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Of COURSE Obama ran a bait and switch on Social Security, and plans to gut it

That's what he does. That's what Democrats do. Big Orange, but read the whole thing (hat tip, Yves):

When Barack Obama does not actually support a plan, he offers vague platitudes - lip services - but nothing more. Such was his "support" for crucial, progressive, popular ideas about Health Care Reform, supposedly his Administration's signature piece of legislation. In contrast, when Barack Obama has wanted to, he has been relentless and decisive, as he was in September 2008 when he quickly and crucially supported the Wall Street bailout. And just last month, the White House was quick to whip a wavering Senate into line about reconfirming Fed Chair Ben Bernanke with a 50, not 60, vote threshold. More on the significance of that at then end of this article.

So we need to look past Obama's always-perfect rhetoric to see if he is only paying lip service to an idea or if his actions show firm resolution. When it comes to Social Security, a comparison of what Obama the candidate said and what Obama the President has done show that his pledges to simply increase payroll taxes fall into the category of platitudes, while changing the program, apparently in part by cutting benefits, is clearly a matter of firm resolve. In essence, Obama's reasurance that while he would "convene a meeting" to listen to all sides, what he actually would propose would be a small increase in taxes on those earning over $250,000 who could easily afford it, was all along just a sop or a stalking horse to induce voters to overlook what was hiding in plain sight, namely his desire for a "nonpartisan" or "bipartisan" comission that would recommend cuts in Social Security benefits.

The evidence comes right out of Obama's mouth, and when put together, in my opinion is compelling.

It's been evident since the primaries: 01/18/2008. Thanks, "progressives"!

It was Atrios [the Kos poster gives other links] who blew the whistle on Obama on this point, and his argument, developed over several posts, was more subtle. His point was that Obama had put Social Security "in play" -- after the "angry left" with a great deal of toil, had succeeded in getting our craven Democratic leadership to take it out of play -- and that when Social Security is in play, it's in play by Beltway (Village) rules -- and everyone in the Beltway who is "serious" believes that privatization is on the table. So, Atrios sums up, Obama undid a lot of hard work by a lot of good people. And for why?

So far as I can tell, there was no reason whatever for Obama to put Social Security in play, except to score some meaningless points against Hillary in Iowa. I've seen the YouTube, and it's breathtaking in its "audacity": One sentence he's saying Hillary doesn't have a plan to deal with the "problem," and in the very next sentence he's saying he doesn't want to make it a political football. Dude, you just MADE my dignity in old age a political football, and all to pick up a tenth of a point in Iowa.

More Shock Doctrine. At least the Republicans are honest about it.

UPDATE The Kool-Aid continues incredibly powerful. Here's the very first comment (70+ when I was there):

You've managed to contort Obama's call for budget reform into some spurious and inaccurate claim that Obama is "agnostic about Social Security".

Of course, the writer means "distort," not "contort," but let that pass. Here's what Obama said in his Business Week interview:

If your deficit commission comes back and says we would recommend raising taxes on households earning less than $250,000 a year, would you accept that as part of a larger deal?

[OBAMA] I don't want to prejudge the commission because the whole point of it is to make sure that all ideas are on the table, and let's see what folks can come up with.

What I want to do is to be completely agnostic in terms of solutions. I want everybody to sit down and work off of a common base of facts. And the fact of the matter is that we have a structural deficit that is in place that was there before the recession. The recession has compounded it.

But our real problem is not the spike in spending last year or even the lost revenues last year, as significant as those are. The real problem has to do with the fact that there is just a mismatch between the amount of money coming in and the amount of money going out. And that is going to require some big, tough choices that, so far, the political system [it's called the Constitution] has been unable to deal with.

Transalation: "Tough choices" means "Fuck the peasants." Here's Obama on the Commission:

Recommendations from the panel, named the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, will "involve sacrifices by a broad range of groups and significant compromise," Obama said in an economic report to Congress on Thursday.

"We've got to be able to tell the truth to the American people that that is hard to solve," Obama told Senate Democrats at a retreat Feb. 3. "And the reason it's hard to solve is most of it is coming from entitlements that people like."

Not, of course, that a whole new war, and trillions to the banksters, are "entitlements." Oh my golly, no no no.

The OFB is, as usual, full of shit. They're wrong on the facts, as usual, wrong on the policy, as usual, and wrong on the ethics, too. As usual.

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Michael Wilk's picture
Submitted by Michael Wilk on

Obama was parroting the right-wing rhetoric about Social Security being "in crisis" throughout the campaign, and on Iran in spite of evidence that it is not developing nukes.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

jumped all Obama when he started saying "Social Security is in crisis?" She even called it a "rightwing talking point." I swooned a little, I admit. ;-)

That was during the same debate in which she absolutely refused to say she would cut Social Security benefits in any way, despite being pushed very hard by the moderator to say that outcome was "on the table." Her solution was to raise revenues by repealing the Bush tax cuts for the rich first, and then review Social Security after the effects of the tax increase became evident. Since SS will remain solvent until 2045 according to many estimates, her answer made a great deal of sense, both politically and practically.

I was never that strongly in Hillary's camp until the first couple of debates. Then I witnessed her incredible command of policy and her calmness in the face of massive stress; not to mention her firm grasp of liberal positions and talking points. She was the only one up there who was Presidential.

Alas, what might have been.

jjmtacoma's picture
Submitted by jjmtacoma on

Wall Street has been drooling over the idea that the big fat bucket of money would be privatized. Imagine the fees! Imagine the interest that could be scraped off the top! Imagine the backroom shell games!

Oh and shouldn't we be thrilled at the prospect of MORE of our money in the hands of those "savy businessmen"?

Submitted by lambert on

... as a collective entity, do.

If there are individuals who don't want to keep doing what the Dems do, then they should inflict the necessary pain to get the Dems to stop doing what Dems do; that's what Evan Bayh did, after all.

JG's picture
Submitted by JG on

Trudy Lieberman at CJR has a relevant article today about media coverage of Social Security:


“Most of the sources for reports are inside the Beltway policy experts and quoted time after time again,” said the group’s executive vice president, Phil Sparks. “That leads to a story line focusing on the same themes and frames.” And the current theme is that new policies for Social Security are integral to any deficit reduction strategy.


Sparks also noted that the reform measures suggested in the news accounts included benefit reductions or means testing for higher income Social Security recipients, raising the ceiling on payroll tax deductions, and a new formula for annual cost-of-living adjustments for people already receiving benefits.

What was missing? The voices of beneficiaries, organizations representing seniors, and policymakers and academics who take a different view of what is meant by reform. Sparks’s sample showed virtually no coverage of benefit gaps or the problems that many recipients, particularly women, have in living on the benefits they do receive. Nor did they look at other aspects of the program, such as survivor’s and disability benefits.