In the run-up to the State of the Union, the good news is that Obama won't directly undermine the Democratic brand by coming out for Social Security benefit cuts. The bad news is that he won't reinforce and revive the brand by vigorously defending Social Security, either. What's more, his recent staff changes pretty much assure that this is about as liberal as Obama is ever going to get. It's been deja vu all over again, as we've been told repeatedly--just as we were between the 2008 election and Obama's inauguration--that a flood of center-right appointments didn't mean a thing, since Obama would still be calling the shots. But the reality was made starkly clear in this short headline report from Democracy Now! yesterday:
Obama Unveils GE CEO as Top Economic Adviser
President Obama has publicly introduced General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt as his new top economic adviser. Immelt will head the newly formed President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which takes the place of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board led by Paul Volcker. On Friday, Obama said Immelt would drive the administration's stated goal of creating jobs.
President Obama: "Our job is to do everything we can to ensure that businesses can take root and folks can find good jobs and America is leading the global competition that will determine our success in the 21st century. And so now, to help fulfill this new mission, I'm assembling a new group of business leaders and outside advisers. And I am so proud and pleased that Jeff has agreed to chair this panel, my Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, because we think GE has something to teach businesses all across America."Immelt's appointment has come under scrutiny on multiple fronts. He'll retain his position at the helm of GE, creating a potential conflict of interest. As one of the nation's largest corporations, GE has a variety of business and issues before the federal government, including media mergers, military sales, environmental cleanup, and a $16.1 billion bailout in 2008. And while Obama has touted Immelt's mission to create jobs, the United Electrical Workers Union says GE has closed 29 plants in the United States in the past two years, laying off around 3,000 workers.
So, a top corporate job-cutter to help create jobs "because we think GE has something to teach businesses all across America." What could be clearer?
Maybe this, from Kos's frontpage post on results from the latest Kos/PPP poll:
Currently, workers pay social security payroll taxes on up to $106,800 of their salary. To ensure the long-term viability of Social Security, would you rather have people pay social security taxes on salaries above $106,800, or would you rather see benefits cut and the retirement age increased to age 69?
payroll cap Cut benefits
All 77 10
Dem 84 4
GOP 69 17
Ind 77 11
Tea Party 67 20
18-29 80 0
30-45 69 17
46-65 82 8
65+ 75 13
$0-30K 79 5
$30-50K 75 11
$50-75K 79 7
$75-100K 78 13
$100K+ 72 18
....Yet outside of the punditry, the DC political class, and a tiny fringe, no one wants benefits cuts.
Democrats could be scoring mad political points by going on the offensive, vowing to defend Social Security against all enemies, and fighting to equalize the program's tax burden. (I wouldn't just raise the cap on payroll taxes entirely, but I'd also use the increased revenues to lower payroll taxes on the low and middle classes and/or lower the retirement age.)
But no, raising the cap is off limits, and the entire political establishment is focused on delivering more pain to seniors.
There's no better illustration of how DC is broken than this.
No better illustration except Obama touting Jeffrey Immelt as having "something to teach businesses all across America" about creating jobs. What he has to teach about creating jobs is pretty damn simple: Don't.
I'd call it a tie.
It's going to be a long night. But an even longer two years.
p.s. If you don't believe me, check out the rest of the poll where you'll find that only 23% of liberals think Obama is "too conservative". Overall, the American people think he's "too liberal" (44%) rather than "too conservative" (10%) or "about right" (42%).
A very long two years.