Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cutting Social Security and Public Health Care a Sign of “Leadership”


Third Way Says Cutting Social Security and Public Health Care a Sign of “Leadership”
David Dayen
Wednesday November 10, 2010

I know the world-weary journalist pose is to huff that the catfood commission will go nowhere, that the recommendations released today are politically impossible, and that it’s not worth getting worked up about. Indeed, any proposal that both Grover Norquist and Paul Krugman can take time beating about the face and mouth doesn’t appear to have a constituency.

But there is a constituency for this, and it begins and ends with Third Way, who wastes no time in telling the world that they can only be real manly men if they support cutting Social Security and health care for the poor, the elderly and veterans:

With huge deficits projected for decades to come, it’s now time to put up or shut up, in short to lead or leave. This is the first real leadership test for both parties in a divided capitol: will they embrace the Fiscal Commission recommendations, or cop out and pick the plan apart?

No plan will be perfect, but without a serious, long-term commitment to balance the budget, we’re going to stifle economic growth for decades and ultimately have to make draconian cuts in spending. Only by acting aggressively now do we avoid a budget doomsday. President Obama, Democrats, and the new House Republican majority all campaigned on a pledge to get the deficit under control and reform entitlements.

The moment of truth is here. The Commission report is the only game in town – and if this wasn’t just a campaign slogan, the parties must come together and demand a vote on the Commission’s recommendations.

The co-chair’s report has 75% spending cuts, and 25% revenue increases. It’s greatly imbalanced. And one of the biggest revenue increases comes from a potential phase-out of the Earned Income Tax Credit, the only true benefit for the working poor in the tax code. The only proposals that are “serious” in Washington, according to Jonathan Cowan of Third Way, are the ones that hurt people who have no voice in the political process. In the name of “sacrifice.”

And while Republicans haven’t exactly embraced the Bowles-Simpson proposal, they haven’t rejected it out of hand, either. Instead they called it “provocative” and commended the co-chairs for “advancing the debate.” There’s the matter of holding off Norquist and the anti-tax crowd, but the GOP members will go to the table ready to reduce that side of the ledger as much as possible. And they’ll love the cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and all the rest.

Incidentally, the entire success of the proposal is predicated on a target growth rate for federal health expenditures that basically rolls back the Affordable Care Act and a lot of Medicare and Medicaid. When you get right down to it, this is a proposal to make your retirement smaller, and if you’re on publicly provided health care, to make it cost more.

This is a really vicious proposal. But just because it has a few tax increases doesn’t necessarily mean that Republicans won’t take it and run with it. And there are enough Democrats in the Third Way side of things to be swayed by a “get serious” approach.

Forgive me, but I find this proposal to be a threat.

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