Apr 11 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

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New York Times Editorial Board: The President’s Budget

President Obama knew full well that many Democrats and liberals would be sharply critical of his decision to propose reducing the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment, one of the centerpieces of his 2014 budget, which was released on Wednesday. In fact, he was counting on it. He wanted to show that he was willing to antagonize his supporters to get a budget compromise, putting Republicans on the spot to do the same. [..]

But, on Wednesday, when the president actually did so, Mr. McConnell dismissed the budget as unserious. Not a single Congressional Republican could be found to consider a budget that combines twice as much in spending cuts as it raises in tax revenues.

The Social Security proposal remains a bad idea, and, as this page has explained, it could hurt vulnerable retirees and stymie better ideas to improve the system, like raising the wage cap subject to the payroll tax. But it seems unlikely to happen if Mr. Obama holds to his demand for more revenues in exchange, given the Republican intransigence. For now, it has served its purpose – no one will be able to accuse Mr. Obama of refusing to touch entitlements, and no one can credit Republicans for being at all serious about a deficit-reduction compromise.

Robert Reich: Bi-Partisanship We Don’t Need: The President Offers to Cut Social Security and Republicans Agree

John Boehner, Speaker of the House, revealed why it’s politically naive for the president to offer up cuts in Social Security in the hope of getting Republicans to close some tax loopholes for the rich. “If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there’s no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes,” Boehner said in a statement released Friday. [..]

The president is scheduled to dine with a dozen Senate Republicans Wednesday night. Among those attending will be John Boozman of Arkansas, who has already praised Obama for “starting to throw things on the table,” like the Social Security cuts.

That’s exactly the problem. The president throws things on the table before the Republicans have even sat down for dinner.

The president’s predilection for negotiating with himself is not new. But his willingness to do it with Social Security, the government’s most popular program — which Democrats have protected from Republican assaults for almost eighty years — doesn’t bode well.

Robert Borosage: The President’s Budget: A Misguided Mission Statement

Today, the president releases his budget for fiscal year 2014, the year that begins this October. Commentators and advocates will pour over its disparate parts,  although the White House has already leaked its major contours.

This document is less a budget for government than a purpose statement of the administration.  In this divided government, it is already “dead on arrival.”  That’s particularly true this year since the Senate and House have each passed its own budget outline.  For all of its volumes and detail, the president’s budget is at best a statement of his priorities.  And there it is distinctively disappointing.

The president’s major purpose is not to address mass unemployment, not to build a new foundation for the economy, not to revive the middle class or redress Gilded Age inequality.  The president’s overriding priority is to cut a deal – and a deal that continues to impose austerity on an already faltering recovery.

Robert Naiman: Cut Social Security & Veterans’ Benefits? Cut the Pentagon Instead

The boss organizes the workers, union organizers like to say.

Say what you want about President Obama’s proposal to cut Social Security and veterans’ benefits with the “chained CPI.” He did accomplish one thing for liberals that they often have a hard time doing on their own.

He united them — in opposition to his proposal. [..]

But that’s not all we have to celebrate. If, like most Americans, you prefer to cut what Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has called the “bloated” Pentagon budget instead of cutting Social Security and veterans’ benefits, you have even more reason to rejoice.

Because at this political juncture, everyone in America who says “no cuts to Social Security or veterans’ benefits” is effectively saying “cut the bloated Pentagon budget,” whether they do so explicitly or not. If the “grand bargain” is killed and Social Security and veterans’ benefits are spared — apparently these are all the same political event — then the Pentagon budget will be cut instead.

Richard Reeves: Permanent Unemployment for Everyone, Brought to You by Vulture Capitalism

When ATMs, the cash machines, began to appear on the outside walls of banks in the 1970s, I refused to go near them. My mother was a teller at the Trust Company of New Jersey on Journal Square in Jersey City, and I knew the machines were designed to eliminate her job.

When I was at The New York Times, I went one day to what we called the “morgue,” the library of old clippings. The guy behind the counter, whom I remember as “Bob,” kept pointing down until I lifted myself up and peeked under the counter. There was a man under there with a clipboard and a stopwatch, an efficiency expert from one of the new consultant firms, McKinsey and Co. or Booz Allen Hamilton. I can’t remember which. They were after Bob’s job-and maybe mine in the future.