This is at once an extraordinary and completely unsurprising headline:
For months, the standard narrative among progressive commentators was that Republicans were outrageously exploiting the debt ceiling deadline to impose drastic entitlement cuts on a resisting and victimized Democratic President (he’s weak in negotiations!), but The Post article makes clear that the driving force behind these cuts is the President himself, who is pushing for even larger spending cuts than the GOP was ready to accept:
President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue. . . . As part of his pitch, Obama is proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to people in both parties with knowledge of the proposal. The move marks a major shift for the White House and could present a direct challenge to Democratic lawmakers who have vowed to protect health and retirement benefits from the assault on government spending.
This morning’s New York Times article similarly makes clear that it is the President who is demanding an even larger “deficit reduction” package than has previously been discussed. Headlined “Obama to Push for Wider Deal With G.O.P. on Deficit Cuts,” the article reports that “President Obama has raised his sights and wants to strike a far-reaching agreement on cutting the federal deficit” and that he “wants to move well beyond the $2 trillion in savings sought in earlier negotiations and seek perhaps twice as much over the next decade.” This is all in pursuit of “an agreement that ma[kes] substantial spending cuts, including in such social programs as Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security — programs that had been off the table.” The President, as part of the package, is reportedly seeking some elimination of modest tax “loopholes” that benefit wealthy Americans to claim, absurdly, that there is “balanced” sacrifice.
It’s true that these articles rely upon anonymous sources, though multiple such sources close to the negotiations — from both parties — are cited in consensus about what is taking place, and there are numerous other reports entirely consistent with these. It’s been bleedingly obvious for some time that the bipartisan D.C. political class and the economic factions that own it have been intent on massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare — see George Carlin’s 2007 video explanation below — but the combination of deficit hysteria (repeatedly bolstered by Obama) and the manufactured debt ceiling deadline has, by design, created the perfect pretext to enable this now. As one “Democratic official” told the Post: “These moments come along at most once a decade. And it would be a real mistake if we let it pass us by.” Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine is not a GOP-exclusive dynamic.
How many people who voted for Obama in 2008 would have expected a headline like this a short two-and-a-half years later? Many more than should have. As Matt Taibbi explains in trumpeting Frank Rich’s superb new New York article detailing Obama’s subservience to Wall Street:
Throughout 2008, it was hard to shake the feeling that this was a politician whose legacy could still go either way. There were an awful lot of troubling signs on the horizon in Obama’s campaign, not the least of which being the enthusiastic support he was receiving from Wall Street.
Obama in part ran a very slightly economically populist campaign, but the tens of millions pouring into his campaign coffers from the very rich (and specifically from hedge funds) told all of us that we probably shouldn’t expect those promises to come off. For a piece I wrote that summer, I asked people in Washington why Wall Street would be throwing money at a guy who was out there on the stump pledging to reach into their pockets:
“Sadly, the answer to that question increasingly appears to be that Obama is, well, full of shit. . . . These populist pledges sound good, but many business moguls appear to be betting that the tax policies, like Obama himself, are only that: something that sounds good. ‘I think we don’t want to make too much of his promises on taxes,’ says Robert Pollin, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts. ‘Not all of these things will happen.’ Noting the overwhelming amount of Wall Street money pouring into Obama’s campaign, even elitist fuckwad David Brooks was recently moved to write, “Once the Republicans are vanquished, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for that capital-gains tax hike.”
Disgustingly, Brooks turned out to be right, and the narrative of the Obama presidency did end up turning sour, on that front anyway.