Medicare and Social Security cuts inch closer

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Jul 01, 2010 at 21:01


In a surprising, and ominous, move, tonight the House of Representatives, by a 215-210 vote, passed a rule guaranteeing a vote on the deficit commission recommendations in December, if--and this is a big if--those recommendations pass the Senate:

FDL has learned that in a last minute move, Nancy Pelosi sneaked language into the rule that the House is voting on tonight regarding war funding.

Embedded in the rule is the requirement that the House will vote on the deficit commission's recommendations in the lame duck session if they pass the Senate.

Now, its pretty bloody unlikely that you will round-up unanimous consent on any deficit commission vote in the Senate, so you would need a cloture vote to pass it (Senate rules will not be changed before January).  In order for there even to be a cloture vote, you would need consent from the Senate leadership, and 60 Senators in favor.  That is all unlikely for multiple reasons, including inevitable absentee Senators during any lame duck session, getting any Republicans to vote for a recommendation that raises any taxes at all, progressive objections to benefit cuts, and more.

It is, however, not impossible.  Elites all have deficit fever, and it is attacking the intestinal linings of this country.  Further, the weeks immediately following what will be a relatively successful election for Republicans (even if they don't take back either branch of Congress, they will pick up a significant number of seats) are bound to be a perfect moment for Democrats to act scared, and cave.  Finally, President Obama has often used the language of crisis to discuss Social Security, and bends over backward to appear bipartisan and reasonable, so he may well support the recommendations.  Given Obama's proven ability to persuade the base, his support would result in significant backing of the commission's recommendations from both activist and rank and file Democrats.

With little time to organize opposition to the recommendations once they are announced, the end result of this could be a perfect storm where there are 60 Senators  in favor of those recommendations.  It isn't likely, but it is possible, and given the damage it would do it is something that requires immediate organizing attention.

On a related note, here is a good video from Rep. Grijalva and Grayson on deficit hypocrisy:

Chris Bowers :: Medicare and Social Security cuts inch closer

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Thanks for explaining this (4.00 / 7)
I've been trying to figure out what it means.

Here's what it means: it means that Pelosi and other Democratic leaders in the House (the "progressive" chamber") have put Social Security in jeopardy, exposing it to a deeply conservative debt commission and it to the whims of the Senate.

This is fucking obscene.

And your point about timing is crucial: it'll be put to a vote at a time when the GOP will probably be riding high. But while it's true that most GOP Sens probably vote for a proposal that raises taxes, I don't think tax increases could make it through the stacked-deck commission. It'll be heavy on benefit cuts.

 


On that last point, here's the relevant math (0.00 / 0)
courtesy of Froomkin:

The commission's makeup and the requirement that all recommendations be approved by 14 of the 18 members make is almost foreordained that it won't agree on much.

There are certainly enough votes on the right to block any significant tax increase proposals.

There certainly aren't enough votes anywhere to propose deep spending cuts in the bloated military budget.

The only real question is whether there are five votes - enough to block passage - against cutting social programs, particularly Social Security.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...


[ Parent ]
Add this to the list of worries (4.00 / 2)
Raising the retirement age of social security is another possibility.  Never underestimate the inability of a bunch of old men sitting around in an air conditioned office to envision why some people cannot work until they're 70.

Our Dime Understanding the U.S. Budget

[ Parent ]
Sense of Congress resolutions are bullshit - just saying.. (0.00 / 0)
Not to say that extreme examples couldn't have political consequences - a resolution supporting repeal of the 13th Amendment would grab some attention, for instance.

But - unlike bills, which could change things if enacted (almost all of them never are, of course), an SOC resolution starts and finishes life as utterly devoid of effect.

The Great Underinformed might be fooled (our great media!) by an SOC res that got publicity (almost all of them don't); but - that's it.


[ Parent ]
Legal effect and political effect are not the same thing (4.00 / 3)
If you are right the media might be fooled, then let's think about that for a second. Pelosi is helping to legitimate the idea of such cuts to the media. How is that a good thing?

Politics necessarily involves talk. Talk is not action, but it's not nothing either. Talk makes action more or less possible.  

Democrats should get out of the habit of even rhetorically capitulating.  It might help them stop actually capitulating.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
Activist base supporting SS/Medicare cuts? (4.00 / 2)
Given Obama's proven ability to persuade the base, his support would result in significant backing of the commission's recommendations from both activist and rank and file Democrats.

This I do not see happening.  


With the young .. (4.00 / 1)
probably ... meaning I disagree with you ... I agree with you when it comes to Democrats over 50 ... I notice the AARP is ramping up about this issue ... people can slag Jane all they want .. but she's been beating this issue from day one(meaning when Obama set this commission up)

[ Parent ]
It shouldn't be hard at all to pass medicare and SS cuts (4.00 / 1)
Social security gives Warren Buffet a check every month.

If the commission recommended that billionaires don't get SS checks I think that legislation could pass.

And if you cut Medicare by giving it the power to negotiate on pharmacy prices I think that could pass as well.

http://transgendermom.blogspot....


[ Parent ]
Calvin is right (4.00 / 1)
It will be framed at "saving" Social Security when really it's gutting it.  

All I can say is that when I read that Jonathan Singer interview with Obama in 2007 I was sure that he would be willing to cut Social Security wither by reducing benefits or raising the age.  

The interview has struck me then and has stuck with me always.  It was always clear where he was going to end up. And it only validated why I didn;t want him to be the Democratic nominee.

Everybody just kept assuming all the moderate, neo liberal things he kept saying he didn't mean.  That was just wish fulfillment on his part.  He meant it.

I even wrote in this blog in response to a Matt Stoller post that while he may come through on net neutrality he was not to be trusted on many other issues proegressives care about...Social Security amongst them.


"Incrementalism isn't a different path to the same place, it could be a different path to a different place"
Stoller


[ Parent ]
Whoa there Cowboy Chris (4.00 / 4)
What passed is a non-binding Sense of the House on Deficit Reduction. The fight to keep the catfood commission's recs from ever coming to a vote is still to be fought.

First, (4.00 / 2)
even if you are right, this is still a defeat. What is the point of this other than to pave the way for doing this in a binging way?

Second, regardless of whether its binging or not, now is the time to fight back. The longer there is no pushback, the stronger the forces of ending social insurance become.  If no one feels the heat from doing this, they will naturally assume they can take the next step without consequences too.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
True (4.00 / 1)
and I don't want to be the one who tells Jane she was given wrong information. But journalistic accuracy is important. Furthermore, we now have Yglesias and others Twittering about how it doesn't really matter if there's a guaranteed vote because it'll never pass anyway. The progressive blogosphere is already split. And it's premature capitulation--there is no guaranteed vote!

[ Parent ]
Intergrity is important (4.00 / 2)
but as near as I can tell you are merely speculating that she might be wrong, not providing evidence that she is (feel free to correct me if that's not the case.)

It's true that Yglesias is tweeting his doubts that it can pass, but Dday isn't having a whole lot of trouble suggesting potential votes in response.  Still, it's hard to understand what this dance is about if he's right. Why continue to give any support, rhetorical or otherwise, for a deeply unpopular position? What purpose does it serve, if not to soften the way for passing it?  

Premature capitulation would be not complaining because it's just talk, or we're not sure what really happened, or because we think the brave Senate Democratic caucus will save us.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
Well, that's good to know (4.00 / 1)
But I'm still worried.

[ Parent ]
Do you have a link? (0.00 / 0)
according to FDL the guaranteed vote is only good for this session of Congress, which expires in January of 2011.

I have long since passed the point of taking FDL's word on anything, but if you are right the "Breaking" at FDL is really absurd.  


[ Parent ]
Evidence in support of this (4.00 / 1)
Section 4 of H. Res. 1500 provides that "House Resolution 1493 is hereby adopted."

Paragraph (c) of H. Res. 1493 provides:

            (2) SENSE OF THE HOUSE ON DEFICIT REDUCTION- It is the sense of the House that--

                 (A) by 2015 the Federal budget should be in primary balance--meaning that outlays in the Federal budget shall equal receipts during a fiscal year, not counting outlays for debt service payments;

                 (B) the debt-to-GDP ratio should be stabilized at an acceptable level once the economy recovers;

                 (C) not later than September 15, 2010, the chairs of committees should submit for printing in the Congressional Record findings that identify changes in law that help achieve deficit reduction by reducing waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement, promoting efficiency and reform of government, and controlling spending within Government programs those committees may authorize;

                 (D) prior to the adjournment of the 111th Congress, any recommendations made by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and approved by the Senate should be brought to a vote in the House of Representatives; and

                 (E) any deficit reduction achieved by the enactment of such legislation should be used for deficit reduction only and should not be available to offset the costs of future legislation.

While H. Res. 1500 is complicated enough that I'm not going to completely rule out any other provisions, I didn't notice anything that would bind the House to vote on anything.  Of course, given that the House schedule is fixed by the Speaker, she'll schedule a vote on the deficit commission recommendations if she wants to, whether or not there's a binding resolution today.


[ Parent ]
She's the one that made this happen (0.00 / 0)
What would the point of her making this move if it's not to pave the way for that?  Why rhetorically support this?  

It's hard to see Pelosi as a steadfast ally when she is pulling stuff like this. On the other hand, if she found herself under fire as a result, she might get back in line.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
Oh, I agree (0.00 / 0)
I'm just holding out some hope that there's still time to stop this.

[ Parent ]
Sure - I'm not interesting in encouraging dispair (4.00 / 2)
I'm interesting in spurring action.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
Why would a politician (0.00 / 0)
rhetorically support something they don't want to happen?

It is actually part of a politician's job description.

She is trying to provide cover to House members who can blame the Senate for the lack of progress on the budget.

But this is really a tempest in a teapot.


[ Parent ]
Not exactly (4.00 / 2)
Why would a politician rhetorically support something that is deeply unpopular that they don't actually support? I don't think that is part of their job description.  

Regardless, it used to be that merely suggesting weakening SS or Medicare would be political suicide.  Now, in large part because Democrats have joined Republicans in legitimating such an idea, it's not. It's pretty clear that makes these programs less secure.

Democrats are learning more and more that they can propose all sorts of things that would weaken these programs and not suffer any consequences. That is a bad thing. If they learned a different lesson, it would be worth it, regardless of if the punishment was for a rhetorical transgression or a policy one.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
Everytime (0.00 / 0)
politicians cut taxes or increase spending they promise to deal with the deficit later.

This is no different.  This resolution was passed at the same time Pelosi was trying to get a spending Bill passed.

This is much ado about nothing.  


[ Parent ]
Cutting taxes is not deeply unpopular (4.00 / 2)
which makes the analogy inapt.  The deficit is imagined to be something voters care about. Again inapt.  

And none of this is relevant to my point that Dems are legitimating a immoral and dangerous policy.

The day they vote to end SS, there will be someone telling us all 'they won't really do it...the Dems aren't that stupid....this is much ado about nothing.'

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
The Dems are going to end Social Security (0.00 / 0)
First I heard of it.

Increasing spending is less popular than cutting taxes?

I don't agree either with that statement, or your larger conclusion.


[ Parent ]
. (0.00 / 0)
I guarantee you, cutting taxes is more popular than increasing spending. The reason is everyone pays taxes, so when taxes are cut, everyone gets a benefit. Government spending, more often than not, does not benefit everyone. Not everyone collects welfare. Not everyone uses medicaid, schools, prisons, unemployment, etc. Nobody likes the war.

The notion of increased spending is unpopular because nobody wants someone to spend their money for them and especially not government.


[ Parent ]
Sure votes (0.00 / 0)
Pelosi's three picks are the three surest votes for saving Social Security.  Reid and Obama, otoh, are major problem creators.  Two of Reid's three picks are active gutters (hey,put the gutters of Social Security in the gutter).  Obama's naming CEOs and Rea Republican CEO, to boot.

[ Parent ]
Iowa debates (4.00 / 5)
Way back at the Iowa debates in 2007, Obama indicated he wanted to cut Social Security.  Since Josh Marshall at TPM had only recently concluded leading a very heroic effort on the part of what seemed the entire blogosphere to get each and every Congressperson on record as to where he or she stood regarding Social Security and thereby defeat Bush's attempt at privatization -- well, I was surprised no one really paid any attention to Obama's statements.  I thought there'd be some hard pushback.  But ... no.

Nonetheless, Obama quite clearly stated in that debate that he believed Social Security was in crisis, that it was unsustainable and would need major overhaul.

(And given how things have worked between the House and the WH, I think Pelosi's move has WH fingerprints all over it.)

We should not be surprised by this move anymore than we should be surprised by his expanding the war in Afghanistan and into Pakistan -- something he also quite clearly stated he would do.  

Bernanke also made clear in his confirmation hearings that SS would have to be cut -- his words:  "that's where the money is."  Bernanke -- renominated by Obama.  

I think it's way past time to stop assuming that Obama and "some" Democrats hold or are sympathetic to liberal policy positions and way past time to start listening -- or better yet, reading -- their actual words and looking at their actual actions and their consequences. Its way way way past time to stop being moved by abstract rhetoric and pretty speeches and cultural signifiers ("he drinks PBR!") and look at real actions.  This presidency, with the complicity of a woman who represents on the most supposedly liberal but also one of the wealthiest cities in the US is shredding any stability for the poor and middle classes in this country.

What's truly agonizing is that so many people being hurt by Obama's actions (or lack thereof) are now blaming him for being "too liberal"!  

I don't see any choice for real liberals but to separate from and attack the Democratic party, which is now truly the party of Rockefeller Republicanism.  Else liberals and liberalism itself (or progressivism, if you prefer) will be implicated in the piss-poor policies of the Obama administration.


Pelosi did a good thing today, now that I think about it. (0.00 / 0)
1. She made clear that her "assurance" to vote on the commission's recommendations is non-binding. She reserves sole power to block a vote if it looks like the recommendations might pass.
2. She told the Senate to go first. Most people think the Senate is a higher bar to clear, because the recommendations will need 60 votes. If you want something to fail, you put the highest bar first.
3. She takes the pressure off her members and herself to take further action until the Senate acts.

Remember Pelosi is the most progressive, most anti-catfood commission person in the leadership. The time to worry is when there are signs she's selling us out, and that hasn't happened yet.


Ok, then why all this (4.00 / 2)
(2) SENSE OF THE HOUSE ON DEFICIT REDUCTION- It is the sense of the House that--
(A) by 2015 the Federal budget should be in primary balance--meaning that outlays in the Federal budget shall equal receipts during a fiscal year, not counting outlays for debt service payments;

That's a terrible idea, and given that raising taxes or cutting defense spending is barely speakable, it means doing it in non-progressive ways.

(C) not later than September 15, 2010, the chairs of committees should submit for printing in the Congressional Record findings that identify changes in law that help achieve deficit reduction by reducing waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement, promoting efficiency and reform of government, and controlling spending within Government programs those committees may authorize;

No mention of taxes.  The bill supports reducing the deficit without raising taxes.

(E) any deficit reduction achieved by the enactment of such legislation should be used for deficit reduction only and should not be available to offset the costs of future legislation.

Meaning, we won't accomplish anything useful in doing so.

Conceding the dumb arguments of the other side is always bad politics. Unless your goal is to allow the other side to succeed. Either way, this is not good.

Why couldn't Pelosi have accomplished the same thing just by announcing that the House would not go first?  Why would a nonbinding resolution be more convincing than just saying it?  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
Shorter Pelosi: 'The House ain't going first' (4.00 / 3)
As a practical/political matter, if the Senate were to actually pass a Catfood bill there's no way the House could avoid having a vote on it too. So on its face this language is much ado about nothing.

However, strategically this may be a very clever move by Pelosi. By stating up front that House isn't even going to consider the Catfood recommendations unless and until it has passed the Senate, it essentially keeps the issue bottled up on the House side.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans


Dangle the baby out the window (4.00 / 3)
and then vote on whether on not you are going to drop it.

With regard to the "Deficit Commission" recommendations, that seems to me to be the case where any progressive/liberal posturing is concerned. Both Kafka and George Orwell would laugh at the insanity of the title of the commission. The real deficit here is the deficit in morality and humanity during the last 10 years of governance.

The appropriate response to cuts in SS and Medicare is "Are you out of your f*ng mind?! Not no, but hell no!" But that's not what we get. What we get is fascism with a smiley face.


Enacting a programs like Social Security and Medicare (4.00 / 2)
would be impossible in today's climate.  Time and again they've proven effective and keep tens of millions of people from getting sick, going without food, and living in the streets.

Now our neoliberal president wants to make sure that entitlements are cut under the auspices of the Democratic party which conceived, passed and defended them over the past few decades.  This is precisely where Obama needs to draw meaningful distinctions between Democrats and Republicans.  The public credibility Democrats have to run government effectively owes in large part to programs like these.  

But unlike any president since John Quincy Adams, Obama does not understand the political value of pointing out real differences in governing philosophy between Democrats and Republicans.  This cannot be allowed to continue.  Netroots must draw a line in the sand: no support for candidates who try to gut entitlements, period end.    


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