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      An enemy is someone who means you harm and has the means to inflict it. A friend is someone who has wants to do good for you, and has the means to bestow it. I once wrote primarily to predict and to change the world. I now write to help a few people, those who […]
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Accountability before Austerity: Talk to the Hand


I have a theory about the so-called Deficit Reduction Commission’s “proposals”, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Yesterday, I found this link from USAToday in Paul Krugman’s Mush from the Wimp post at Conscience of a Liberal: Obama to Congress: Stop Shooting Down Deficit Proposals. In it, Obama is lecturing Congress to get on board:

[Barack Obama] said lawmakers in the United States should hold off on comments about his fiscal commission’s proposals to slash the federal budget deficit through spending cuts, ending tax breaks, and a revamping of the Social Security system.

“Before anybody starts shooting down proposals, I think we need to listen, we need to gather up all the facts,” Obama told reporters.

He added: “If people are, in fact, concerned about spending, debt, deficits and the future of our country, then they’re going to need to be armed with the information about the kinds of choices that are going to be involved, and we can’t just engage in political rhetoric.”


“We’re going to take it out on senior citizens?” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., one of Pelosi’s appointees to the deficit reduction panel. “I am virulently against that proposal.”

At a news conference in Seoul, Obama said he opposes special spending projects known as earmarks, and wants to eliminate waste from the federal budget — but those alone won’t come close to cutting the national debt now pegged at $13.7 trillion.

“We’re going to have to make some tough choices,” Obama said. “The only way to make those tough choices historically has been if both parties are willing to move forward together.”

This is so bad it’s not even wrong.

The issue is not whether WE listen to the politicians.  It’s whether the politicians listen to US.  I don’t remember any of us out here in the modern American wasteland asking Barack Obama to assemble this bunch of Republicans and Republican lite former congresspeople to decide how to squeeze blood from the middle class and carefully avoid inconveniencing the rich. In fact, if I recall correctly, Congress told him NOT to do this but he did not listen. (BTW, anyone who is trying to link Obama with the Clinton/FDR style Democrats- that would be us, oh best beloveds- should go over to Anglachel’s Journal and read her post “Oh, No- He’s YOUR Son of a Bitch“.)

I think Barack Obama has political philosophy confused with “political rhetoric”.  But in his case, it’s probably easy to do because he’s never been forced to develop a political philosophy.  (Ok, another plug:  Check out Susie Madrak and Cliff Schecter’s recent appearance on Virtually Speaking.  Madrak has a brilliant quote from the late Meg Greenfield about how Washington reveres and anoints a gifted Child, let’s him get away with murder and then turns on him.  Soooo predictable.)

Obama should get to know the party whose ticket he usurped in 2008.  That party, before it was invaded by the viral infection known as The Obama Movement, used to pretend to be the party of the middle and working class.  Remember rewarding people who “work hard and play by the rules”?  The party that gave American The New Deal?  Reformed the banking system during the Depression?  Ushered in 4 decades of economic prosperity, social security and American ingenuity?  Yeah, there was a reason why that worked.  It was because we held the wealthy and powerful accountable for their actions.  That is, accountable to US, the working class, citizens and voters of this country.  That’s what the Democratic party used to be about.

Never mind.  He just doesn’t get it.  Let’s move on to what this commission’s goals really are.  The goal of this commission, no matter what they tell you they are willing to consider, it to turn Social Security into a welfare program that the middle class will never be able to benefit from but for which we will pay an ever increasing amount of money to cover.  The other goal is to make sure that the wealthy are not held accountable for anything.

How do I know this?  It’s my hypothesis based on the nature of the parties and human beings.  The Republican party is run by a bunch of predatory, greedy bastards whose political philosophy seems to be take as much as you can because the people who you took from were too stupid to protect themselves and deserved it and don’t worry about tomorrow because we will be sitting on top of the whole heap of stuff.  (I do know some nice Republicans but they aren’t politicians).  The Democrats have devolved into a bunch of whimpering high school class presidents who jump at their own shadows and haven’t taken any courses in personal power manipulation strategies that the corporate world trains their salespeople and executives to practice.

And human beings will put off to tomorrow what they can’t deal with today.

So, based on those observations, what can we expect from the Deficit Reduction Commission’s desired outcomes and plan of attack?  If you look at the proposals, you will see that there are a couple that would sock it to the middle and lower classes immediately if enacted.  These would be the Mortgage Tax Deduction and the Earned Income Tax Credit.  If enacted, these proposals would impact taxpayers as early as the next tax season after the proposal is passed.  The public, already strapped and fearful of losing whatever little break it can get, will go ballistic.  That would be so unpopular that Congresscritters might have to go into hiding.

BUT, if you are given a choice- mortgage tax deductions now or social security cuts later, which would you choose?  I think we know the answer.

This is the classic parental power strategy.  I decide your options and give you the opportunity to pick one.  Notice that YOU the taxpaying middle class person did not have any input into which options were on the table.  The implication is that you have the mental capacity of a 3 year old and cannot be trusted to know what’s good for you.  Am I the only one who finds this incredibly insulting?  And the options that are not on the table have to do with making the rich make some hard choices.  Not only are the commissioners hard-hearted bastards, the process itself doesn’t seem legitimate.  We are asked to decide on tax related policy that circumvented the legislative process.

So, let’s see which choice the commission is willing to exclude from the options.  Call your congressman, Democrat or Republican, and tell them that you are willing to consider all of the options *except* any proposal that would affect Social Security. Yep, tell them that the mortgage tax deduction should stay on the table as well as cuts to VA bennies and the EITC and that if they are really determined to reduce the deficit, your mind is open to letting the Bush/Obama tax cuts for the wealthy expire.  

Tell them you will listen to those options and not any one that has anything to do with Social Security.  That’s the deal you’re offering.  Take it or leave it.  Nope, you’re not willing to listen to any proposal to touch Social Security.  La-la-la, talk to the hand.  Not going there.  But we can sit around the table and not raise our voices and talk about the other stuff.

Let’s see what happens.

Meanwhile, agitation from the left, as disarrayed as they are, is starting to get serious, as the NYTimes article, “Debt Plan Ideas Draws Scorn of Liberals and Tea Party” reports:

Mr. Obama’s stance was at the request of the chairmen, Alan K. Simpson, a former Republican Senate leader, and Erskine B. Bowles, a White House chief of staff to President Bill Clinton [Don’t try to hang this on Bill.  He doesn’t do stupid], who wanted to avoid any statements that might prejudice the panel’s deliberations before its Dec. 1 deadline. But it was also a response to the outcry from both conservatives against taxes and from Mr. Obama’s liberal base against the plan’s proposed long-term cuts in domestic programs across the board, including Social Security and Medicare.

The liberals are already frustrated with the White House on issues like the Afghanistan war and what to do about the Bush-era tax cuts, which expire Dec. 31, and are increasingly uncertain about Mr. Obama’s willingness to fight for long-held party priorities. That question loomed over a meeting at the White House on Thursday between progressive activists and administration aides about strategy for dealing with the Bush tax cuts in the Congressional lame-duck session that begins next week.

Several activists who attended said in interviews that they sought reassurance after a report Thursday suggesting that the White House was prepared to acquiesce in extending the tax cuts for income above $250,000, as Republicans have demanded.

While David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior strategist, subsequently denied that the White House position had shifted, the immediate suspicion among liberals that the administration was abandoning them reflected broader insecurity among the president’s allies on the left that he would move to center for the rest of his term.


So riled are some liberals about the Bowles-Simpson plan that, privately, several suggested that if Mr. Obama were to embrace its major parts, he would invite a primary challenge in 2012.

Whoa!  Private no longer.  Wasn’t it Big Tent Democrat who just a few months ago called such talk delusional?  What a difference an ill-advised commission and election make.

Accountability before Austerity

31 Responses

  1. The republicans and the Obama-crats want us to be like those Chinese workers. 12 hour shifts working then 12 in the company dorm.
    And if were are good little drone will let us out to see a tree.

  2. All these republicans I work with, who 2 weeks ago couldn’t get those progressive/liberal/democrats out of office are coughing at the though of their social security. They are suddenly scared….my guess this will be great for Hillary in 2012.
    Alan Simpson is crazy and why would Obama put him as chairman if he wasn’t going to give the rethugs their Christmas list….middleclass is so screwed….maybe we can get Hillary in afterall.

    • If the Democrats aren’t using Republicans for cover, it looks like turning the proposals against Republicans should be doable.
      But we’re talking about Democrats here. On the other hand, the Democratic caucus is smaller now but more progressive. On the other hand, progressive Democrats are notoriously spineless even when it’s in their best interests.

  3. I also wonder now if the blacks will stay with him? I am just sooo saying “I told you so”. I hope the big orange blog is pooping on itself today. LOL!

  4. RD, I have a request…is there anyway add a tag to these series of post, “accountability before austerity” that way we can find them easily?

    Thanks, they are awesome.

    • I’ll work on it in my copious free time.

    • It’s done! 🙂

      … At least for this post. I’ll go through yesterday’s posts this afternoon.

      • Hi kbird! {{waves}}
        just suffered through a 2 hour corporate online training module. Gah! So tedious. We’ve seen most if this stuff before. Why we can’t just take a quiz first and not waste precious time re reviewing it is beyond me. Maybe some overpaid MBA label changer had time for this but the rest of us don’t.

        • Argh! That reminds me I have a few hours of on-line annual training yet to get in before the end of the year. All the organizational trainers must come from the same boring place.

          On some when I scroll through the re-review Powerpoints to get to the quiz it accuses me thusly: “You’ve only taken x minutes to read the material. Are you sure you want to take the quiz now?”

          MBAs must be really slow learners.

        • 🙂 Hi Riverdaughter — I just got back from an afternoon of grocery shopping for my parents. It involves 3 shops and 3 hours (driving included)

          I’m exhausted… But, at least I didn’t have to sit through one of those training modules. I hope I’ve never got to do that again!

  5. Nouriel Roubini has a wonky piece up about the hot money flowing into Asian markets like China as a result of the Fed’s introduction of 600 billion more dollars into the international financial system. Believe he’s saying that China should keep buying dollars…lending to the US as a way of tempering the appreciation of the Chinese yuan. We print dollars that make their way over to China as investments and China lends back to us, to presumably shore up our deficits and debt. This way, the yuan rises in value a bit to help our exports, but we still get to finance our public debt. Could be a virtuous circle, or not.

  6. If we let all of the Bush tax cuts expire the deficit will resolve itself. I don’t understand why doing to most straight forward and simplest thing somehow isn’t on any of these idiots radar. Except we all know that no one in Washington is serious about reducing any deficit but rather pillage the middle class creating a definite two class system in this country.

    The cheap and easy money due to the QE 2 will result in continued investment overseas not only in China but in other developing countries where return on investment is higher. What doesn’t go out oversees will be held by the banks to cover any short term loss they might see with continued real estate default. Ireland probably won’t be able to repay the debt and their banks are insolvent again This will result in the devaluing of the euro much to germany’s delight and continued strength of the dollar. Germany will not help Ireland because it is not in their economic interest. So for all the well laid plans…nothing will change and we will probably be worse off in both short term and long term

  7. several suggested that if Mr. Obama were to embrace its major parts, he would invite a primary challenge in 2012.

    He does embrace the Catfood Commission. What part of “Obama appointed the Commission members” do they not understand?

    Primary Challenge 2012 — Bring it on!

  8. “Before anybody starts shooting down proposals,

    OMG , POTUS is encouraging gun violence! *shocked!

  9. Insulted – and enraged.

    And if this arrogant dope thinks he’s going to have friends in high places after he’s booed out of the WH, he really is delusional. Congressional Repubs will always hate him. And now Congressional Dems (out-of-work and soon-to-be-out-of-work) will hate him too. No cocktail parties, not when every person in the country hates him. Kumbaya, yeah, right. He hasn’t made Kumbaya with me yet – or any other liberal in this country.

    As for the Catfood Commission, ditto what Linda C said. Just let the Bush tax cuts expire. I tell ya’, the fix is in. And the Dem Party is about to implode.

  10. I don’t know if Spammy got me, so I’m resubmitting this.

    Insulted – and enraged.

    And if this arrogant dope thinks he’s going to have friends in high places after he’s booed out of the WH, he really is delusional. Congressional Repubs will always hate him. And now Congressional Dems (out-of-work and soon-to-be-out-of-work) will hate him too. No cocktail parties, not when every person in the country hates him. Kumbaya, yeah, right. He hasn’t made Kumbaya with me yet – or any other liberal in this country.

    As for the Catfood Commission, ditto what Linda C said. Just let the Bush tax cuts expire. I tell ya’, the fix is in. And the Dem Party is about to implode. Obama is about to become totally radioactive.

    • The first four letters of “cocktail” are on Spammy’s list of no-no words.

      Spammy ain’t too bright but he does what we tell him.

  11. The proposals are from Simpson and Bowles, not from the commission itself. The proposals may not be voted out of the commission. Simpson and Bowles have to sell them on their own and they are both awful salesmen.

    Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND, a commission member, did not sound confident that 14 of the 18 members could agree on any proposal in order to move it to a vote in Congress. “We’ve had trouble getting 14 people to agree on what time of the day to meet,” the Budget Committee Chairman said.

    The often-comedic co-chairman Alan Simpson sheepishly exited the meeting, telling reporters, “We’re entering the witness protection program,” referring to his fellow co-chairman and proposal author Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.

    Commissioners mostly commended the chairmen for attacking the problem and offering real, detailed solutions, but to a letter, not one member embraced the proposal, though Simpson and Bowles said they did not expect that. Still another member, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., called the Social Security changes “a nonstarter.”

    Schakowsky questioned the equity in the cuts, noted the “growing gap between rich and poor in this country,” and said, “This is not at all something I could support.”

    Outside the bipartisan group, members slung arrows at the draft proposal, as well.

    And though he said members are still aiming to have a plan released on December 1, Reed did acknowledge that if members do not agree, the co-chairmen will certainly promote their own product separately to the American people.


  12. The NYTimes Editorial Board keeps hard selling this commission proposal. Second day in a row. Hard to believe.

    Since the election, we’ve been waiting for President Obama to regain his voice. When the chairmen of his bipartisan deficit commission issued their draft report, it looked as though the moment had come. We’re still waiting.

    There is a lot in their recommendations that needs to be questioned, analyzed and debated, but the principles behind it are exactly what the president should embrace and make his own.

    The report said what almost nobody in Washington is daring to say: there is no way to wrestle the deficit under control without both cutting spending and raising taxes; the fragile recovery and the most vulnerable Americans need to be protected; the country cannot stop investing in infrastructure, education and technology; everything — including Medicare, Social Security and defense spending — must be on the table.

    Raising taxes? The proposal cuts income tax rates for individuals and corporations while ripping out deductions for the middle class. The Board is delusional.

    • The NYT gave us eight years of of Bush the Lesser and the Iraq invasion so why shouldn’t they be cheerleaders for taking away our Social Security.
      A measure of the bat-shit insanity of the conservative talk radio blo-pigs is their labeling the media as Liberal.
      When you have the Banshee making up phony NASCAR quotes and attributing to John Kerry to get Bush another four years it goes without saying they are wearing the red knee-pads.

  13. He sounds like Lord Farquar from Shrek: “Some of you may die, but I am willing to make that sacrifice”
    meanwhile, W is re-writing history, trying to incorporate some of Clinton’s accomplishments

  14. I am always surprised by people who say their parents benefited from Social Security, but they won’t.

    First off, they will, if we don’t let the chairmen of the Cat Food Commission have their way. But I also point out that if you have ever had a relative (such as a parent) who you have not disowned on Social Security, you have benefited from the program. You might otherwise have had to take care of them (or, if you have helped, spend more money on them).

    If you have inherited or expect to inherit something from someone on Social Security, you have also benefited from the program, because that inheritance is increased by their Social Security payments.

    The Social Security ripples flow throughout the society. We should really lower the age one can start taking it, which might free up jobs for other workers.


  15. OT, great opinion piece from Ted Koppel in WaPo.

    To witness Keith Olbermann – the most opinionated among MSNBC’s left-leaning, Fox-baiting, money-generating hosts – suspended even briefly last week for making financial contributions to Democratic political candidates seemed like a whimsical, arcane holdover from a long-gone era of television journalism when the networks considered the collection and dissemination of substantive and unbiased news to be a public trust.

    Back then, a policy against political contributions would have aimed to avoid even the appearance of partisanship. But today, when Olbermann draws more than 1 million like-minded viewers to his program every night precisely because he is avowedly, unabashedly and monotonously partisan, it is not clear what misdemeanor his donations constituted. Consistency?

    We live now in a cable news universe that celebrates the opinions of Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly – individuals who hold up the twin pillars of political partisanship and who are encouraged to do so by their parent organizations because their brand of analysis and commentary is highly profitable.

    The commercial success of both MSNBC and Fox News is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me.

  16. Here’s what I want to see on the table:

    End the wars.

    Close at least half of all US military bases in foreign countries.

    Reduce the pensions of all Congress persons.
    Reduce the perks and allowances for Congress Persons.

    Require income tax to be paid on Congress persons health insurance.
    Raise taxes on the top 2 %.

  17. Since with deficit hawks and deficit doves it’s a case of “one side is lying, and the other is not telling the truth,” check out Bill Mitchell’s perspective:

    In this short statement Bill hits at the following deadly innocent frauds. First, that the Government is fiscally constrained in the sense that it can run out of money and that there therefore exists a solvency risk. That is a falsehood. In the mouths of some who know better, it is a lie, and a very damaging one because it provides an excuse for not increasing private sector income through Government spending.

    Second, that it’s the Government going broke. It’s not. It’s the private sector gone broke after the great recession, and the Government’s proper role in such circumstances is to ADD financial assets to the private sector by deficit spending which directly ADDS to private savings.

    Third, that we must have austerity or else create a burden for our grandchildren. Actually, it’s the opposite. To make things better for our grandchildren we must create real and equitably distributed private sector wealth now, and the role of increased Government spending to create jobs in doing that is critical. The future is about what we build now. And if we fail to build now, if we fail to repair the damage done by the market fundamentalists who created our economic mess, we will then be betraying our children and grandchildren.

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