Thursday, November 11, 2010

Deficit Reduction Commission Preliminary Report May Be DOA, But at Least It's a Start

One of the clichés, as certain as night follows day, about a president’s budget to Congress is that it’s “dead on arrival.” The same can be said about the draft proposal by the chairmen of President Obama’s deficit-reduction commission. Even for it to be considered for a vote in Congress, 14 commission members would have to approve it, which will not happen.

While flawed, at least these are serious proposals to reduce our long-term structural deficit, which should be given serious consideration. Placed in contrast to Republican privatization schemes and massive transfer of wealth to the super-rich, the commission proposals respect the character of  landmark New Deal and liberal Democratic programs. Social Security is the single most successful retirement program ever devised by the mind of man. As the New York Times said:
“What is important is that the proposal preserves the system’s basic character and successful design: the young support the old via payroll taxes and the rich help the poor via a benefits formula that favors the neediest.”
There are three areas, at least, that I agree in principle with the commission:

First, before these midterm elections, I might have thought differently on this topic, but no longer. The spectacle of senior citizens voting in overwhelming numbers for Republicans who want to (a) privatize Social Security, (b) turn Medicare into a voucher program, and (c) repeal healthcare reform, utterly disgusted me. Especially since these seniors rely so heavily on Medicare and Social Security.

Their ingratitude and hypocrisy should be rewarded with immediate means testing of Social Security and Medicare. If they’re wealthy enough to afford it, drop them from the government rolls. Immediately. They voted Republican, so now let them pay the consequences with a nice letter from the SSA saying “we regret to inform you that given your income bracket you no longer qualify for Social Security benefits.”

Perhaps it’s a pipe dream, but how cool would it be (sorry if this is harsh, but their betrayal is outrageous) to serve all those white Teabaggers riding around in their scooters at the Glenn Beck rally and screaming at Obama their walking papers from sucking off the government trough, thanks to rigid Tea Party principles and bipartisan deficit-reduction commission recommendations. It would be justice served to the rich, selfish, and greedy croakers who clung to their entitlements while voting to throw everybody else under the bus.

The concept that rich seniors should pay more for their benefits makes sense. Social Security and Medicare have helped millions of seniors to retire in comfort and health. Now, for the richest seniors among us, it’s time they gave something back.

But of course, even in a decimated state on the House side, Democrats will get out there and defend the integrity of the program for all Americans of every generation. Republicans will demagogue the issue and bribe selfish and greedy seniors into supporting them by promising to slash benefits in Social Security and Medicare for everyone under the age of 40. That’s a fact and that’s their strategy to protect seniors and screw the middle class. It gives a whole new meaning to the term of art, grandfathering.

Second, it is interesting in light of the incessant chatter by Republicans of their intention to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, which they contemptuously call “Obamacare,” that the commission preliminary report has recognized the new healthcare law as a key deficit reducer, by hundreds of billions, especially in the out years after 2014. This is what the nonpartisan CBO calculated early on regarding a law that is paid for (i.e., deficit-neutral) and extends the life of Medicare for many years into the future, while providing insurance for 95 percent of uninsured Americans.

Further, and most significantly, the commission reinstates a version of the Public Option. It was dismissed somewhere as a “bone” to progressives, but I disagree. The Public Option is perhaps the single most effective mechanism to keep private insurance costs down. CBO has estimated it will save upwards of $100 billion over ten years, and even more into the future. That it was included in the commission’s draconian preliminary report validates what progressives have been saying all along.

More broadly, the commission has affirmed the rationale and urgent necessity of the sweeping reforms enacted by the last Congress. As the petulant Tea Party children were yelling and screaming about healthcare reform, and now angrily and ignorantly demand its repeal, the adults have spoken, and said basically, you’re all a bunch of dumbasses who don’t know the first thing about this. Setting aside the wonkish deficit-reduction components of healthcare, the fact the commission is not prepared to scrap or defund this law is huge.

Finally, defense cuts. The defense industry is a self-perpetuating monster that consecutive Democratic and Republican administrations (mostly Democratic; the Republicans presided over massive increases in defense) have been unable to tame ever since President Eisenhower warned us to beware of the “military-industrial complex.”

We can begin by recognizing that the Cold War is over, and we no longer have a Soviet threat to contend with. The Russian military is more preoccupied with quelling uprisings in its former republics, and no longer constitutes a credible threat to Western Europe. Its navy is largely in mothballs. The most immediate military issue between Russia and the U.S. is  containing the spread of nuclear weapons and reducing the overall number of warheads and delivery systems.

As a draft proposal to reduce the deficit the commission report may be DOA. But at least it’s a serious initiative put together by adults. That alone sets it apart from all the screaming and shouting infants, mostly on the Tea Party/Republican side.

1 comment:

libhom said...

The Cat Food Commission is not about reducing deficits. It calls for cutting back taxes for rich and corporations. It refuses to call for defunding the hugely expensive Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The Cat Food Commission's sole purpose of existence is redistributing money and wealth to the rich from everyone else.