALWAYS did things differently from me ... and each other.
I can live with his centrism; almost everytime he's castigated by the left for not being a flaming liberal, but a corporate centrist ... he stumbles and lurches --- to the left.

Manifesto Joe said...

Regarding the April 30 comment -- I suppose that's true of many places, and I wish it were true of places like Texas, but it isn't.

You've heard the comment about people who have more money than sense? That describes our super-rich here.

One would hope that they, like Buffett and George Soros, would be politically liberal. But they tend to vote, as many people do, according to their pocketbooks. They vote for the politicians who will keep their taxes low, even nonexistent if possible.

Old Scout said...

What used to be the bright spot on my education has much of its illumination since SMU has allowed shrub to reduce it to his level of hero worshiping bilge-lickers.