Monday, July 29, 2013

Grand Bargain Fetishism Began in 2009--Enablers and Righteous Opposition in Congress Then to Now

I'll begin with a snippet from ABC's Jennifer Parker's exclusive interview with Obama on This Week in January 2009:
"Well, right now, I’m focused on a pretty heavy lift, which is making sure we get that reinvestment and recovery package in place. But what you described is exactly what we’re going to have to do. What we have to do is to take a look at our structural deficit, how are we paying for government? What are we getting for it? And how do we make the system more efficient?"

"And eventually sacrifice from everyone?" I asked.

"Everybody’s going to have to give. Everybody’s going to have to have some skin in the game," Obama said.
Pensions are disappearing, 401(k) plans suffer from market volatility, and many lost their savings in the financial crash. Yet there Obama was, claiming that the seniors of today and those of tomorrow (i.e. everyone) will need to sacrifice their ability to retire with dignity for a Social Security crisis that does not exist.

Obama is currently engaging in a speaking tour to promote a "better bargain" for the middle-class; however, he has yet to take cuts to Social Security and Medicare off the negotiating table with Senate and House Republicans. Obama condemns the negative economic impact of sequestration and blames it on Congress, yet he fails to acknowledge that Jack Lew and Gene Sperling had designed sequestration (to force Democrats to agree to cut social insurance programs and Republicans to agree to raise taxes) and that he himself pledged to veto any effort by Congress to undo the automatic cuts of sequestration. The sequestration cuts are not bad enough to him that he would be willing to cancel them. Obama has maintained that he only supports ending the sequestration cuts by replacing them with equivalent deficit reduction--an unwise idea in a still depressed economy as Paul Krugman, Dean Baker, and other have been continually arguing to the deaf ears of the Very Serious People.

My diary opened with a quote from 2009 with Obama expressing his interest in a "grand bargain," a concept which has always referred to a combination of cuts to social insurance and mild tax increases. In the rest of the diary, I want to track the votes and bills, from 2010 to today, that have attempted to make this "grand bargain" a reality and the attempts to block such a quest and the damage it would inflict on seniors and working families. It is important to note that the shift to austerity, embodied in the Simpson-Bowles Commission, occurred when Democrats still had control of both houses. The shift from job creation to austerity was not merely the result of Republican intransigence.  Rather, it was long desired by White House officials and advisers, many of whom had opposed the very idea of stimulus.

Tracking votes and volte faces also allows us to know who has been consistent in advocating economic justice and who deserves blame for the austerity trap that exists in the mind of our legislators and the economic reality on the ground. I am particularly interested in identifying which Democrats warrant our praise for their steadfast opposition to the fetishization of the "grand bargain."

You can read the rest on my Daily Kos page

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