Just over a month ago, I posted an article entitled "Barack's Big Blunder", ascribing his laying of Social Security and Medicare on the pyre of budget cutting to an overeager enthusiasm for budget cutting that played into Republican electoral strategies.
What I said at that time was: Republicans have a compelling political reason to have these programs as a part of the debt ceiling agreement that is even more important to them than their bad faith maneuvering to resurrect this issue one more time before the 2012 election. That reason is that their party has been scorched on the entitlement third rail, courtesy of Paul Ryan's budget proposal to destroy Medicare. Consequently, they have seen that issue used in a way that had Republicans voting for the Democratic candidate in New York's 26th Congressional District.
Extrapolating that effect to the national election in 2012 gives them a vision of a Congress where Republicans would be fortunate to be riding a bicycle in to deliver sandwiches, let alone having a caucus with any influence on legislation.
With this realization, the Republicans are desperate to be able to smear Democrats with the mud that they are sinking in, and now they will accept nothing less than a plan that includes Democratic acceptance of, or better yet, Democratic proposals for, the hacking of holes in the New Deal social safety net. Such a coup would take that issue right out of the hands of Democrats in 2012, making the choice between Democrat and Republican little more than a cosmetic coin flip.
Obama was a fool to regurgitate that proposal onto the table as a reflex action. In doing so, he encouraged Republicans in their hostage holding of the nation's and the world's economy. Of course, this also exposes, once again, Obama's baseline blunder, which is his presupposition that Republicans, and especially Republicans in thrall to the TEA Parties, are even capable of bargaining in good faith. They are not; and one wonders how many times the President must have that concept demonstrated before he accepts it as fact.
This evening's address to Congress on the President's jobs program, and oh so much more, forces me to reconsider those events and those of this evening in a new light.
The President offered a mixed bag of stimulus proposals that are entirely unremarkable and seemingly selected for one characteristic that they hold in common, as the President belabored that characteristic, being that one or another or several Republicans had supported the measures in the past. This can be no surprise since most of the proposal is tax cuts or business subsidies.
Mentioned first, and apparently the crown jewel of his plan is the extension of the payroll tax cut, where he promised to cut the payroll tax in half. When this is coupled with his assertion that every single item in the jobs plan is paid for, this becomes a troubling thing. There is, after all, only one way to pay for a cut in the payroll tax, and though it went unspecified by the President, it is a reduction in the outlays supported by that payroll tax, which are, of course, Medicare and Social Security.
Then, further down the line, the President started to talk about additional measures involving budget cutting with no relation to the jobs program he had been talking about. Again he threw Medicare and Medicaid on the altar.
I had to ask myself why he would address those issues in this speech to propose ways to get people back to work, and the only answer I could come up with is that this is the quid pro quo. This is the enticement for Republicans to come along without kicking up too much dust. This was his offer to take the entitlements issue away from the Democratic Party in the 2012 election campaigns if the Republicans would go along with him now. This was his destruction of the likelihood of a Democratic congress in 2012 to help himself with maintaining a nominally Democratic White House in 2012.He probably even believes that what he is doing is a good thing for the United States, as we watch ourselves sinking deeper into the nineteenth century.