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The Changing Political Landsape

« April 2013 »


With his proposal of a budget that institutes "Chained CPI", Barack Obama has officially become the leader of a new political party that will fill the ecological niche left empty by the radicalization of the Republican Party. Socially moderate. Fiscally stupid. The party of medium-sized government for every person who's not a corporation, and nonexistent government for the rest.

Which would be fine, except, you know, the actual Republican Party is still around, and there's no party capable of stepping up and filling the ecological niche left empty by the Democrats' open embrace of center-worship, Wall Street, and "shared sacrifice" that is anything but.

"Chained CPI" is a code-word for reworking the way the government calculates the annual cost of living increase for Social Security. The current calculation takes into account a bunch of stuff that might cost more next year than it did this year. Chained CPI "chains" some of that stuff and keeps it out of the cost of living increase. In other words, stuff costs more, and you have less money to spend on it.

This is also known as CUTTING SOCIAL SECURITY, a longtime dream of Republicans who've hated the New Deal ever since it, well, worked for decades and became an important issue that led lots of people to vote for Democrats. So why would Obama, ostensibly a Democrat, suggest this? There are three possibilities.

COMPROMISE: Obama is claiming that his budget is a compromise. He'll cut Social Security if Republicans agree to closing tax loopholes on the rich. In other words, Obama is agreeing to piss off retirees and voluntarily take the first step in the unraveling of the New Deal in exchange for the tax changes MITT ROMNEY RAN ON. This is, of course, madness.

HE THINKS IT'S NECESSARY: - He's somehow bought into the idea that Social Security is in trouble, that it has to be "saved", and that the best way to do it is to get old people used to eating less. And he's doing this amidst the mounting evidence that the great "experiment" in shifting retirement away from pension to 401(k) accounts is in fact a giant scam designed to save businesses money and siphon people's retirement money into banking fees and the investment market. This, of course, is madness.

THE LONG GAME: Obama knows that Republicans will reject any offer he makes, so he's putting Social Security on the line to expose them as obstructionists who will never be happy, and Democrats can run against this in 2014, take back the House, and then Obama can bring about Liberal Utopia. This is, of course, madness.

The first one is madness because, in the immortal words of Catbug, "Why would you do that?" You beat Mitt Romney in an election and now you're negotiating to get HIS plan in place?

The second is madness because even if Social Security is in trouble, which it really isn't, it's in trouble so far down the line that any deal you make to "save" it will probably be supplanted by changing conditions, changing Congresses, and changing presidents between now and then. And even if you wanted to save it, there are lots of better ways than dooming the next generation of retirees to long hours as Wal-Mart greeters and diets of Top Ramen.

And the third is madness because we are now four and a half years into the Obama administration, and there is a rapidly dwindling pool of time left for any "long game" to pay off. If he hasn't capitalized on Republican obstruction by now, he's not planning to. Obama's a lot of things, but he'll never be a secret liberal. He said himself, he's a moderate Republican.

And yes, our system probably needs moderate Republicans. But as a force to keep the excesses of radical liberalism in check, not as a force to balance out the Teabag And Jesus And Rand Party. Maybe that'll happen in the next decade, as the GOP continues to implode, but who's going to give them money? And without money, how can there be American politics?

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