Translation: The President is on board with means-testing Medicare and raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67. This is a nonstarter, an elitist proposal hatched in the minds of sedentary affluent wonks toiling away in ergonomic, comfortable air-conditioned offices. It completely disregards genuine working class professions that entail HARD LABOR, from mining to industrial work, oil rig work, truck driving, construction, farming, heavy lifting, working on one's feet, a myriad of extreme working conditions that effectively sap a worker's health through a long, tough career. While the policy wonks pushing an increase in the eligibility age are looking at actuarial tables telling us the population is living longer, they totally disregard the realities of hard labor, much less what these figures indicate, if anything, about this type of work and the toll it takes on workers.
This is typical of inside-the-Beltway elitist thinking.
Mr. Obama laid out the three options available to him, in order of preference:
1. The "Big Bargain" which includes about $4 trillion in cuts and revenue increases. He emphasized, addressing my concern, that he is ready to cut the deal, with reams of charts, graphs and figures on his desk showing how the package can be put together.
2. A middle approach with the deficit reduction figure halved, which some Republicans have floated. He stressed he will not accept any plan which does not include revenue increases and places the onus solely on cuts. He also nixed the bogus Republican "balanced budget" approach, which would not solve any immediate problem, given its long ratification process, and would require draconian cuts to Social Security, putting the federal government in a straightjacket.
3. The McConnell approach, which is a "kick the can down the road" clean debt debt ceiling raise. The President said this is his least preferable option, but even here there is an opportunity to "make a substantial downpayment" on our debt to show the American people they're serious about deficit reduction. The approach here seems to be to include $1 trillion of identified cuts by the Vice President's "Gang of Six" with no entitlement cuts and no tax increases.The President emphasized, however, that the Bush tax cuts need to be "rolled back" meaning that when their current extension ends in 2012, he will veto any further extension. That's always been the expectation, but he wanted Republicans to formalize it now, as part of the overall package.
As smart conservatives like David Brooks have been stressing, the so-called "Grand Bargain" and anything inbetween is a sweetheart deal for Republicans, the Beltway elites, and Wall Street. As usual with this President, it's his base that he's asking to do the heavy lifitng, with the prospect of Medicare denied for another two years once they reach retirement age. Or die, whichever comes first.