What a Victory!

Perhaps Mark is right, and I was too anxious.  After all, now that Republican hostage-taking demands have begun to cave, Obama has doubled down, calling again for entitlement cuts and higher taxes:

For all its talk of the importance of averting a debt default, the White House is signaling that major deficit reduction has become more than just a bargaining chip to bring Republicans aboard a debt deal.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner opened Tuesday’s meeting not by focusing on the perils of debt default, but instead with a “vivid” presentation on “what happens if you don’t cut the deficit,” according to a Democratic source familiar with the talks.

Geithner warned the group that ratings agencies are actively watching both the debt ceiling debate and the ability of Congress to turn around the nation’s growing deficit and debt. He pointed to the economic unrest in Europe as evidence of what could happen in the United States if the White House and Congress don’t tackle the deficit in a serious way.

Lawmakers obviously discussed the pressing consequences of debt default, said the Democratic official. And on that front there still “continues to be a big difference on revenue.”

But as negotiations on a debt package resumed, Obama made it clear that he isn’t playing small ball. He warned Republicans that the major concessions he has offered on entitlement reforms are off the table if they don’t agree to a sizable debt deal.

In the meantime, just a year before a general election,  the country’s unemployment rate is over 9% and its effective unemployment rate might be twice that.  Obama’s solution to the searing crisis of the middle class apparently is to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, in exchange for tax increases that will occur anyway.  Oh yes, and $2 trillion of other unspecified cuts, which always figure to work beautifully during a recession.   If we don’t do that, then we’ll end up like Europe, where people are supposedly concerned about deficits.  What is there in any of this that a progressive could possibly object to?

Best President since Ike, I’d say.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

22 thoughts on “What a Victory!”

  1. Maybe this is all a play to make sure the GOP gets blamed for the default? The sad part is that voters won’t even remember this by late next year.

  2. I think it’s time for a primary challenger. It would give the president more room on the left. Who should we draft?

  3. Clinton was the best president since Ike. We’ve got two partie, now: a centrist, good-government party that governs on behalf of the financier class, and an insane theocratic xenophobic racist superstitious fascistic party that doesn’t believe in governing at all.

  4. Here’s the key line from that story

    according to a Democratic source familiar with the talks

    There’s nothing that shows me the true nature of the liberal, anti-Obama blog chatterers better than watching one get all het up over an anonymously sourced story in the Huffington Post. It would be funny if it wasn’t so damn sad and pathetic.

  5. Wait…

    “In the meantime, just a year before a general election, the country’s unemployment rate is over 9% and its effective unemployment rate might be twice that. Obama’s solution to the searing crisis of the middle class apparently is to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, in exchange for tax increases that will occur anyway. Oh yes, and $2 trillion of other unspecified cuts, which always figure to work beautifully during a recession. If we don’t do that, then we’ll end up like Europe, where people are supposedly concerned about deficits. What is there in any of this that a progressive could possibly object to?”

    …you WERE too anxious?

    But let’s look at the question. What is there that any progressive could object to? Well, being that there is not one actual deal on the table filled with things like details on a proposal, I would have thought there is NOTHING a progressive could object to because there is actually nothing TO object to. But here we are, eh?

    Personally, I have not been more excited for Obama since the election (or shortly before the Republicans to hold their breaths until they turn dark red, whichever came first). I know different vantage points are seeing this all differently, but I am with the crowd that sees a man that called the GOP’s bluff (deficit reduction), hauled them out into the light, and forced them to attempt a cheap political parlor trick in order to save face.

    Anonymous, there is not going to be a default. Worst case scenario, Obama does not press the advantage he has now and accepts McTurtle’s punt. Optimal from my eyes is Obama pressing that advantage, approve the debt ceiling increase under the 14th amendment, if necessary, then fight (and I believe win) the constitutional question later. Sure there will be an uptick of commenters all over the blogosphere crying “RULE BY DECREE!!!111!one!”, but I am willing to take that chance.

    NGC, there are plenty of primary challengers in the GOP race. Go on, have a ball.

  6. what is so progressive about social security and medicare anyway? the taxes are regressive and the benefits are entitlements that benefit the well-to-do as much as the needy. why do progressives sit idly by letting budget cuts demolish real progressive programs and services and only get hot under the collar about these?

  7. curious, would destroying SS and Medicare be progressive or regressive? Also, ‘the taxes are regressive and the benefits are entitlements that benefit the well-to-do as much as the needy’ would imply that the well-to-do would support SS and Medicare. They don’t, which suggests that you’re full of it.

  8. So nobody likes shoveling the steaming pile we were left with. I can sympathize, but it won’t get done any faster if you make the scoop smaller.

  9. Barry: I am not proposing to destroy SS and Medicare but in the context of the across the board budget cuts being undertaken with 0 scrutiny by progressives only to get hot under the collar when those two programs are mentioned does not seem terribly progressive to me. What I would like to see is a more forceful progressive program and not just defending what are basically middle class entitlement programs. And btw, I know plenty of people who would never support any other form of welfare for “poor” people who have no problem cashing their SS checks each month and using their medicare card at the hospital and at the doctor’s office.

  10. Lets see here. Shifting indexing of SS to Chained-CPI instead of CPI-W is now “destroying Social Security”.

    And the Medicare proposal is a total sellout! Even though with ACA, those aged 66 and 67 will be able to buy insurance (and an effective subsidy for those at the older end of the range, thanks to the 3:1 ratio limit on highest:lowest age-based premia), people 65 and 66 would still be able to buy insurance (in 2034, when the transition to the age 67 cutoff is complete). And, to top it off, those with incomes under 400% of the federal poverty level would actually have lower total costs under ACA than with Medicare (at least according to the Kaiser Family Foundation report from April). On a factual basis, these proposals look like extremely minor tweaks, and the Medicare one is arguably a progressive change(thanks to the ACA low-income subsidies).

    The only downside I can see is that this makes the politics of Democrats running on a platform of “The GOP is trying to destroy Medicare” more difficult. But can anyone seriously deny that the last 2 weeks’ goings on have made Obama look presidential and the GOP look both crazy and divided? Seems like a big win to me, though it’s not over yet.

  11. Chuchundra is right to criticize people for getting all in a bunch about an unsourced leak. I’m not changing my opinion of Obama based on anything that’s happened this week. Winning one skirmish doesn’t make him a genius, and (if the leaked report is true) being willing to give ground on Social Security doesn’t make him a jerk. Looking at the whole of his Presidency, I think he’s a conservative and definitely part of the problem.

    NCG, the President doesn’t need “more room on the left,” he needs to be defeated (or at least frightened) by a candidate from his left. If you run a primary challenge to HELP the incumbent, you’re doing it wrong. Indeed, an outright third party challenge would last longer and probably have more of the desired effect of drawing Obama leftward (and you could ask Bernie Sanders to be the candidate).

  12. > Chuchundra is right to criticize people for
    > getting all in a bunch about an unsourced leak.

    The entire process in Washington DC is a game of closed-door negotiations for which all parties have sworn an oath of confidentiality; controlled (and uncontrolled) leaks from those negotiations; trial balloons floated, popped, and resurrected; gauging of reactions from the public (tiny bit) and the DC media village (mostly); lather, rinse, repeat. Until the final deal is cut and it bears striking resemblance to the 2nd-to-last or 3rd-to-last set of leaks. So no, “going ballistic” [1] over leaks that huge chops to Social Security are now on the table is both reasonable and necessary.


    [1] Once a missile has “gone ballistic” its engine has shut down and it is no longer being accelerated or even driven, so I’m not sure why this has become a phrase meaning “keep driving [unreasonably] hard”.

  13. Yes, by all means let’s cut Social Security and Medicare. Even better, let’s do it by stealth and then argue that anyone who disagrees is a “whiner” and “going ballistic”. With an ever-increasing percentage of the wealth in the US concentrating in the hands of the top 0.5%, the big financial firms now hoovering up 70% of corporate profits, and open discrimination against job seekers (or job holders) over 50 now commonplace it would be a _perfect_ time to raise the retirement age to 69 and the Medicare age to 67.

    = = = = =

    And everybody praised the Duke
    Who this great fight did win”—
    “But what good came of it at last?”
    Quoth little Peterkin.
    “Why that I cannot tell,” said he,
    “But ’twas a famous victory.”
    = = = = =


  14. Point taken. I’ve already advised the President that he is dead to me if the deal includes cuts to Social Security. I’m just saying that there’s pretty much nothing he can do this week to improve the bad opinion I had of him last week.

  15. Bond vigilantes don’t exist, US debt is getting cheaper. Geithner doesn’t know what he is talking about.

  16. It seems to me that people who need SS the absolute most are those who spent many of their working years at physical jobs. And most of those are probably the working poor and lower middle class. It’s one thing to blithely talk of raising SS benefits from 65 to 67 to 69 for people who have mostly done desk jobs, but if you’ve been a waiter or laborer or nurse or cook or….what makes anybody think you can still earn a living as age creeps up? And whether you’ve had a physically easy job or a hard one, what makes anybody think that your employer will keep you as you age, or that you can find another job if they don’t? The lower your lifetime income has been, the less your chances have been to save for your own retirement and to get and use the information you need to plan well. You were only concerned with trying to keep your family fed, clothed, and housed. And when you either simply can’t do your job any more or you’re let go because you look too old, think and/or move too slowly, or can be replaced by a healthy, smart, zippy youngster, exactly what are you going to do to survive until you’re almost 70 years old?

    It’s one thing to toss out the idea that since people as a whole are living longer, the retirement age can be raised. But the reality is that many, if not most people in this age group (and I know a lot of old farts ’cause I am one!) are really unequipped to work full time (again, assuming they could get work) much past 65 – younger if they have health problems or did physically demanding work.

  17. Clearly, the President has brilliantly sown division in the ranks of his enemies. Not sure what to do about the division being sown in the ranks of his friends by those who claim sole ownership of the “progressive” mantle, but that’s life in the big city.

  18. To charge that critics of Obama “claim sole ownership of the ‘progressive’ mantle” is to claim that Obama is a progressive. It is not progressive, however, to allow Bradley Manning to be tortured, to attempt to assassinate American citizens abroad, to maintain secret prisons, to indefinitely imprison people without due process, to prosecuting whistle-blowers more than any past president did, and to not only refuse to prosecute torturers, but to invoke the state secrets doctrine to preclude civil suits against torturers, and to interfere with foreign governments’ attempts to prosecute torturers.

    It was progressive to get the health insurance law enacted, but not to fail to fight for the public option or for ending Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, or to be willing to reduce Social Security and Medicare. Being more progressive than the lunatics who run the Republican Party does not make one progressive.

  19. I certainly don’t claim sole ownership of the “progressive” mantle, since I’m not a progressive, I’m a socialist.

    But I do know what the word “progressive” means, or at least what it used to mean before Glenn Beck started throwing it around. If that word still means anything at all, Barack Obama is no progressive. Reasonable people can argue about whether he’s moderate or conservative, and about how wide his authoritarian streak is.

  20. So Mark, are you now saying it’s “progressive” to offer to raise the Medicare eligibility age? Or in your book is “progressive” simply anything that Obama supports?

  21. Not sure what to do about the division being sown in the ranks of his friends by those who claim sole ownership of the “progressive” mantle

    Why those friends are doing the same thing as our prez and his rabid supporters are doing, only they claim sole ownership of the “realist” mantle. The fact that you are apparently ignorant of this fact would imply that you are not a realist.

  22. Don: I am fine with Bernie Sanders running. That’s a good idea. But of course if he had a chance of winning, we’d be living in some other, better country, as opposed to the one we *actually* live in. So, yes, the point is not to beat the president, but to move him left. I think we learned with Nader not to try too hard.

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