By Brent Budowsky - 04/17/13 10:38 PM EDT
I am a Democrat in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy.
Democrats have won so many recent national elections in part because we were viewed as protecting Medicare and Social Security, while Republicans lost those elections in part because they were viewed as threatening these programs. One reason Democrats lost in 2010, the exception to the Democratic wave, was that President Obama induced many House Democrats to support “Medicare reforms” that they courageously supported, which contributed mightily to their defeat.
Part of the solving the budget deficit must indeed involve entitlements. I have supported means- testing Medicare and seeking additional savings by cutting healthcare costs and expenses that increase Medicare spending. A holistic approach to Social Security and Medicare, as practiced by former President Reagan and former Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.), makes sense. But cutting Social Security benefits is a bad idea. Proposing to cut Social Security benefits in a budget deal is a bad way to implement a bad idea. For Democrats to further surrender the narrative about why we are Democrats is the worst idea.
The great economic truth of our times, under both Democratic and Republican presidents and Congresses, is the grotesquely increasing disparity of income and fairness in the economy. Most seniors receiving social security, a majority of whom are women, are the victims and not the perpetrators of this outrage. This fits the unsavory pattern of our politics.
We observe the pathetic fiasco of the gun debate. Politicians now mourn the deaths in Boston while emasculating proposals that should have been enacted shortly after they mourned the mass murders in Newtown.
How sad it is. The domination of the National Rifle Association and the dictatorship of the filibuster reduce the wonderful moms and dads of Newtown, who come to Washington in search of democracy in action, to manifest their love for the children they lost, to pleading for table scraps of legislation that are embarrassing compared to what politicians promised when the blood was still fresh on the floor of the school.
An assault weapons ban: supported by nearly 60 percent of Americans. A limit on high-capacity magazines: supported by nearly 60 percent. Universal background checks: supported by nearly 90 percent. And what happens? Retreat.
Similarly: Social Security cuts are opposed by nearly 70 percent of America. Medicare cuts: ditto. Medicaid cuts: ditto. The only thing stranger than why Republicans take positions that are opposed by so many voters is why so many Democrats fail to fight aggressively for what so many voters want.
Where have you gone, Ted Kennedy? The answer — he is now a she: Elizabeth Warren.
Far too often, the nation moves left, the Republicans move right, the Democrats cop out.
The public option for healthcare? Supported by more than 60 percent. Major jobs programs? Overwhelmingly supported by voters, filibustered by Republicans, surrendered without a fight since 2009. Pay equity for women? Filling vacant judgeships to un-pack the court the right seeks to pack? Filibuster. Retreat. Again.
The Senate becomes a farce: Democrats propose, Republicans filibuster. Democrats retreat, Congress recesses. Tiny victories are hailed as great achievements. The Democratic legacy is dumbed down by the day. The voice of a generation is silenced.
Democrats should fight for jobs programs and pay equity for women, not fight to cut Social Security. Democrats should realize that when the winds of national opinion are at our back, it is folly to sail against these winds and disaster to downsize the legacy of our party.
Let Republicans champion their dream of cutting Social Security. Democrats should say no, take our case to the country and let the voters decide.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.