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Democrats Make Obama Retreat on Social Security


Elana Schor at TPM:

The New York Times reports this morning that the White House had abandoned plans to unveil a Social Security “task force” at today’s fiscal summit, raising the question of whether the Obama administration is ready to conduct separate debate over the long-term health of Social Security and Medicare — or whether the tired canard of “dangerous entitlement spending” will continue to rule the political roost.


“We just think the timing is terrible” to formally open such a Social Security task force now, this activist added. “At a time when the economy is terrible and people are losing their 401(k)s, you want people to feel more comfortable about their retirement.”

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (and a TPMCafe contributor), was another influential voice on the left urging Obama aides to use the White House bully pulpit on other issues and leave aside Social Security.

“I certainly let them know that I thought it would be a really bad idea” to create any task force, Baker told me. “Most of us took the position that we were trying to use whatever contacts we had [to raise concerns], working from the position that we were expecting to be working with the Obama administration.”

The message sent to the White House by progressives, as Baker put it, was: “We’re going to have to oppose you on this. It’s a waste of political capital – why would you do it?”

That’s the good news.  That bad news is the fauxgressive NeoRepublican Obama administration hasn’t given up, they’re just moving the SS task force idea to the back burner.  Social Security “reform” isn’t dead, it will be back sooner or later, just like Jason Voorhies.

So keep those pitchforks and torches handy, you’ll need them again.

(h/t Lambert)



Continue reading

Monday: The Bankers and Obama.

They paid for him.  They paid big money to get what they wanted.

Liberal Rapture has an account of an unknown insider that is uncanny in its summary of Obama.  The account could be completely fabricated but if it is true, it is told from the perspective of someone who was present at many of the fundraising meetings that Obama had with the financial sector.  The author justs says what I and many others concluded last year during the primaries:  Obama is a political opportunist whose only goal was to become president.  That’s it.  He’s completely over his head with the governing thing.  What is particularly notable is what the anonymous writer says about Obama’s perceived boredom.  That was the impression I got from him when I say him at YearlyKos 2007 in Chicago.  He just looked bored with the whole thing.  It came through in his “presentation” during the debates as well.  Here was a man who wasn’t completely comfortable with the material.  People in research start to develop a feel for this sort of thing.  We can tell when someone hasn’t really done the work or can’t interpret the results.

But it is only now that he has taken office in the midst of a major global financial crisis that we see why the banks invested so much money in him.  Paul Krugman outlines three reasons why the banks should be nationalized today in Banking on the Brink:

The case for nationalization rests on three observations.

First, some major banks are dangerously close to the edge — in fact, they would have failed already if investors didn’t expect the government to rescue them if necessary.

Second, banks must be rescued. The collapse of Lehman Brothers almost destroyed the world financial system, and we can’t risk letting much bigger institutions like Citigroup or Bank of America implode.

Third, while banks must be rescued, the U.S. government can’t afford, fiscally or politically, to bestow huge gifts on bank shareholders.

There it is. It’s that simple.  We can’t afford to keep lavishing money on bank shareholders just so they will be spared from having to suffer the consequences of their actions.  The money isn’t there even if the popular will was, which it isn’t.  These banks are in danger of imploding and taking down the world’s financial markets.  And yet, Obama just can’t seem to do what is the right thing:

The real question is why the Obama administration keeps coming up with proposals that sound like possible alternatives to nationalization, but turn out to involve huge handouts to bank stockholders.

For example, the administration initially floated the idea of offering banks guarantees against losses on troubled assets. This would have been a great deal for bank stockholders, not so much for the rest of us: heads they win, tails taxpayers lose.

Now the administration is talking about a “public-private partnership” to buy troubled assets from the banks, with the government lending money to private investors for that purpose. This would offer investors a one-way bet: if the assets rise in price, investors win; if they fall substantially, investors walk away and leave the government holding the bag. Again, heads they win, tails we lose.

Why not just go ahead and nationalize? Remember, the longer we live with zombie banks, the harder it will be to end the economic crisis.

I suspect the reason that Obama won’t nationalize, or won’t until the second before Armageddon, is because the bankers hold his junk in their hands.  And we already know that Obama doesn’t have a core Democratic principle that isn’t on a sliding scale.  That’s why shmoozers in business are detested by the people who have to work for them.  We know how they got to the top.  They hobnobbed and played golf with the guy two levels above them instead of actually working at their jobs until they reached a level of familiarity and expertise.  Their whole goal in life is to get to the very top of the ladder.  Getting to the top makes them successful- at getting to the top.  And then what?

While Obama pays the piper for shmoozing, we are still waiting for Commerce, Labor and HHS to get secretaries.  We teeter on the edge of insolvency.  We watch our retirement savings accounts dwindle day after day, waiting for a reboot.  We have nothing left but hope that he will snap out of it and grow a conscience

(Superdelegates, we haven’t forgotten your role in this.)