Obama Moves Forward with Cutting Social Security and Medicare as We Lecture Europe Otherwise

It must be really hard to be an Obama defender these days, at least if you are not on a big corporate payroll. Daily Kos has proven to be a bellwether of the change in sentiment. After being one of the leaders in pushing the “lesser evil” trope, its commetariat and most of its diarists are up in arms over Obama’s budget, which includes Social Security and Medicare cuts. Kos waded in yesterday and in all seriousness wrote, “I can’t imagine President Barack Obama actually wants to cut Social Security. I’m not that cynical.”

I don’t even have to shred it. Go read his comments section. His readers cite chapter, book and verse the overwhelming evidence that this is exactly what Obama wants to do.

But the loyalists on the left are trying variants of the 11th dimensional chess argument, some quite condescendingly, when it’s not that hard to see what is really going on. Obama is a Rubinie. Obama is a neoliberal. Obama in 2006 and again in the Presidential debates made it clear he wants to “reform” Social Security and Medicare. He sees undoing the New Deal as the anchor of his legacy. He’s probably envying the Maggie Thatcher obits and wondering if he’ll get ones at least as good.

Look at his latest plans for negotiating the budget, with much of his party in revolt. From the Associated Press:

But instead of moving Congress nearer a grand bargain, the Obama’s proposals so far have managed to anger Republicans and Democrats alike….

As part of the administration’s effort to win over Republicans, Obama will have a private dinner at the White House with about a dozen GOP senators Wednesday night. The budget is expected to be a primary topic, along with proposed legislation dealing with gun control and immigration.

It can’t be more clear how Obama is going about things. He’s going to try to get the Republicans to agree to some sort of face saving tax increases, which in the end are certain to be tax cuts (as in increases in one place will be more than offset by new loopholes, offsets, or more liberal interpretations of key terms). Once he gets that, he’ll go to the Dems and say, “We must have a deal! The bond gods demand it! And here I got one! This is the best those meanie Republicans would give me. Yes, I had to super duper reluctantly offer Social Security cuts. Really. Trust me.”

And Obama is just as hypocritical in dealing with our European allies as he is the American electorate. He’s sent Mellonite Jack Lew to Europe to tell them to ease up on austerity. Gee, if it’s bad for growth in Europe, tell me how can it be salutary here? Bill Black shreds the Lew arm-twisting, which the Europeans predictably ignored:

Obama’s decision to send Lew, the great proponent of self-destructive austerity, to Europe to urge them to end their self-destructive austerity exemplifies the incoherence of the administration’s financial policies. The fact that Obama is simultaneously proposing the Great Betrayal – its sixth form of austerity that Obama has agreed to inflict on our Nation since 2011 – produces a level of incoherence, incompetence, and hypocrisy so epic that it is likely to cause economists to act like manic depressives bouncing between wild-eyed gales of laughter and crying jags.

Putting two lawyers together to discuss macroeconomic policy also leads to discussions that cause economists’ jaws to drop in shock. If you understand economics you may wish to put on a neck brace before reading the next passage lest its incoherence cause whiplash.

Standing next to Mr. Schäuble, Mr. Lew said pointedly that deficit reduction needed to be balanced with growth and investment policies. While growth targets may be different for different countries, he said, “I think it is fair to say that zero isn’t a good target for anybody and negative is very bad.”

“Growth targets” are meaningless in this context. You cannot counteract austerity dragging your economy deeper into recession or depression by saying: “we are targeting a growth rate of four percent.” …Austerity is an anti-growth policy. It frequently makes the debt-to-GDP ratio larger because it causes such a large fall in GDP….

Investment programs can be very helpful in conjunction with overall stimulus budgets, but they cannot counteract austerity. This has been one of Obama’s recurrent blind spots. He seems to believe that if he can implement a new $2 billion infrastructure investment or jobs program that can overcome the damage to the economy caused by austerity in the form of a combined $300 billion in reduced spending and increased tax revenues. The net effect is $288 billion in lost demand due to austerity. This slows growth. If the austerity is large enough it causes growth to turn negative and throws the Nation back into recession or depression. We may know why Obama has this blind spot about the damage he is inflicting through austerity – he gets his advice from Lew.

Given the stakes, it’s not surprising that Obama’s remaining fans are pulling out their tired “trust our fearless Leader” card. But Obama didn’t do the right thing when he had freedom of action. As Matt Stoller wrote in “The Progressive Case Against Obama“:

Many will claim that Obama was stymied by a Republican Congress. But the primary policy framework Obama put in place – the bailouts, took place during the transition and the immediate months after the election, when Obama had enormous leverage over the Bush administration and then a dominant Democratic Party in Congress. In fact, during the transition itself, Bush’s Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson offered a deal to Barney Frank, to force banks to write down mortgages and stem foreclosures if Barney would speed up the release of TARP money. Paulson demanded, as a condition of the deal, that Obama sign off on it. Barney said fine, but to his surprise, the incoming president vetoed the deal. Yup, you heard that right — the Bush administration was willing to write down mortgages in response to Democratic pressure, but it was Obama who said no, we want a foreclosure crisis. And with Neil Barofsky’s book ”Bailout,” we see why. Tim Geithner said, in private meetings, that the foreclosure mitigation programs were not meant to mitigate foreclosures, but to spread out pain for the banks, the famous “foam the runway” comment. This central lie is key to the entire Obama economic strategy. It is not that Obama was stymied by Congress, or was up against a system, or faced a massive crisis, which led to the shape of the economy we see today. Rather, Obama had a handshake deal to help the middle class offered to him by Paulson, and Obama said no. He was not constrained by anything but his own policy instincts. And the reflation of corporate profits and financial assets and death of the middle class were the predictable results.

This is what the defenders refuse to acknowledge: the Obama critics, again and again, have been proven right, yet we have seen remarkably few mea cuplas, let alone apologies (and that includes you, Charles Pierce and Scott Lemieux). Obama is proving to be a litmus test of where commentators’ loyalties really stand: is it to “liberal” beliefs, which get redefined evermore to the right, or is it to the Democratic party neoliberal technocrats, which Obama embodies? The budget battle is pure and simple about squeezing the middle class dry, and those who pretend otherwise are simply insulting the intelligence of their audience.

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    1. indices

      A few years back, near the beginning of our recent economic adventure, I was making a delivery to a store in the poorer part of my city, and got to shooting the breeze with the smart, educated, hip owner of said store. When I commented how bad business was, and it seemed people were having a hard time making ends meet and paying their bills, he replied sarcastically “Oh, you mean that white folks are having a hard time getting by — tsk, tsk! Really!?! Join the ^&#@*$% club!” Anecdotal, certainly, but it always underlined to me the concern the other part of Obama’s base (beside his ruling class handlers) has for the “destruction of the middle class.”

      1. from Mexico

        indices says:

        …the concern the other part of Obama’s base (beside his ruling class handlers) has for the “destruction of the middle class.”

        Could you be more specific?

        What do you mean by “the other part of Obama’s base”?

        What do you mean by “the concern” it has for “the ‘destruction of the middle class’ “?

        1. indices

          Much as questioning Israel can get you branded as anti-semitic, many black people I have talked with seem to have a very thin skin when Obama is criticized, and I would suggest that in addition to white liberals, the black population has an undying faith in the first black president. Perhaps this serves to keep discontent under control in some urban areas, but in my travels I have noticed that the racial divide is as deep as ever. If the middle class is shrivelling in the current economic climate, many blacks who are not part of that group are not worried about that.

          1. sgt_doom

            You need to start following the blackagendareport.com (Glenn Ford and Bruce Dixon, et al.).

          2. from Mexico

            indices says:

            If the middle class is shrivelling in the current economic climate, many blacks who are not part of that group are not worried about that.

            My challenge to this statement is on empirical grounds.

            It seems to me the lower one finds oneself in the socioeconomic order, the more one has suffered under Obama. Therefore I do not believe that blacks, who find themselves disproportionately lower in this order, have been spared economic pain, but quite the opposite have borne the brunt of it.

            That racial loyalties seem to have trumped egoism, I have not argument with that statement.

          3. from Mexico

            @ indices

            But let’s be evenhanded here.

            Those who hail from Obama’s economic class have engendered, incited and appealed to White racism as a way to get whites to operate against their material self-interest for many moons. As Lawrence Goodwyn writes, after the Civil War

            Sectional, religious, and racial loyalties and prejudices were used to organize the nation’s two major parties into vast coalitions that ignored the economic interests of millions…

            Given the known prejudice toward blacks of a large portion of the [Republican] party’s white adherents in the North, the superiority of the bloody shirt as a campaign appeal was unassailable. As Negro spokesmen grimly noted, blacks were steadily losing their political influence — though their votes were still counted by the reoriented Republican Party.

            The orientation, it soon became apparent, belonged to business… Thus, the many-faceted Republican coalition that had come to power in 1861 became in the postwar years a much narrower business party, closely tied to the politics of sectional division. Only faint echoes of the multi-sectional impulses of prewar business Whiggery remained…

            [T]he Southern Democratic Party responded to the needs of “New South” entrepreneurs… Conceived in white supremacy and clothed with the symbolic garments of the Lost Cause, the postwar institution of business was able to attract the allegiance of white Southerners of all classes, including the small number of urban workers in the region…

            These develoments of course, left Southern blacks as isolated as their counterparts in the North were… [B]y the late 1880’s, with the steady deterioration of Northern Republican commitment to the civil and economic rights of freedmen, the clear political purpose underlying black allegiance to the party of Lincoln made no more sense in terms of self-interest than did the other residual war loyalties operating in the land.

            LAWRENCE GOODWYN, The Populist Moment

          4. Doug Terpstra

            From Mexico: “That racial loyalties seem to have trumped egoism, I have no argument with that statement.”

            Tribe and ego (self image) together trounce reason (rational economic self-interest). Thus reason deficit disorder (RDD) that makes Obama the consummate Trojan horse. Reality is relative.

        2. different clue

          I suggest it means Black Racist spite and Black Racist vengeance. Obama’s Black Racist base want non-black people to be as poor and hopeless as they imagine themselves to be, and if they see Obama cutting Social Security for “white honkie crackers”, then they will get behind him One Thousand Percent all over again.
          That is what I suspect it means. Have I overextended or overinterpreted?

          1. Lambert Strether

            I think we can afford to lighten up just a bit on “black racism” (so-called). On privilege and racism, I keep returning to this video from Louis CK, which also has the merit of being very, very funny:

            Now, there are plenty of problems with the black political class, and we can read BAR for that. But I think that both morally and pragmatically “black racism” is just not the way to go.

            NOTE Incidentally, “you can’t take people’s context away from them” is similar to some of the points Graeber makes in Debt.

          2. different clue

            Point taken.

            The question arises, if the poor black majority community’s context renders them sympathetic to Obama’s attempt to spread poverty and suffering to the “white middle class” and especially “white” retirees present and future, should the targets of Obama’s sought suffering accept that suffering because poor black peoples’ context renders them indifferent to that suffering and sympathetic to Obama’s effort to impose it?

            What if Pat Buchanan becomes the public figure who rallies the Republican Party against Obama’s efforts to take Social Security and Medicare away from “Buchanan’s base”? Do we refuse to work with Buchanan and his base because Buchanan has been so nasty otherwise? Do we say that Social Security and Medicare are worth saving at all costs? Or do we say that the price of saving Social Security and Medicare from the Obama Catfood Plan can be too high if that price means working with the “Buchanan wing” of the Republican Party . . . if there is one? I say that as someone who has been deeply repelled by Buchanan over the years, but is also deeply repelled at the thought of having my survival benefits stolen from me.

          3. Chris

            That’s some piece of garbage right there. As someone who has black family living in relative poverty, this is some bullshit. I have yet to meet any person black or otherwise(of middle class status or below) who would like to see government programs like SS scaled back so as to hurt “white honkers”(You can’t make this shit up). I think you are forgetting that said persons would benefit immensely from either a)significant upturn b)expanded income support in the form of SS(being by definition, poor). What indices saw is simply a person of color amused that white people are going through tough times, something people of color have had to deal with since the founding of the nation. It’s often with a tinge of schadenfreude no doubt, but more at the fact that its taken poverty to reach the mainstream white population for it to become a serious topic of discussion – when before it was the “black” problem. And yes, most black people would very much like to see the first black president succeed and are willing to look away at his actual record. Anyone who tries to paint this as inherent “black racism” obviously has not given much thought to the racial history of this country.

          4. Chris

            I would also like to add(if I wasn’t clear in my last post) that it is delusional to think that persons with a history of poverty and discrimination would applaud efforts to spread poverty and economic insecurity. I mean that’s pretty sick. People of color do not support Obama because he’s impoverishing the white middle class(how in God’s name can he do that without impoverishing EVERYONE?). Also like I said its not only white people who are on SS and Medicare. Think about it

          5. lambert strether

            The short answer is damned if I know. I’m a writer, not a “Democratic strategist”….

            The longer answer is that it won’t be Buchanan because his time is over. The oligarchs will keep funding the Tea Party, of course, but I think they really miscalculated the power of the concept. (TPers are IIRC around 15% of the population, in other words about the size of “the left,” if you take “ObamaCare doens’t go far enough” as a proxy for “the left.”

            My feeling, for what it is worth, is that at some point “we” are going to end up in a holy alliance with the grass roots right when both of “us” figure out that personal survival is at stake. After all, despite his Chthulu-like local context, Ron Paul got it right on the empire. He wanted to get rid of it because it kills people. I don’t hear a lot made of that by Obama loyalists. And the left gets it right on banks. I don’t hear a lot made of that by Romney supporters. Similarly, the guys with guns who live in the woods are often very very sound on permaculture, gardening, Monsanto, and local control against resource extraction schemes run by the rentiers.

            If there were — to descend to sports metaphors — a way to conceptualize grabbing the mandate of heaven away from the powers that be as two halves of the game, and we could handle the stuff we agree on in the first half (empire, Medicare, Social Security, maybe even debt jubilee), then we could punt everything else to the second half, and then fight it out later after we’d cleared the field of the debris left behind by the legacy parties.

            I don’t even know if this is practical and it’s certainly scoffworthy. That said, there are times when I find it easier to deal with the guys in the woods than with the good NPR-listening liberals.* Plenty of cultural and tribal markers to get over, there, though, and the horrible residue of impacted layers of mis- and disinformation.

            NOTE * I mean, I can say, “Are you nuts? There’s no evidence for that” to the former, but heaven forfend I criticize Obama with the later, even today.

          6. from Mexico

            Chris says:

            And yes, most black people would very much like to see the first black president succeed and are willing to look away at his actual record. Anyone who tries to paint this as inherent “black racism” obviously has not given much thought to the racial history of this country.

            I’d just add that there’s quite a difference between those two things, even though they both result in departures from reality.

            In the former, the outcome is to make someone look better than they really are. In the latter, the outcome is to make someone (or someones) look worse than they really are.

            They are both prejudices, but one is laudatory and the other is pejorative.

          7. different clue

            Well, Chrys, I hope you are right. I hope you are so right that the Congressional Black Caucus Members all reject
            the BS Obama Catfood Plan and join the Republicans in denying Obama his big Nixon Goes To China victory.

            But if they all support Obama’s effort to destroy Social Security for whatever motive, what does this say about them?

          8. OpenThePodBayDoorHAL

            OK so he’s:
            to the right of Charles Krauthammer on drones;
            to the right of Bush on Wall St prosecutions;
            to the right of Pat Buchanan on foreign policy/new wars;
            to the right of Bush on warrantless wretapping;
            and now
            to the right of Paul Friggin Ryan on Social Security & Medicare
            I mean when is it time to call a spade a spade?
            Black Bush Manchurian Candidate Obomba

      2. jrs

        Well that dude is pretty stupid. Does he honestly think things are going to improve for poor minorities when yet more people become poor? On the down side: you’ll have more and more people competing for lousier and lousier jobs and not in a position to demand anything. Wow that really sounds like it will work in game theory. On the plus side: you’ll have more people down and out and the possibility of solidarity but but but … the government is already corporate controlled so voting won’t save you (but vote 3rd party!), and the government has force (and the NDAA, and the militarized police, and drones), plus laws against protest, and is not afraid to use them so protest won’t save you.

        1. indices

          I always thought the dude was pretty smart. He appeared to think that things were not going to improve for his minority period, even with Obama as president.

          And of course poor blacks have continued to suffer disproportionately, and they remain isolated in cities — if there is ever a sea change in the way they perceive Obama it may be worse than during the 1880’s when their ancestors realized the truth about the Republicans.

        2. JGordon

          If you gain a bit of wisdom, you will start to ask why people even have to devote most of their waking hours towards getting some numbers in a bank account. The best things in life are free.

          1. patricia

            “The best things in life are free.”

            Yup, like food and health care. You are a wise man, JGordon.

        3. Jim

          Unfortunately the tendency of progressives to ignore profound sectional differences within the United States, especially between 1865 to 1900, caused them to be overoptimistic about the chances of instituting some type of more traditional social-democratic or an even more radical populist regime during this period of time.

          The United States, in the late 19th century was really two nations joined together by force of arms.

          The ruling oligarchy was divided into two branches with almost entirely conflicting interests within the national economy. On the one hand you had the Northern industrial and financial elites ( leading the Republican party in alliance with freed blacks in the South and native born Northern labor) who were committed to the advancement of their respective positions in the nation(and especially for norther labor and industrial/financial elites–a transfer of income from South to North and Mid-West) and to the suppression of southern separatism. On the other hand you had the plantation elites–who were committed, even in defeat, to maintaining their dominant position in the South—and leading the Democratic party in alliance with northern immigrant labor) with both groups interested in resisting northern exploitation.

          Today, however, there may be more of a chance for a populist movement down the road since Big Capital, Big State and Big Bank are in a hegemonic position and the rest of the population is being incrementally leveled.

          If the more radical left (critics of Big Capital and Big Bank) could align with the more radical right(libertarian critics of Big State and Big Bank on a set of specific policy issues (which is now considered totally impossible by both camps) politics could again become quite exciting.

          Unfortunately, as is articulated again and again by the vast majority of commetariat on NC or on most of the right libertarian outposts as well– such an alliance would be considered blasphemy.

          1. taunger

            Hypothesis: that issue should be the imposition of confiscatory, marginal tax rates on high incomes, and the equal treatment of corporate and personal income. The latter part should be easy under civil libertarianism: if a corp is a person, then why should the rate be different? The first part is tricky, but I think that if the “progressives,” who often default to market regs, would give some on regs, then there might be a chance. But to really succeed, there needs to be a value based argument for confiscatory taxes based in libertarianism, and I don’t know how to do that.

          2. Progressive Humanist

            “If the more radical left (critics of Big Capital and Big Bank) could align with the more radical right(libertarian critics of Big State and Big Bank on a set of specific policy issues (which is now considered totally impossible by both camps) politics could again become quite exciting.

            Unfortunately, as is articulated again and again by the vast majority of commetariat on NC or on most of the right libertarian outposts as well– such an alliance would be considered blasphemy.”

            These sectors are closer than they might like to either admit; if you listen to community radio programs like those airing on KPFK.org and compare to late night AM talk radion like Coast to Coast (unlike morning Fox-hosted misogyny fare), the gist of the sentiment is very similar.

        4. different clue

          What if that dude and other such dudes are purely motivated by the concept: “we suffer, therefor let others suffer with us”?

      3. JGordon

        Haha, I’m right there with that guy. When I hear politicians talking about the “declining middle class” I couldn’t care less. After these priveleged folk figure out that things ain’t never going back to the way things were (and the ones doing it now are the lucky ones–they still have to prepare), the ones who are left will be asking me how they can survive.

        So, I’m so enthusiastic whenever I see the elites looting and theiving. And that’s why I’m completely in favor of Obama and his Wall Street employers. Just like every Predator UAV strike generates more people who are willing to take up arms against the empire, so every petty theft by the conniving elites creates more people who are willing to quit being good consumers and start being good human beings.

        1. Massinissa

          JGordon, ive never heard a Libertarian sound soooo much like Vladimir Lenin, ever. This pretty much exemplifies his “worse is better” quote.

          And has hard as I want to reject you (and Lenin for that matter) on this issue… Im not sure I can.

          I need a drink…

        2. Lambert Strether

          I don’t care about being “middle class” either. But I want all the parts of Maslow’s hierarchy — from food and shelter all the up to a laptop and an internet connection.

          And the base of Maslow’s heirarchy includes health care, not being tossed aside like garbage because I’m old or didn’t guess right about where “the economy” was going, or whatever.

          1. wunsacon

            >> the base of Maslow’s heirarchy includes health care

            I believe the “base” isn’t “health care” but *food* — nay, *NUTRITION* (which SNAP doesn’t provide) — and then shelter. (Without those, you’ll need more “health care”. But, that’s “remedy” instead of “prevention”.)

            And pretty quickly after that, you need to give people something — entertainment? education? — that will interest them more than joining the Full Quiver Movement, lest we end up in the STOS episode “The Mark of Gideon”.

      4. Chris

        There’s nothing in your post that suggests that he was for the destruction of the middle class, unless that is what you wanted to believe he was implying. would you like to expound?
        In any case, why in the hell should the views of one person you met become representative of 30 million odd people(assuming he was black) or 51 million(Hispanic)?

        1. indices

          As I said, anecdotal… this was not so much an instance of schadenfreude as “who cares” if the white middle class are having financial problems. As the conversation continued, the gist was that people who have spent a long time on the lower rungs of the ladder are better equipped to survive there than newcomers, and that black people are just as interested in white people’s problems as white people are in theirs.

          1. different clue

            So if he views cutting Social Security as a white peoples’ problem, he will support Obama cutting it so Obama can have a visible victory as America’s First Black President?
            Or even if he acknowledges that cutting Social Security may become a black peoples’ problem as well, he will be happy to make that sacrifice for himself and for you and for me if it allows America’s First Black President to claim
            a Historic Victory for the Record Books?
            And is every single member of the Congressional Black Caucus equally willing to support Obama cutting Social Security so as to give Obama his Historic Victory for the Record Books? Has any single member of the CBC stood up and rejected the Obama Budget in public? If not, why not?

  1. YankeeFrank

    Obama is making me pine for the days of the Bush/Cheney administration. Oh halcyon days of ethical government! I mean — could you imagine Obama handling the Enron collapse? No prosecutions, no jail time, Ken Lay and Enron would still be here — too big to fail and propped up by a hundred billion in taxpayer money.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Maybe this is why the Justice Department is working to release Jeff Skilling early? What is the status of the Energy Secretary?

    2. Bill Smith

      I just realized that Obama may be the first president in a long time that won’t have anyone to give Presidential Pardons to when he leaves office. Bummer.

  2. andrew hartman

    bill clinton signed more legislation destructive to the middle class than any
    repuplican in my lifetime and he was given ovations at the democratic
    2012 convention. obama is the same. the bigger the lie, the more they want
    to believe……

    1. petridish

      AMEN. How is it that people still don’t see this?

      I get chills when I hear the words Clinton Global Initiative.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        People want to believe in heroes and not take moral responsibility at the same time. Its no different than JFK worship. Conspiracy theorists and JFK worshipers tend to ignore JFK slashed taxes on the wealthy, approve the Bay of Pigs in the first place, increased defense spending, attacked Nixon’s NAACP membership, elevated an Eugene McCarthy acolyte to the Attorney General’s office, and bringing winners like MacNamara into prominent positions of foreign policy.

        They don’t see it because they don’t want to see it. Bill, Barry, Hillary, JFK, Jimmy, George, Ronnie, and so on make them feel good. As to why they need that self affirmation, I’m befuddled. They could just buy a dog and stop supporting people who want them to eat dog food.

        1. McMike

          Indeed; Clinton and Obama are the left’s version of the Ronald Reagan Anti-Cognitive Dissonance Symdrome. Wherein the more a politician violates what he is supposed to stand for, the more his supporters will actually double-down and project their own myopic myths onto him rather than confront the reality of his actions (and inactions).

          Reagan was a deficit-spending keynesian traitor who sold weapons to terrorists (Iran) and overthrew democratic regimes in favor of drug cartels and death squads (Nicaragua), while invading a defenseless country (Grenada) and abandoning a tough one (Lebanon). He also supported Saddam and Noriega and a host of other tinpots. And in the end he blinked on the Soviet Union and went to the arms reduction table.

          1. Brindle

            Chomsky from 1981 on Trilateral Commission and Carter:

            —The Trilateral Commission has issued one major book-length report, namely, The Crisis of Democracy (Michel Crozier, Samuel Huntington, and Joji Watanuki, 1975).

            The Commission’s report is concerned with the “governability of the democracies.” Its American author, Samuel Huntington, was former chairman of the Department of Government at Harvard, and a government adviser.
            He is well-known for his ideas on how to destroy the rural revolution in Vietnam.

            He wrote in Foreign Affairs (1968) that “In an absent-minded way the United States in Vietnam may well have stumbled upon the answer to ‘wars of national liberation.'”

            The answer is “forced-draft urbanization and modernization.” Explaining this concept, he observes that if direct application of military force in the countryside “takes place on such a massive scale as to produce a massive migration from countryside to city” then the “Maoist-inspired rural revolution may be “undercut by the American-sponsored urban revolution.”

            The Viet Cong, he wrote, is “a powerful force which cannot be dislodged from its constituency so long as the constituency continues to exist.”—


        2. danb

          “elevated an Eugene McCarthy acolyte to the Attorney General’s office,”. It was Joe McCarthy, not Eugene.

        3. from Mexico


          People want to believe in heroes…

          Not just heroes, but as Stephen Toulmin put it, people want to “believe in belief itself.” (Toulmin, Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity)

          It is the bane of Modernity, a situation where idealism trumps reality, thought trumps knowlege, and theory trumps empirical fact. We see it all around us: Marxists defending Stalin, neoliberals defending Hayek and Friedman (even after what they did and said in Chile), MMTers defending Dan Kervick and Michael Hoexter (despite the former’s detachment from reality and the latter’s flights into authoritarianism), and on and on it goes. As Toulmin goes on to explain:

          The eclipse of Montaigne’s philosophical reputation, and the political consequences of Henri IV’s muder, are linked by a common thread: the dissatisfaction with skepticism which led people, in turn, into an unwillingness to suspend the search for provable doctrines, an active distrust of disbelievers, and finally to belief in belief itself.

          If Europeans were to avoid falling into a skptical morass, they had, it seemed, to find something to be “certain” about… The only other place to look for “certain foundations of belief” lay in the epistemological proofs that Montaigne had ruled out…. Henry’s murder was not an immediate occasion to renew the philosophical dialogue, but it helped to bring the desperation of the time into sharper focus, and provided a natural context in which the Quest for Certainty could take shape.

          In response to this dogmatism came the opposite dogmatism, and instead of the wicked old solipsistic epistemology and ontology of Descartes we had a whole new outfit of equally misleading ones. Now man was chained by the iron-clad and traditon-bound empiricism of Hobbes and Hume, leaving no place for human freedom or the exercise of the human will.

          “Kant attempted to save both science and freedom (and thus morality and religion) from the empriricist attack,” David Allen Gillespie notes. (Gillespie, Nihilism Before Nietzche) But to no avail. As Hannah Arendt explains:

          [I]t is true that without Kant’s unshackling of speculative thought the rise of German idealism and its metaphysical systems would hardly have been possible. But the new brand of philosophers — Fichte, Schelling, Hegel — would scarcely have pleased Kant. Liberated by Kant from the old school dogmatism and its sterile exercises, encouraged by him to indulge in speculative thinking, they actually took their cue from Descartes, went hunting for certainty, blurred once again the distinguishing line between thought and knowledge, and believed in all earnest that the results of their speculations possessed the same kind of validity as the results of congnitive processes.

          HANNAH ARENDT, The Life of the Mind

          And unfortunately, that’s where we find ourselves today.

          1. Massinissa

            There are plenty of Marxists like Trotskyists that dont defend Stalin though, you know. Im just pointing that caveat out there.

          2. Jim

            “Now man was claimed by the iron-clad and tradition-bound empiricism of Hobbes and Hume, leaving no place for human freedom or the exercise of the human will.”

            Just to be clear, both Hobbes and Hume can also be interpreted as individuals who are ultramodern in their philosophical outlooks—and because of such stances– strong supporters of human freedom and the human will.

            The pivot of Hume’s empiricists epistemology is the centrality he assigns to sense-impressions as the source of our knowledge. Yet simultaneously he also seems to advocate a theory of nominalism ( how words get attached to things) by invoking the idea of “customary associations.” He argues that there are a finite number of words and an infinitely evolving prospect of things or experiences in the world.

            For Hume it is only “custom” which confers practical closure. So just as someone knows how to drive a car if he has acquired certain habits or customs so someone knows how to use a word if he has acquired certain habits or customs. Otherwise one is faced with infinite possibilities of linkages and associations.

            Thus from Hume’s perspective there is no string of words that transparently and unproblematically reflects a state of affairs or a going on–he has to invoke the irrationalist operation of custom.

            I would claim that the consequence of this type of argument is the unavailability of the pure is—statement.

            Hume seems to end-up endorsing both the irratiohnalist operation of custom to dilute the arbitrary nature of our verbal designations and he also uses feeling as the irrationalist foundation of reason (thus foreshadowing the results of some modern neuroscientific research by a few hundred years) and evoking the possibility of the inevitable circularity of our reasoning—a foundational premise of postmodernism.

          3. from Mexico

            • Jim says:

            Just to be clear, both Hobbes and Hume can also be interpreted as individuals who are ultramodern in their philosophical outlooks—and because of such stances– strong supporters of human freedom and the human will.

            In all my reading on these matters, which is not insignificant, I have never heard such a notion articulated. Can you cite references and quotes to substantiate such a claim? Quite the contrary, everything I have read is 180 degrees the opposite to your assertion. For instance, this is typical:

            While Kant perhaps never doubted that universal enlightenment and the rule of reason could be attained, he recognized, especially from his reading of Hume, that there were powerful reasons to doubt the notion of reason that modern thinkers employed could provide the foundation for the two great goals of modern thought, the mastery of nature through modern science and the realization of human freedom. These doubts arose from the fact that reason itself seemed inevitably and ineluctalby to become entangled in aporiae and contradiction. These aporiae or, as Kant called them, antinomies, threatened to undermine the modern projects of mathesis univeralis and leave humanity lost in the abyss of Humean skepticism.

            — DAVID ALLEN GILLESPIE, The Theological Origins of Modernity

            • Jim says:

            The pivot of Hume’s empiricists epistemology is the centrality he assigns to sense-impressions as the source of our knowledge. Yet simultaneously he also seems to advocate a theory of nominalism ( how words get attached to things) by invoking the idea of “customary associations.” He argues that there are a finite number of words and an infinitely evolving prospect of things or experiences in the world.

            For Hume it is only “custom” which confers practical closure. So just as someone knows how to drive a car if he has acquired certain habits or customs so someone knows how to use a word if he has acquired certain habits or customs. Otherwise one is faced with infinite possibilities of linkages and associations.

            Can you show where Hume ever argued in favor of “custom” to confer “pracitical closure” or to alleviate the problem he posits of “infinite possibilities of linkages and associations?” From everything I ever read about Hume, it was this very “custom” that he inveighed against.

            And there is a part of nominalism that does advocate freedom. As Gillespie explains, the nominalists interpretation of man was “as a willing rather than a rational being.” The nominalists asserted the radical freedom of divine will. “In emphasizing the centrality of divine will, however, they also gave a new prominence to and justification of human will,” Gillespie continues. “Humans were made in the image of God, and like God were principally willful rather than rational beings.”

            But the philosophy of Hobbes and Hume robbed man of his ability to will, of his free will. As Gillespie explains in Nihilism Before Nietzsche:

            Hobbes spoke for nearly every empiricist when he argued that Descartes had established his system upon a faulty foundation by positing the I as fundamental. The I and the whole subjective realm in this view are merely permutations of matter. Consequently, there is no free will. Human beings, like all other beings, are governed by the laws of matter. The supposedly free will is in reality only the last impulse before motion… More importantly, without the certainty of the I and God, Descartes’ apodictic science lacks a foundation. Empriricists such as Hume could thus argue that what seemed to Descartes to be causal connections were only regularities of experience. For empiricism, science can only describe such regularities. Its results are thus not certain or a priori but probably and a posteriori…

            Hume’s skepticism was a frontal attack on rationalism. His demonstration that causality could not be logically deduced or derived from experience dealt an especially grievous blow to rationalist science.

            • Jim says:

            Thus from Hume’s perspective there is no string of words that transparently and unproblematically reflects a state of affairs or a going on–he has to invoke the irrationalist operation of custom.

            But isn’t “custom” merely “regularities of experience,” Hume’s very definition of rationalist operation? Again, I have to ask, where do you come up with the notion that custom is an irrationalist operation or that Hume advocated the use of custom?

          4. Progressive Humanist

            And we saw Martin Luther et al bring in a new era of unmediated monopoly on personal metaphysical speculation/hermeneutics, *except* for the case of those not yet fully human and sovereign entities: he and Calvin etc. helped burn as many women “witches” at the stake for their independent “taciturn” and silent “heresay” as the Romist inquisitors before him.

            Our Democrats and O-bots are all well-meaning, church-going humanist “progressives” so long as they don’t need to stop working/investing in the MIC, banksters, kleptocracy, etc.

            Like all those church-going Christians happily living behind the smokestacks of Belsen.

        4. sgt_doom

          The problem with your comments, NotTimothyGeithner, is that you just repeated some seriously incorrect historical revisionism, commonly put out after a high-profile populist has been assassinated.

          The Bay of Pigs plan originated from with the Eisenhower administration (as did the founding of the DIA and some otherr such processes) and the planning group was led by Eisenhower’s SecDef and VP Nixon, and it was the Kennedy brothers who rescinded the plans to assassinate Castro, and pulled back on full-military support of a Cuban invasion.

          .., increased defense spending..” That item covered the NASA/Moon Project, which was responsible for untoled technological and R&D advances and also included the creation of the Internet, with the appointment of point man JCR Licklider by the Kennedy Administration.

          Would recomment you read the following, please:

          Battling Wall Street: the Kennedy presidency, by Donald Gibson

          Brothers: the hidden hsitory of the Kennedy years, by David Talbot

          Thy Will Be Done, by Gerard Colby with Charlotte Dennett

          1. different clue

            That’s vaguely how I remember reading about it too. The Bay Of Pigs plan was from the Eisenhower period. Kennedy felt pressured into it and ended up withholding the Air Cover component from it. This pull-back left Bissel (spelling?) and others at CIA very bitter. But that’s just my memory.

          2. Jim

            From Mexico:

            My guess is that part of your problem in assessing Hume is that you tend to look at him through a Kantian lens rather than through Hume himself or scholars of Hume.

            Hume, in his “Treatise on Human Nature,” especially book 1, part 1, section 7 associates the question of how particular words get attached to particular ideas by using his familiar mechanism of “customary association” Hume states that “if ideas be particular in their nature and at the same time finite in their numbers, is only by custom they can become general in their representation and contain an infinite number of other ideas under them.”

            I found David Macnabb’s “David Hume: His Theory of Knowledge and Morality” quite important to my understanding of Hume’s nominalism in relationship to his empiricism.

          3. from Mexico

            • Jim says:

            My guess is that part of your problem in assessing Hume is that you tend to look at him through a Kantian lens rather than through Hume himself or scholars of Hume.

            My problem? I think you’re the one who has the problem. Again, where are the citations, the quotes and the references to back up your assertions? All we get are these vague references to some books that supposedly support your claim, but without any specific quotations or references to back up your claims.

            • Jim says:

            Hume, in his “Treatise on Human Nature,” especially book 1, part 1, section 7 associates the question of how particular words get attached to particular ideas by using his familiar mechanism of “customary association” Hume states that “if ideas be particular in their nature and at the same time finite in their numbers, is only by custom they can become general in their representation and contain an infinite number of other ideas under them.”

            This is the nominalist critique of realism, a critique which neither I nor anyone else ever claimed that Hume didn’t accept. But you are asserting that Hume did not critique realism, but endorsed it, and this assertion is what I am challenging. If Hume were to have endorsed realism, then that would have placed him in the rationalist camp, not the empiricist camp. It would go against everything he stood for. So again, can you show me where Hume endorsed realism?

            • Jim says:

            I found David Macnabb’s “David Hume: His Theory of Knowledge and Morality” quite important to my understanding of Hume’s nominalism in relationship to his empiricism.

            Well again, where are the specific quotes that back up your claims?

    2. Cynthia

      The blue team vs the red team is just a side show, Andrew. The real tragedy is the Kabuki Theater that keeps Dems and Repubs fighting with each other as if there is ANY significant difference between them. The “The country is going to Hell, and it is because of Obama!” arguments are just as lame as the “The country is going to Hell because of Bush” fantasy was. As long as they can keep this idiocy alive, they can keep the masses distracted from the real issues. Yes, Bush tore up the Constitution, but Obama used the pieces for toilet paper. It is almost guaranteed the next President, REGARDLESS OF PARTY, will fish it out of the sewer and burn the scraps.

      The ancient and worn out trick of “the other tribe is the enemy of our tribe” still works because people have still not evolved beyond the tribal stage.

      It is like the cruise director of the Titanic staging a cockroach race to distract the passengers from the fact that the lifeboats are being taken by the crew. Of course the owners of the ship (Banks and Elite) were not so stupid as to get on board, knowing the ship was built so poorly. They did however make sure to tell the captain to loot the state rooms and fill any extra lifeboats with stolen goods rather than save any for paying passengers.

      It’s not about Left or Right. It’s about Power and what works to serve Power. The rest is smoke and distraction.

      1. Vibramface

        Exactly. The public at large is on to the permanent state. Divide-and-rule with artificial red/blue factions is a joke now to the general public. But when the sports fans lose interest in “their” team, the state just switches to plan B: stampeding the masses with fear.

        It’s easy for us to see how the state stampedes provincials, with fear of foreign devils and subversive change, but the rest are herded with fear too. Remember when the Dem shills were screaming that you HAD to vote against Romney because he would destroy social security and Medicare? Just as fear of Al Quada and homos drives republicans, fear of destitution drives the rest.

        It’s the same as having Bush asleep at the switch while jihadis burn people alive high in the air. The state undermines your right to a livelihood, then takes away the remnants of your safety net. They’re threatening you with a life of mounting desperation.

        The permanent state has no compunctions about burning up a party to threaten crucial economic rights. Before they used up and discredited Republicans. Now they’ll use the Democrats up. The state has confidence in the forced choice they set up between their two authorized parties. You have to play the rigged slot machines, because if you don’t play you can’t win! Until people realize that there’s more to civil society than electoral politics, there’s nothing that the state can’t get away with.

      2. LucyLulu

        Along those lines of there being little difference between the parties, I’m not convinced Republican politicians, outside a few extremists, are anymore eager to cut entitlements than Democrats. They may want to cover by saying it’s about the raise in taxes in Obama’s plan so as to appear to stick to ideology, but they know that cutting entitlements is unpopular with their constituents. While corporate donors may heavily influence the politicians who need their large donations to run successful campaigns, without the necessary majority vote from the public, the gravy train ends.

        Even Tea Party voters, in general, do not support entitlement cuts like SS and Medicare. They support cutting “welfare”. They see a fundamental difference. SS and Medicare are entitlements they have earned, having paid into them their entire working life. Damn straight nobody better touch their benefits. Their benefits should not be confused with poor people who sit around all day, drinking beer and watching TV, collecting checks and spitting out babies so they can collect yet a bigger check. And yes, that’s exactly the position taken by two TP activists I know. I’m not exaggerating.

        People get real funny when you mess with their money.
        I’m not convinced our politicians are willing to cross their base on this.

      3. Jim

        From Mexico:

        What I am asserting for Hume (and also for Hobbes) is that their joint recourse to nominalism corrodes their respective empiricist projects.

        The data (both internal and external) that are received and processed by the senses have to then be categorized and grouped( for both of these theorists) through the application of names.

        To me, this suggests that there is a margin of uncertainty(dealt with by custom and habit) hovering over the body of statements that they both take to be true.

        These classical empiricists seen to need nominalism—which to me suggests the primacy of naming over the objects named (empiricism)–opening the political arena to potentially greater freedom and greater doing.

    3. Denise B

      Bill Clinton had a bit more of an excuse than Obama does. It was still possible in the 1990s to believe the neoliberal dogma. By the time Obama took office we had the hard evidence of what a load of garbage it was. That anyone could still believe that crap in 2008 is truly mind boggling.

  3. Heron

    While I’m just a nobody, I certainly need to admit I was wrong on Obama as well. From when he first came on the scene to his election, all I ever really thought about was his strength as a candidate and ability to win. I saw how enthusiastic typically non-political people got over Obama, I saw the underlying appeal he personally had, and I saw how savvy his staff was with “new media” stuff, and I punted him hard from Fark to Kos to Hullabaloo as an excellent candidate for 2008 on the basis of that savviness and electability, without ever taking the time to consider his policy positions. That’s certainly taught me the dangers of pushing aside analysis and allowing my strategist-brain behind the wheel. It also needs to be said that while I thought Hillary would make a great executive, I was really concerned at the time with how aristocratic our political system was looking and thought 20+ years of Clinton-Bushes in the White House was a danger we needed to avoid.

    The policies he has pursued with power have been almost uniformly atrocious from a Constitutional and social equality perspective. That he was willing to stand up for gay rights -after opposing them became too unpopular to be safe- and for contraception -after its opponents had overplayed their hand and made passive opposition politically damaging- hardly mitigates the murder of innocents by drone, the impoverishment of the middle class, the resultant destruction of our economy, his myopic business-as-usual approach to felonious banking, or any other aspect of his neo-liberal agenda. His desire to Cut Social Security, which ought to have been apparent to even the most inattentive since his second year in office, is the final straw.

    1. petridish

      It wouldn’t have mattered if you HAD considered what he said were his positions because they weren’t his positions at all. He was going to renegotiate NAFTA “for the middle class.” Remember? Who knew he actually had the secret TPP in mind?

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      “It also needs to be said that while I thought Hillary would make a great executive,”

      Are you sure this weren’t falling for the same trap? Revulsion about inherited government aside, was it Hillary’s time at Wal-Mart? Or her cracker jack campaign team which managed to bother to read the rules about delegate allocation and how caucuses worked? Was it her efforts on behalf of the Iraq War and No Child Left Behind? Was it for her forgiveness of Joe Lieberman when she campaigned for him in 2006?

      I think Hillary is much smarter than Obama and would have been smart enough to hold some token prosecutions of bankers and so forth as well as being funnier*, but I never understood the appeal of Hillary much like her husband when you pay attention to their actions and policies.

      *I roll my eyes when I hear politicians tell jokes, but Hillary can actually deliver a punchline.

      1. sgt_doom

        And please don’t forget the following about neocon Hillary Clinton:

        She chaired the MCC when it financed the overthrow of democratically elected President Zelaya of Honduras (he just wanted to raise the national minimum wage by several pennies).

        She appointed Victoria Nuland as State Department spokesperson (her husband was a co-founder of the Project for a New American Century, or PNAC, along with Dick Cheney).

        She appointed a slew of rotten sleazoids, including former Bush Inner Circle member, Marc Grossman.

      2. Heron

        Yeah, “Great” is overdoing it, but I was trying to keep myself from writing some ridiculous 5-page essay on my reading of that election. The Clintons are, without question, both at the forefront of Neoliberalism in the Democratic party, and while I agree that she’d have been more likely to play hardball on some of the bank/foreclosure stuff and less likely to be so radical on SS/Medicare, her connections to the money-men and war-mongers are just as strong as Obama’s. A more appropriate thing for me to say there would have been “good in the context of typical US executives” or something similar.

    3. Susan the other

      Yesterday we read in Michael Hudson’s piece that Thatcher said it was her objective to “make investment the first call on profit – not the last.” So likewise Obama wants to impose taxes (on the poor) and slash spending (on the poor) because there’s no other place left to find profit. Obama is determined to wind down any old ‘investment’ we have made as a society – like capping off a spent oil well – and then open up the bids for new PPPs and once again open the flood gates of profit.

      It is because we no longer have our former joy of pillaging the rest of the world in spontaneous acts of destruction that we must now turn our creative destruction in on ourselves. Linguistically, it is nonsense because there was never anything creative about it and now that it has become planned creative self destruction it is as nonsensical as Obama’s Heritage speech in 2006 where he conflates his fake leftiness with his bizarre sense of liberal economics. Thanks to Obama we will remain in a state of oppression until the rich can no longer justify themselves. It is beginning to be harder for them already.

    4. different clue

      Heron, I felt the same way about Clinton at the time (allthough my dream candidate was Dennis Kucinich till he
      withdrew from the primaries).

      But towards the middle and end of the primary season, it appears that Clinton was winning more genuine delegates from fraud-resistant primaries whereas Obama was winning his delegates from highly fraudable caucuses. HClinton went to DemCon 2008 with more elected delegates than Obama had, and the DemParty gave the nomination to Obama the way the Supreme Court gave election 2000 to Bush. I found (all too late) a good blog about this called The Confluence by Riverdaughter. It is worth reading in hindsight today.

  4. James Levy

    Obama is a piece, albeit an important piece, of an elite matrix. He rose to power by internalizing the worldview and agenda of that elite. But what is that agenda? Is all this looting the elite’s endgame–they know the oil and fresh water are running out, that global populations are expanding past the carrying capacity of the planet, and they want to grab as much as they can before the whole thing hits the fan. Or, do they still believe that the system is somehow viable, but in need of some ill-defined deus ex machina? Do they think that if they can keep the game going long enough, something will come along and bail it all out? I just don’t know. And not knowing their agenda, it’s hard to comprehend their strategy.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Its not a strategy as much “grab what you can while you can” and call it industry or entrepreneurship. The wealthy have no problems with stealing from each other. It just doesn’t happen as often because its harder, but that is the next step.

      Wal-Mart is offering large loans now and one stop healthcare. They are attacking markets. Is the consumer going to suffer? No, its already been abused. This is a way to grab a revenue stream. They don’t care if the person is poor or rich.

    2. Paul Tioxon

      Why you can not know their strategy is because there are competing strategies. No one will accuse Michael Bloomberg of being a mushy liberal, a dopey do gooder or even much of a statesman. He is putting up his personal money, much like the Koch Bros, among others, for a single minded political campaign to get what he wants in terms of gun control. There is no current united front politics among the 1%, other than the over arching rightward lurch with neo-liberal economics. The particulars, depending on where you make your money, domestically, or globally and other factors, create clear fault lines of shifting political interests which stabilize for a while, around an issue or two, and move into other areas.

      Most of what goes on politically, is only seen conclusively based on who finally gets what they want and how easily they acquire it. To cut through the various issues where Obama is in one instance the good guy, in other instance the bad guy and in still more, a political misdirection artist, as in the case of the designed foreclosure crisis. Chained CPI is a clear enough instance where Obama is claiming a need to appeal to the intransigence of the republicans. Since they are the champions of a specific tactic to control the flow of capital, in the form of no tax increases at all and as many tax cuts as possible, they are the point of origin of all political discussion within the commonly agreed ideology of capitalism and the current neo-liberal movement to curtail government spending.

      Since the Social Security Program is separate from the general tax collection revenues and separate from the general budget, and clearly has a current surplus of $2.7TRILLION, it can not possibly cause the government deficit, since it is completely decoupled from general government spending and is in the black with a surplus. The surplus is projected to grow by another $Trillion in the next dozen or so years. But more so, even as we speak, bills have been introduced to remove the cap on the income level from which SS receives it dedicated funding. This will cause the fund to be stabilized for over 75 years, placing it beyond the reach of any budget discussions at all, much less any about a deficit reduction. Social Security does not need any reforms, any structural changes, but what any social insurance program needs from time to time, meaning multiple decades, is actuarial responses to keep the program sound.

      Since the Paul Ryan budget with the voucherizing and ultimate dismantling of the social security program for medicare is the republican position for structural changes, the chained CPI proposal is simply small potatoes to them at best, and a meaningless sop thrown at them as some sort of signal to moderates and frustrated voters that Obama is willing to against his political best interests and his party in an attempt to govern the nation, and not wallow in endless stalemate. It will not change the republicans who have mutated into a political entity that does not go along with the world weary go along to get along. They do not want to get along. Obama using Social Security and Medicare as his signal of choice can do real damage to people in the worst position to escape this policy. They can’t stop getting older and needing more care with fewer resources, especially the resource that is actuarially sound and in no need of reform.

      If he wanted to have an honest debate, about the budget and the deficit, he would be the first to say that this won’t be about Social Security, or Medicare, because they have no causal connection to deficits. Social Security is barred by law from being subsidized by the general revenue funds. It was designed that way from the beginning to be a social insurance with dedicated revenue. The income cap and the relegation to w-2 earned income and exclusion of capital gains is growing to be a structural problem for the long term, in addition to wage suppression and high long term unemployment which also saps the strength of social security, not too many old people retiring and too few young people to pay for them. The $Trillions in surplus sitting in Social Security is proof that building up the funds before they need to be drawn down, is the simple actuarial structure of a sound social insurance program. It is not a annual budget, just as a household budget is not a national budget.

      Obama knows this and knowing this, and still choosing chained CPI is an unwarranted attack on the program that defines the democratic party, his party and his path to power. By attacking it with no hope of any movement at all from the GOP, is proof that this is a policy choice in and of itself, so he will not have to resort to or openly support current bills in the Senate and House to strengthen Social Security.


      The alternative to indexing for cost of living is CPI-EC, for Ederly Consumers. And lifting the cap on income.

      The House has a bill introduced with 17 sponsors and the Senate has 2 bills introduced.


      1. Don Levit

        You wrote that Socal Security has no connection to the deficits, that it is a separate program from the official budget.
        Strictly from a cash perspective, the Social Security cash surpluses each year actually lowered the deficits, because the Treasury borrowed those surpluses from the trust funds to pay for currrent expenses.
        Now that the SS trust fund has had a cash flow deficit since 2010, the redemption of the Treasuries in the trust fund has added to the deficits the last 3 years. How can Situation A lower deficits, and Situation B (its complete opposite) not raise deficits?
        Don Levit

        1. Paul Tioxon

          Because situation A, the general fund can take from the SS Trust Fund. Not that it should or must, but it can. The SS Trust Fund can not take from the general fund, the opposite situation B. It is a one way valve with outflow to the general fund, but no in flow from the general fund to SS Fund. Social Security by being designed to be a sound insurance program and placed beyond the reach of Wall St shysters, hucksters, fraud and general larceny has a surplus that is growing but not growing at the rate it should if there was not wage suppression and terrible unemployment, since its dedicated funding is earned income up to approx $113k.

          The point of origin for the budget deficits lies completely within the revenues and programs of the federal government, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the loopholes and capital gains tax cuts from Bush. Social Security can withstand a cash flow deficit from its separate, exclusive source of revenue, from which there is no escape within the income cap, because the percent of the contribution remains fixed, except for that period you mentioned, if you recall the payroll tax holiday. The contribution was reduced to provide stimulus by increasing take home pay for the people most likely to spend it back into the economy. When Obama let the tax sunset, as it was supposed to, he was attacked here as some kind of idiot or austerian, by even Bill Black, who should know better. Social Security was designed to build up surplus, to be paid down in the future.

          With employees and employers both contributing, and no monies coming from the general tax fund, meaning corporate America, the direct cost of moving older, less productive workers off into retirement, is charged to the production costs of the businesses that employ them, that is by the end consumer. And by maintaining that relationship and dedicated,separate funding, this is a social insurance program paid for labor and management and not a relief program or charity which can be attacked as undeserving or without merit. But of course, that is part of the misdirection when SS is attacked with the “Means Test” gambit.

          1. different clue

            I supported letting the Payroll Tax Holiday sunset. I didn’t want it to pass to begin with. I always considered a salami-tactic slice into Social Security’s funding.

          2. Don Levit

            Paul writes:
            In Situation A, the general fund can take from the SS trust fund. The SS trust fund cannot take from the general fund, the opposite situation, B.

            The SS trust fund is owed the money back from the general fund; it is an implicit liability, known as intragovernmental debt.
            Since there is no surplus from the general fund to repay the SS trust fund, the government must either raise taxes, cut expenses, or borrow funds from the public. It borrows funds from the public (debt held by the public), increasing the deficit.
            Don Levit

    3. curlydan

      Fresh water isn’t running out, but thanks to our neo-liberal leaders, public water is.

  5. traveler

    Kossies having a little trouble believing Obama is The Robbing Hood for the Rich? Jeez. Who woulda thunk.

  6. ltr

    Every line is correct, however sadly you understood what had come and what was coming. I am grateful to you and terribly saddened at the carefully calculated betrayal of the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt by President Obama.

  7. Ned Ludd

    Cassiodorus, in the comment section of Markos’ post, sums up my feelings about Daily Kos.

    This is the standard procedure — complaining is OK except during election run-ups. Eventually we will have a Democrat who will throw large portions of the public into debtor’s prisons, and the folks around here will complain about it — but they’ll still vote for him or her no matter what.

    For Markos, Daily Kos is a way to make money. He probably made some nice contacts while interviewing for a job with the CIA, which would not have hurt when looking for startup money.

    This is a very liberal institution. And in a lot of ways, it really does attract people who want to make a better, you know, want to make the world a better place . . . Of course, they’ve got their Dirty Ops and this and that, right but as an institution itself the CIA is really interested in stable world. That’s what they’re interested in. And stable worlds aren’t created by destabilizing regimes and creating wars. […]

    I don’t think it’s a very partisan thing to want a stable world. And even if you’re protecting American interests, I mean that can get ugly at times, but generally speaking I think their hearts in the right place. As an organization their heart is in the right place. I’ve never had any problem with the CIA. I’d have no problem working for them .

    Now Markos is making his money from his new tech site, The Verge. The anti-war left has been largely disbanded and/or assimilated back into the Democratic Party. If Daily Kos diarists start to have an actual, disruptive impact on the Democratic Party, I am sure the right solution will be found to herd the crowd back in line.

    1. ohmyheck

      “The right solution will be found to herd the crowd back in line.” Yup, because that is what DailyKos is— a left gatekeeper.

    2. Mr. Jack M. Hoff

      Can you imagine the list of subversives (to the elite) the CIA has generated just from Markos website. Its plainly obvious that he’s into the baiting game. Same general concept as Nixon goes to China, or Obama guts SS. Markos pretends to be a decent caring person, while profiling and catalouging TPTB detracters and opponents. Hmmm, how many other web sites operate with the same game plan?

    3. jrs

      Well why not throw large portions of the population in debtors prisons, maybe they can use the NDAA to lock them away indefinitely. These b@st@rds voted for Obama after NDAA and targeted killing (voted for him the second time) and now they are shocked the guy who wants to kill people and lock them away indefinitely don’t care about them economically? Yea daddy beats mommy till she’s black and blue and hits us with two-by-fours, but I was really shocked when he spent all our dinner money on drugs.

      1. jrs

        Of course the loss of civil liberties completely relates not just to show Obama is a prick, although yes of course he is. But because in poo pooing civil liberties they gave up one of the most important tools of resistence: protest. Chris Hedges has made the point many times. He who trades liberty for a little ECONOMIC security will get neither. Isn’t it oh so obvious now. The really really sad thing is I could hardly get people to vote 3rd party in a state that couldn’t be less swing, utterly solid color. :(

        1. profoundlogic

          I know what you mean. I was talking with a PHD, intelligent guy but rather naive in terms of financial and political realities. When I begrudgingly brought up the subject of Obama, I was shocked to see what an apologetic, idealistic fool he really was. At some point, I suppose, several of his family members will be directly affected by the destructive policies Obama has put in place. Maybe at that point he will realize he’s been taken for a ride.

    4. Brennan's mini-me

      Kos’ background and fealty is significant when you consider that CIA has never had a more reponsive and compliant puppet ruler than Barack Obama. There’s no law that Obama won’t break for them, no peremptory norm that he won’t shit on.

      But you know what the CIA can’t control: the treaty bodies. Right now CIA’s trying to bury the Human Rights Committee’s October review of the US; they’re hiding from the Committee Against Torture; they don’t dare get within a mile of ECOSOC.

      Treaty bodies don’t give a crap about Obama. Committee experts know perfectly well that he’s a puppet. All his fingerpointing doesn’t wash: it’s the state that’s on the hook, not the parties. All levels of the state, from the bottom to the CIA Gestapo at the top.

      Obama, you can bullshit your Democrat dupes but you can’t bullshit the international community. They got your obligations right here in black and white and it says, as customary international law, my right to social security cannot be denied. Chiseling on my social security rights to fight more wars and bribe more bankers, that breaches UDHR Article 22; and if the state will not comply with CESCR Article 9, then you haven’t got a fully sovereign state. The world must protect the US people from your state: with foreign assistance for capacity building, or if that doesn’t work, with sanctions. Or whatever it takes to get me my rights. That is why Qaddafy took a bayonet up his ass – he lost his sovereignty by shirking the duties of the state.

      So when the time comes to ram the bayonet up Obama’s ass, I’ll be hanging on it pryin it in like it’s the flag at Iwo Jimo. It’s R2P, protecting me!

      1. Bono

        Whatsamatter, don’t you believe in liberal intervention? Democracy promotion? Are you going to stand by while sad 3rd-world american suburban bitumen-refugee babies look at you with their big dumb eyes?

    5. Valissa

      Follow the money… and the desire for status and power, and all very ‘normal.’ Markos is just another highly ambitious man who is on track for bigger and better things. Looks like he is building a media empire, which is always a perfect base for propagandizing for the benefit of one’s fellow elites.

      Check out his bio here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markos_Moulitsas
      Moulitsas is a fellow at the New Politics Institute,[31][32] a think tank of the New Democrat Network, which was founded by Simon Rosenberg in 1996. The NDN’s stated purpose is to help elect “centrist” Democrats, and is considered by many to be a successor to the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), an organization that Simon Rosenberg resigned from in 1996.[citation needed]

      In addition to political pursuits, Moulitsas, along with Tyler Bleszinski (of Athletics Nation), is a cofounder of SB Nation, a network of sports blogs.[33] The network now covers all major American leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL), as well as dozens of colleges and other specific sports like golf, cycling, and ultimate fighting.[34] The network now has close to 200 blogs and has been funded by Accel Partners.

      About SB Nation, The Verge, and more Vox Media http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vox_Media

      Markos has crashed the gates of power and ‘voila!’ he is an every growing influential part of the establishment…. aka a leader and enabler of the power elite.

      I do not understand why so many intelligent people want to believe in the goodness of their leaders (or in the evilness of them). The establishment is what it is, and most people will want to find a way to be successful within that context. That is human nature. Why do so many refuse to accept this? Why the constant seeking of do gooders, noble populist leaders… of heroes and if they can’t be found, how about evil-doers to bash?

      Most everyone I know is a highly intelligent liberal and they most all adore Obama in a most child like way (though they would be quite offended to hear me say this). They are 100% convinced that everything is the evil Republican’s fault and that Obama is doing the best that he can. I avoid political conversations about Obama because I do not want to upset my friends by arguing against their strongly held “religious”(political) beliefs. Once in a while I have been able to make the point that Obama is simply continuing almost all of Bush’s agenda (which was Clinton’s before him, and so on back through time) and they will seem to open their eyes for a moment and take this in, but then the light gos back out again because they WANT their beliefs to be true.

      I don’t think most people are seeking the truth (which is often so unpleasant) they are seeking the comfort of belonging and the familiarity of comforting stories.

      1. Massinissa

        In other words youre saying that instead of truth people are seeking what psychologists call ‘confirmation bias’, a reinforcement of ones already existing beliefs.

        1. Valissa

          That’s another way to look at it. Another way is that most people seek to maintain their worldview, and so interpret new information in such a way that worldview stability is maintained. Because I’m a very curious person and like to learn new things and see things in new ways, I am always tinkering with my worldview. When I was younger this did not seem to bother people, perhaps because age effects the desire to tinker with it and it’s something more typical of the young? But I have noticed as I’ve gotten older that my friends are generally not so interested in looking at the world in new ways.

  8. McMike

    Or, you could simply look at Obama’s top campaign contributors and economic sraff appointments and spare yourself all rest of the analysis.

    I’ve been voting Green since 2000 and have never looked back.

    Put your votes where you want your politicians to be, and tell your friends to do the same. If you ain’t rich, it is the ONLY power you have.

    1. William C

      If Obama is envious of the official obituaries of Mrs Thatcher (which I have not read) perhaps he should be directed to the comments from the public. There has been a very interesting difference between the comments of public figures (generally complimentary) and those from ordinary people (generally very uncomplimentary on the websites I have looked at).

    2. jonboinAR

      That’s what I think too. Vote for exactly whom you would like to see elected. Let the chips fall where they may.

  9. Expat

    It’s the lie that gets to me. Bush: going to war on lies. Obama: destroying the savings and security of the middle class with lies. I could go along with him if he were doing it to fund reparations for slavery, eliminate prisons or some other massive justice project. But just shovelling more into the bloated coffers of the .1% who can already buy as many yachts as can be produced is, in a word, disgusting.

  10. docG

    If the cap were lifted altogether, then SS taxes would go way down for the great majority — and since lowering taxes has been the Republican mantra for some time, one has to wonder why Obama has never proposed THAT option as part of his “grand bargain.”

    Conservatives would, of course, howl bloody murder, but for the great majority of Americans it would be like Manna from Heaven. And if the House shut it down, our President would be wise to propose a nationwide referendum on the matter.

    But of course, he is NOT wise, nor is he much of a leader, apparently.

    Whether Obama is or is not evil, by the way, interests me not at all. What we are seeing is not so much a President who wants this or wants that, but a political system hobbled by its dependence on huge influxes of Plutogarch cash. As someone deeply compromised by this arrangement, Obama can’t actually afford to want this that or anything — his only concern at this point seems to be political survival.

    1. curlydan

      We don’t even need to lift the cap. We probably could increase it at 2x inflation until it captured (as in ’83) 90% of income. If Obama had Social Security’s interests at heart, he would propose these types of options in his budget instead of his usual tactic of “giving away the house” as his opening negotiating tactic.

      1. Don Levit

        Would incorporating your suggestions ensure that the trust fund would not be tapped. In other words, would there be a cash surplus, with more money coming in every year than goes out?
        Becase if not, tapping the trust fund would add to the deficits.
        Are you okay with that?
        Don Levit

  11. DeepSouthPopulist4@gmail.com

    The two parties bend together and “merge” at the very top because they serve the same masters. It’s a God damn shame how they are able to exploit the nation’s legitimate cultural differences to get away with it with ongoing plunder.
    The gate-keeping at DailyKos reminds me of the gate-keeping at RedState, National Review and The American Conservative. Kos’s and Erick Erickson’s “we need to support the lesser of two evils” arguments are damn near interchangeable. Just swap out a few particulars. It’s eerie.

      1. DeepSouthPopulist

        The conservative pundits and opinion leaders on that side, the Kos equivalents, used that argument often against Ron Paul’s supporters during the primaries. Later, they used it against conservative voters who were threatening to abandon Romney or vote third party. The net effect of these “lesser of two evil appeals” is to keep the disaffected on both sides invested in a rigged two party system.

  12. djg

    once the 2014 election is over and the republicans take the senate – Obama will say he had no choice but to cut SS

    there are too many democrats in the senate leaving – there must be a deal afoot whereby those left have to walk the plank on SS and many dont want to be a part of that cabal engineered by obama

    romney or obama you end up in the same place – it just takes longer with obama

    the progressives need the equivalent of Norquist tax pledge for the house and senate for each election – No cuts to SS

  13. Dan Kervick

    I want to move beyond Matt Stoller’s limited point about the bailouts to be clear about where Obama has been coming from economically since he was elected.

    Someone tried to argue with me on Twitter the other day that Obama had wanted a “second stimulus” but was thwarted by the Republicans. Now the Republicans have indeed thwarted Obama on a variety of things. But Obama never proposed a second stimulus. As soon as the first stimulus package was passed, at the end of January 2009, Obama rolled out the plan to reduce the deficit by 50%. Since that day, anti-stimulatory budget-cutting has been Job One for the domestic macroeconomic agenda, with the whole history of commissions, grand bargaineering, fiscal cliffs and sequesters that entails.

    It is certainly fair to point out that Obama always wanted a larger proportion of tax increases and fewer spending cuts than the Republicans who had a cuts-only approach. But his proposals were always big deficit-cutters and so certainly de-stimulatory

    Obama and his administration just do not seem to have a Keynesian outlook at all. They believe in the same formula of expansion-by-government-contraction, confidence fairies, etc. that the Europeans believe in.

  14. cripes

    Is anybody actually surprised Obama is doing exactly what he said he would do? That is. When he wasn’t giving campaign speeches at Ohio factories. This is what he and his wall street golf buddies call “strengthining” social security (focus-group tested and trademark by Obama campaign, 2007).

  15. Brooklin Bridge

    Too long again.

    And as we speak, Hillary is warming up in the batter’s cage. No she will probably never have the votes. Too many people have caught on. But watch and see if that matters. The media will sell us an election with all the drama and all the trimmings of the real thing, another cliff hanger that suddenly and magically transforms into a resounding victory once the charade of voting is over.

    This is class warfare straight and simple. Obama has no blind spot. He simply has a lot for one man to do, even an utterly ruthless one, to unravel a battered democracy of this size; a lot of infrastructure to pillage, a lot of people to harm without any thought other than “f**king retard” scorn. What ever he fails to accomplish, Hillary will pick up exactly where he left off. And whoever thinks the Republicans aren’t in on the deal are simply fooling themselves. Both parties are getting virtually everything their owners ever dreamed of and the Republican machine is more than willing to put a Palin or some other idiot in place to help put the lock on Hillary. More scary noises. More lesser-of-evil clamoring mixed in with the shards of glass ceilings and the hard question-less logic of American flags plastered everywhere. And the noise machine will go back to stanza one of the propaganda march: BoomPa, BoomPa, Loot, Loot, Loot, BoomPa, BoomPa -a-root-a toot toot. It’s embarrassingly simple.

    And it’s embarrassing just how many people are still on-board, still D-Kos grade A prime, or still blissfully – or studiously – unaware, still convinced this slow motion train wreck is carrying them to some promised land, once we finally have more and better Dems. Those who have caught on are fruit cakes. My descent into “he’s letting it get to him land” started when I watched too much CNN, and then too much MSNBC, always trying to figure out why the absurd format, why two conservative thugs to every single empty headed Allan Colmes, why there wasn’t even one person who would actually question the legitimacy of the 2000 election, or then question the march to a pre-emptive war with weapons of mass illusion that no one had bothered even talking about during the previous decade. I mean, if not one of the pundits uses any common sense, ever, then it must be me, no? But, no damn it, pre-emptive war is just plain wrong. That can’t be me. And then finally Obama and then just as quickly a complete toss out of the turnip truck; onto a disappearing public option that turned out as soft and compassionate as a concrete sidewalk, a public ruse if ever there was one (and I leave it up to the smart people to argue that it was always a fools errand – it had me sold at least at the time). And then Glen Greenwald one night watching Bill Moyers who finally, FINALLY was questioning why all the media outlets hadn’t questioned the march to an illegal, unconstitutional, useless destructive war. And then the slow realization that we have been on a long long well planned ride to hell for a long time, forty or more years, and more recently that there is simply no end to the horrific surprises in store for us when ever we get to thinking it can’t get any worse.

    Just as I used to think it odd that one could only find out facts by watching a couple of comedy shows, it remains pretty ironic that one gets factual news from an economics blog, but there it is, and I’m damned thankful it exists.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      “Obama has no blind spot.” Exactly. That caught my eye too. Black knows better by now. Obama chose Lew, “the great proponent of self-destructive austerity”, because that’s his own goal. After five years, you’d think people would get that by now. Shock Doctrine is the “anchor of his legacy”, a legacy will make Hoover look noble.

      As for envying Thatcher’s obits, I do hope he gets his own very soon.

    2. Nathanael

      Obama has a major blind spot.

      Obama thinks that the elites who are encouraging him to wreck the US will *reward* him for it.

      Nope. They’ll happily hang him.

  16. steve from virginia

    You dudes make me laugh! Every damned one of you voted for Obama except for those who are not Americans). You all voted for the same old, crooked, indentured congressmen, too. Obama’s voting record in the Senate was online, it was easy to see what kind of candidate he was … and what kind of president he is.

    Obama was a bum, he never should have been elected to anything. He’s a shoe-shine boy for Wall Street, what Malcolm X would call a ‘House Negro’. If Dimon tells Obama to screw his mother Obama will drop his pants.

    Ditto w/ Congress. Everyone wants change as long as it doesn’t mean giving anything up. Consequently, there is never any change! Meanwhile, the prerogatives of the so-called ‘middle class’ are eroded by the class’ past success at burning through capital resources. The class is unhappy because what remains to burn through costs too much and they must do without.

    Nobody wants to rock the boat — even Occupy — nobody wants to risk their precious flat screen TVs or their Dryvit-and-vinyl chateaus in the suburbs or their luxury cars or their luxury jobs … or their granite counter-tops, marble baths and gold-plated faucets … all made in China, of course.

    With Obama, it’s always, “he’s not that bad …”, “the lesser of two evils!” It is always the lesser of two evils, the never ending rationalizations … the whining is about privileges that have no foundation in physical reality … a new reality of rapidly depleting material resources.

    Coming up in 2016 is the next in line, the heir to the Bush-Clinton-Reagan cartel … Hillary. The whining will begin any minute, now …

    … also, hundreds of millions of rusting junkers … riddled with bullets … abandoned alongside deserted, crumbling highways and ruins furry with rot … from sea to shi … sorry, sewer to shining sewer.

    1. Charles LeSeau

      “Every damned one of you voted for Obama except for those who are not Americans).”

      I suggest you investigate the ways in which you might just possibly be wrong about this.

        1. Charles LeSeau

          If you’re asking me that, no. It’s just obvious Steve couldn’t possibly know who everyone here voted for (or for that matter how many didn’t vote at all). My statement to him was to consider the different possibilities existing under the rather large umbrella of “didn’t vote for Obama.”

    2. Massinissa

      I wasnt old enough to vote in 2008, and in 2012 I voted for Jill Stein. Youre totally generalizing here mate.

      1. Nathanael

        I’ve been voting pretty much party-line Democratic since 1994 (because the Republicans had mostly already gone batshit crazy by then). In 2000 it was clear Gore was a better candidate than Nader, who was dishonest.

        I also voted Jill Stein in 2012. She was by far the best candidate.

        I really regret voting for Andrew Cuomo in, IIRC, 2010, rather than voting for the prostitute, who had the best campaign platform. Never again will I vote for a candidate who shows up late and unprepared to the debate for no good reason.

      1. Valissa

        Me either. 2008 was a watershed year for me in terms of my worldview about politics. I ditched “lesser evilism” and decided to disengage from the oligarchic duopoly.

        1. AbyNormal

          Who was that masked man…a JGordon relative?

          He was just a coward and that was the worst luck any man could have. for whom the bell tolls

          1. Valissa

            Personally I get a kick out of jgordon’s posts and the predictable exploding heads reaction to them. The comment section could use more different points of view, IMO.

          2. AbyNormal

            Val, Gordon baits unless he’s permaculture posting…then he’s in his zone and sharing wealth of 411.

            Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.
            dalai lama

    3. taunger

      I threw my worthless MA vote toward Obama in 2008, but even worse I knocked on doors in NH (which, by the by, I was truly surprised he won). I opened an expensive gift bottle of champaign and smoked a blunt the day he was inaugurated. I’ve continued to be involved in local D party activism (I’ve got some decent folks in my backyard, actually), but I’ll never vote a major party for prez again.

      So what? Because I made a foolish mistake, I am now destined for your scorn forever? Please understand, I’ve made a mistake, and I continue to make mistakes, because I am human. I also work hard, try to learn daily, exercise, not drive or smoke too much. Am I acceptable in your view, which has always been right? Can I ever be?

      1. Lambert Strether

        Obama lost NH to Clinton, 39/36, so no wonder you were surprised.

        After that loss is when the Obots really started smearing all their opponents as racist. That’s why I remember it.

  17. Brooklin Bridge

    Notice HuffPo’s strategy of barely even mentioning this massive theft. They are pushing the Gun Control and almost completely ignoring that today Obama is presenting his massive betrayal bill. That had an article earlier which they took down from the front page, but anyway, all it said was, “Today, Obama presents is [get this] controversial bill”

    1. jrs

      Well now it’s all corporate, but even Ariana herself was orginally a Republican (or a very well off wife of one), and while changing your mind is fine, even several times, that might be a whiff of opportunism you smell in the air …

    2. Expat

      It’s obvious he is trying to distract the 99%. First there was the fiscal cliff, then sequestration. If guns won’t suck up all of the oxygen, it could be that his social security fraud will work.

      Distract us from what, you ask? Maybe the secret Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that Obama and his evil hounds want to fast track through Congress. (Public Citizen, the Public Banking Institute and others are exposing this mother of all thefts by the kleptocracy). Maybe some other monstrous betrayal that future generations (if any) will scratch their heads over.

      Not that destroying social security wasn’t always on his agenda, but, like Thatcher, Obama has to wait until the moment is right. This is a test, but possibly more.

      We saw this sort behaviour from the Reagan administration as they stripped away our viable economy and replaced it with the polluted hollow mess that we have to put up with today. In those days, we called it the three-ringed circus.

    1. Nathanael

      I can make some more of these.

      We needed FDR… we got Coolidge.

      We needed Mikhail Gorbachev… we got Andropov.

      We needed Earl Grey… we got Louis XVI.

  18. Brooklin Bridge

    Elizabeth Warren is shocked, shocked I tell you, at White House Plan to cut Social Security with Chained CPI

    Well, I guess we can go back to sleep. She will stop at absolutely nothing to save us, just like Bernie Sanders has and ever will and just as effectively. There is one problem solved. We simply need to make sure she (and he I guess) gets elected again and again and somehow magically we will have done the right thing and it won’t matter that chained CPI has been a fact of life for years or that the cuts have become just as real because by then, she will be shocked, shocked, I tell you, about what ever new chunk of the safety net they are dismantling at the time… And we will always scratch our heads and wonder why there are always only two or three of them, never more, that even make these utterly useless futile, self serving, dissapear into a black hole, noises.

    In the meantime, Pelosi and Reid march on, as ruthless and deceptive as ever. My god what a sham.

    1. jrs

      Meanwhile she’ll write a book called “The 6 Income Trap – how kids and grandkids must work to support grandma and grandpa”. It will become a bestseller.

    1. Lambert Strether

      The petitions mean nothing. Booing, slow-clapping, and otherwise calling out political figures in public would help.

      I return again to the elders who chased Rostenkowski waving their canes.

          1. Nathanael

            It would still have an effect.

            More so, now that we *expect* the thugs in power to attack anyone who opposes them openly.

  19. ian

    This sure is weird for me. I’m a fiscally conservative/socially moderate republican, but I look at social security as a deal that was made between me and government – I pay into the system x and so, I get y and so out of it.
    Period. Especially since, when viewed as an investment, it’s a pretty awful one (for me, at least). I never expected that it would be a democrat that would be doing this.
    It makes me wonder if the government is capable of keeping any promise it makes to it’s citizens.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Welcome, matrix refugee! Red pill reality certainly sucks, but it beats delusional hallucination. It’s astonishing how few people have seen behind the mask.

    2. Expat

      Nothing personal, ian, but the big thing that Social Security does for the selfless and the selfish alike is that it takes care of our parents, children and disabled family members. If it weren’t there, we might have to forego our high consumption lifestyles in order to take care of them. I thought that Bush/Rove dropped “reform” based on generational resentment when they realized that their constituents were the ones most likely to resent having to take care of family members. Now that the party solely represents the .1%, the selfishness of the Republican base can be disregarded along with the demands of the rest of the 99%.

    3. Calgacus

      Ian: I pay into the system x and so, I get y and so out of it.

      Yes, that is right. But how do you “pay into the system”? What is x? You pay into the system by doing valuable work = x, by trading your scarce labor for immaterial promises from the government called “dollars”. This labor is the source of a wealthy, thriving society, a real economy which will be what supports you in your old age. The SS tax dollars you “pay into the system” have nothing to do with paying your “y” benefits in the future. The tax receipts are made to correspond roughly with an unnecessary internal accounting record called the SS Trust Fund. This is how FDR, his advisors & the designers of SS understood things. They were Institutional & Keynesian “New” economists, the MMT of that day. The tax is a political protection plan, nothing more, which the bad guys realized in 1983 how to turn into a tool to destroy SS, by using the fall of a dark age of understanding basic economics in the 60s-70s.

      They tax is like a price for special stamps that you have to buy to send photos of you working to the government, to prove you deserve Y SS dollars in the future as deferred payment for your work. Very expensive stamps – but they have nothing to do with the government payments. (Like any other payment to a government, all they do is possibly keep up the value of other outstanding “dollar” promises.)

      It makes me wonder if the government is capable of keeping any promise it makes to it’s citizens.
      The banditti want ONLY the promises called “dollars” that they currently hold to be honored by the government. The US government has a very good, 200+ year long record of keeping these promises. But they want all the other promises the government makes to be defaulted on – not because it would make them richer – it wouldn’t, it would make them poorer – but because it would loosen their stranglehold on everyone else.

      1. Lambert Strether

        “I pay into the system x and so, I get y and so out of it.”

        That is, morally, the deal that people perceive as having been made, and they are correct to do so.

        Operationally, it’s not true. Taxes don’t fund spending.

        1. different clue

          Time enough to make that argument after Catfood Obama has been defeated, if it is defeated.

          I certainly paid FICA taxes towards my own future Social Security. I certainly did not “emit” the money to pay those taxes by any Magical Monetary Theory formula. I had to do physical work in order to be credited with having earned the money out of which my FICA taxes were paid into Social Security.

          1. Don Levit

            There are 2 titles in the SS law – one for taxing, the other for spending. These 2 titles do not intersect. Taxing and spending are 2 separate functions. One cannot legally tie certain taxes to certain benefits. All taxes flow intio the general fund of the Treasury, where they become indistinguishable from other monies. SS taxes are not even required to pay benefits.
            Don Levit

        2. Calgacus

          My point was that it is true if you correctly identify “x” as labor-hours, rather than dollars, and “the system” as the US economy, rather than the Social Security system.
          SS is just a modernized, rationalized, universalized system for the young to take care of the old, just as the old had once taken care of the young. Worked for millennia. Not the slightest reason it wouldn’t work for millenia in the future.

          “…security was attained in the earlier days through the interdependence of members of families upon each other and of the families within a small community upon each other. The complexities of great communities and of organized industry make less real these simple means of security. Therefore, we are compelled to employ the active interest of the Nation as a whole through government in order to encourage a greater security for each individual who composes it.”


    4. Nathanael

      “It makes me wonder if the government is capable of keeping any promise it makes to it’s citizens.”

      Here’s your mistake in thinking. It’s not “the government”.

      It’s those damn people running it. The President, the House Republicans, everyone in the Senate, the Supreme Court members….

      With all of the Republican Party and most of the Democratic Party in cahoots to break promises, the question is how to replace the people running the government. The two-party system is being used to the advantage of the criminal elites.

      In the past, this was addressed through the creation of third parties. This is very hard to do effectively because of Duverger’s Law, which means that any *lasting* reform requires proportional representation, or approval voting.

  20. Z

    This route of using the senate democrats to push his ss cuts through has another benefit as well: it could lead to the republicans taking over the senate in 2014. My, my wouldn’t that be beneficial for the current head pr man of the establishment: a republican house and senate to “force” him to do all that his sponsors want him to do, ramping up nicely right into his post-presidency payoff.

    obama: not just a poor president, but a horrible human being.


  21. Brooklin Bridge

    Obama is getting away with this like a guy who robs a bank where all the guards have their hands covering their eyes, their ears or their mouths (and they are acting as if they wished they could do all three at once). It’s absolutely amazing. A lot of people I know, and who are affected, are not even aware it’s happening.

  22. jfleni

    It’s time to push hard for impeachment, not because of the foul racist gibes aimed at Barry by the likes of “Sarah the Mad” or the “Kangaroo in Chief” and his ignorant mouthpieces or disagreement with particular policies, but because of his blatant trashing of the Rule of Law. His pimp “too big to try” AG cannot even notice vile offenses apparent to everybody else in the most naked and corrupt ignoring of obvious crimes since the beginning of the Great Depression in 1930.

    He should leave with a profound apology like Grant, and leave the remaining portion of his term to the Vice-President, who will probably serve as temporary caretaker until the country can decide the very important political questions of the future!

    1. lambert strether

      It’s ballsy of Grant to apologize (here’s the link) but I have to ask: Is this the first example of “Mistakes were made”?

      Mistakes have been made, as all can see and I admit but it seems to me oftener in the selections made of the assistants appointed to aid in carrying out the various duties of administering the Government–in nearly every case selected without a personal acquaintence with the appointee, but upon recommendations of the representatives chosen directly by the people.

      It’s pretty remarkable to see Grant using the agency-deflecting passive voice.

      1. Nathanael

        Grant actually was a pretty damn good President. And was faced with a completely impossible situation, the rise of the KKK and similar anti-black gangs intent on overthrowing the elected governments in the South. (His predecessor and successors handled this situation substantially worse than he did.)

        He had reason to not apologize.

    2. different clue

      But if he did that, he would threaten the multi-million dollar payouts he is auditioning to recieve after leaving office. He won’t jeopardize those payouts.

      Plus he wants to be “Historic”. He wants to be THE President who finally got Social Security destroyed.

      1. Nathanael

        He won’t get the payouts.

        ‘Cause sure, he did their dirty work, but he’s not ONE of them, if you know what I mean?… and I think you do.

        This is a massive mistake in calculation on his part. It doesn’t matter how much he carries water for ExxonMobil and BP execs, they will never help him out the way they help out the Bush family.

  23. rps

    Obama’s salary: $400,000.00 per year. A $50,000 annual expense account. $100,000 nontaxed travel account. A $19,000 entertainment allowance. That’s a total of $669,000 per-year. Not including the president’s total compensation.

    2012 Social Security contribution Cap at $110,100.00. Employee contributions at 4.2% and employers at 6.2%.
    Obama paid $4,624.20 into SS and the employer paid $6,826.20.

    That leaves $558,900.00 untaxed by Social Security. By removing the Cap, SS would collect another $23,473.80 (Obama) and $34,651.80 (employer).

    That sure is a nice chunk of change to sweeten the Social Security honeypot. Come to think of it, the 99 per-centers pay SS year-round while the One per-centers income is protected above the Cap of $110,100.00. Sure must be real nice being an exclusive member of the 1% club….real nice.

    Makes you wonder why the Cap?, Other than to protect all those hard working, hard-earning incomes of the very deserving super-richies

    “I am no believer in this “hard work, perseverance, and taking advantage of your opportunities” that these Magazines are so fond of writing some fellow up in. The successful don’t work any harder than the failures. They get what is called in baseball the breaks.” Will Rogers

    “Ten men in the country could buy the world and ten million can’t buy enough to eat.” Will Rogers

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Obama campaigned on raising the cap, but it’s just another betrayal like the shutout of single payer and imposition of ACA mandates. He was against them in the campaign … and then signed them into law.

      1. Nathanael

        And the first big betrayal — the FISA amendments, which he said he opposed, then signed. Because Obama is a dirty liar.

        Also, closing Guantanamo. He could have done it, but chose not to.

  24. Anonymous

    Sorry, Yves. Even up to now, there are still quite a few dumbass Obama supporters out there among the proletariat.

  25. Stefan Teleman

    I don’t know if this has been already mentioned in the comments, but here’s Bruce Bartlett on the so-called Social Security Crisis:


    “To be sure, some restraint is needed in federal entitlement programs. But the idea that we are facing a crisis is complete nonsense. Spending for Social Security, in particular, is very stable. Relatively modest changes, such as raising the taxable earnings base slightly, would be sufficient to put the program on a sound footing virtually forever.

    As a Nov. 28 Congressional Research Service report explains, historically 90 percent of covered earnings was subject to the Social Security tax. In recent years, this percentage has fallen to 84 percent, as the bulk of wage gains has gone to those making more than the maximum taxable income, currently $110,100. Raising the share of covered earnings back to 90 percent would be sufficient to eliminate almost half of Social Security’s long-run actuarial deficit, according to the Social Security actuaries.”

  26. Newsboy

    Barak Obama, nice enough guy, for an aspartame sweetened Oreo.
    Just as only Nixon could go to China (with Kissinger as puppeteer),
    only Obama can do the deep gutting of the social safety net.
    He’s performed this task before, at a lower level, getting old housing projects sold to real estate developers, who made profitable upscale subdivisions, without the former poor black folks who used to live there.

  27. hidflect

    153 comments. Where were all you people when he picked Larry Summrs and Timmy Geitner 5 years ago?

  28. traveler

    The online articles about Obama’s budget have outed some true believers I wasn’t aware of. Ouch!

  29. William Neil

    Thanks, Yves, for filling in some of the “interior” details on pre-President Obama and the financial crisis.

    At a higher level of abstraction, its very clear that the President stands in the same current as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, continuing to carry the party to the right, to a place where they are the moderate Republicans, although I think that the Rockefellers and Javitts of their day would not have pushed the New Deal tradition so far under water and held its head their for as long as the present crop of corporate Democrats.

    I’ve been poking around in Richard Hofstadter’s fine series of essays on American politicians (and a few intellectuals), a book from 1948, and will offer one powerful line, the “epigram” from his essay on Woodrow Wilson, entitled “The Conservative as Liberal.” (The book is “The American Political Tradition.).

    Here it is: “The truth is, we are all caught in a great economic system which is heartless.”

    Hofstadter chides Wilson for some of his grand policy attempts and illusions, where he seemed to forget that without a transformation of this heartless beast, there was not going to be “peace.” And I am no great admirer of Wilson’s policies, to be sure. But I can’t imagine such a statement being uttered by Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton or our current President – they are far more worshipfull of the beast.

    Indeed, that statement is so powerful that I was determined to find its direct source, which Hofstader did not note. It comes from Wilson’s book, a collection of his speeches from 1912-1913 called famously “The New Freedom.”

  30. Nathanael

    “It must be really hard to be an Obama defender these days, at least if you are not on a big corporate payroll.”

    It is. If you watch the Rec List at DailyKos, it’s mostly attacks on Obama now. The defenders are GONE.

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