Last week, President Obama’s budget omitted chained consumer price index (CPI) for Social Security benefits for the first time in several years. The chained CPI slows increases in Social Security, a favorite cause for austerity-loving Republicans. Yet, it was a Democratic president proposing it, in hopes that, by giving Republicans something they wanted at the outset of budget negotiations, Republicans would reward that good faith with their own concessions.
It never works.
Take the Simpson-Bowles commission, tasked with designing a budget grand bargain to rein in the deficit. The committee deadlocked between Democrats who wanted to raise taxes on the wealthy and Republicans who wanted deep cuts to social programs. It was a stupid effort, and one that died a well-deserved death. Yet there was Alex Sink, Democratic candidate for the open House seat in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, arguing that we should dusting off the “proposal known as Simpson-Bowles” in order to “bring down these trillion-dollar deficits.”
Of course, the 2013 budget deficit was well under $1 trillion, and the 2014 deficit is projected to be even lower. And there never was any “deficit reducing proposal” out of the Simpson-Bowles commission. Yet Republicans didn’t reward Sink’s weak pandering. Instead, they attacked her.
Like when a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee said, “Alex Sink supports a plan that raises the retirement age for Social Security recipients, raises Social Security taxes and cuts Medicare.” Remember, it was Republicans who fought to include cuts to Social Security and Medicare — cuts included in Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) annual House budget fantasy, cuts Republicans have attacked Obama for not considering. “He set up a deficit reduction commission a year ago,” said Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “And what did the president do? He took exactly none of his own deficit reduction commission’s ideas. Not one.”
Now that Sink agrees with Boehner, she gets trashed by Boehner’s party.
Republicans have spent decades trying to undermine the popular Medicare program. Ryan has been working hard to voucherize it, destroying it as it exists today. Yet it’s Republicans running ads against Democrats for “cutting $700 billion from Medicare.” The cuts are to Medicare providers, not beneficiaries, targeting a particularly inefficient part of the program. Republicans are supposed to be against inefficient government programs, and even Ryan’s budgets keeps those cuts. But Republicans are immune to the hypocrisy.
Remember Obama’s good-faith inclusion of chained CPI cuts in his budget? After the release of the White House budget last year, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), head of the NRCC, went on the attack: “Well, once again, you’re trying to balance this budget on the backs of seniors,” he said, “and I just think it’s not the right way to go.”
And, of course, there is the Mother of All Republican Switches: ObamaCare. The market-based tenets of the Affordable Care Act were hashed out at the conservative Heritage Foundation and first enacted by Mitt Romney, then governor of Massachusetts and the GOP’s eventual 2012 presidential nominee. So rather than push a genuinely progressive healthcare reform approach, Obama adopted the GOP’s plan, hoping to garner conservative support for his plan. We all know how that worked out.
We know how it always works out. Democrats should wise up and stop doing the GOP’s dirty work for them.
Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com).