Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Beware the "Balanced Approach"

Taxes and spending are so grotesquely distorted in the federal budget that we need a decade of confiscatory taxes on the rich and trillions in increased spending on the working poor to even begin to address the current imbalance.

So let's dispense with the bullshit about how taking pocket change from billionaires in exchange for gutting Social Security and Medicare is anything approaching a "balanced approach."

A good friend questioned my cynicism the other day about Obama's newly aggressive defense of Social Security at the AARP meeting and I thought hard about that. I've been extremely hard on the administration for their stated desire for a Grand Bargain long before the fiscal cliff was even hatched -- in fact, since the beginning of the first term. And I guess I just tend to be suspicious any time a President suggests early on that he has a grandiose plan for his legacy and then uses "problems" that come along later to justify it. If Obama hadn't said straight out that he wanted to solve all the problems of the world with his Grand Bargain I might not be so cynical.

Well it turns out that I'm not the only one. This guy is cynical too:
One of the most progressive voices in the caucus, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), said he was heartened to hear Obama tell the AARP last week that he'd be open to raising the cap on income that's taxed for purposes of paying into the Social Security trust fund. Sanders also applauded the president for taking off of the table any reform language that resulted in the "slashing" of benefits (several Social Security advocates, disagreeing with Sanders, said they were worried such language was counterproductive, as it opens the door for cuts that could be deemed minor).

But the Vermont Independent worried that all of this could be posturing for the lame-duck session immediately after the election, when lawmakers are expected to rush to find another "grand bargain" on tax and entitlement reform to stave off the so-called fiscal cliff.

"That's exactly what's going to happen," Sanders said of Social Security being on the proverbial table, "Unless someone of us stops it -- and a number of us are working very hard on this -- that's exactly what will happen. Everything being equal, unless we stop it, what will happen is there will be a quote-unquote grand bargain after the election in which the White House, some Democrats will sit down with Republicans, they will move to a chained CPI."
If he's worried, I'm worried. The Chained CPI is a benefits cut. And it's one that will hurt those who remain on Social Security the longest, usually elderly women in their 80s and 90s. I suppose they can try to go out and get a job to augment their inadequate incomes, but I can't think of who will hire them. This is a prescription for catfood for these very old people.


I love how it's always this "pay a little bit more" like we couldn't possibly ask these job creating Galtish heroes to kick in more than a pittance lest something really terrible happen.


The only thing we can hope for is that either the left or the right wings of the congress --- perhaps both --- say no. It will be a lot more likely if they have a chance to organize in the new congress than if this is all done at lightening speed to avoid going over the fictional fiscal cliff in the lame duck.

Lame duck gridlock is in out best interest in so many ways. This is definitely one of them.
Confiscatory taxes to eliminate billionaires. A trillion dollars in infrastructure spending to create 10 million high-paying, full-benefit jobs. Then we'll talk entitlements.

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