Tag Archive: safety net

Apr 08 2013

Are “Progressives” Destroying the New Deal?

Does the term Progressive mean anything anymore?

Surely it has an historical meaning and there are some roundabout descriptions of modern progressivism online like this one from Wikipedia:

Today, members of the Green Party of the United States are most likely to self-identify as liberal progressives. In the U.S. Congress, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is the most liberal wing of the Democratic Party, and it is often in opposition to the more centrist or conservative Democrats who form the Blue Dogs caucus. It is also in near-continuous opposition to the Republican Party.

But what does it mean when say, the leader of the Democratic Party, President Obama proclaims himself a Progressive:

“I am someone who is no doubt progressive.”

… and then later proceeds to describe himself as a, “moderate Republican?”

“The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.”

Further, what does it mean when three quarters of the Congressional Progressive Caucus won’t stand up for the indispensable legacy of the progressive New Deal and Great Society advances, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?

Three-Quarters of Progressive Caucus Not Taking a Stand Against Cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

For the social compact of the United States, most of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has gone missing.

While still on the caucus roster, three-quarters of the 70-member caucus seem lost in political smog. Those 54 members of the Progressive Caucus haven’t signed the current letter that makes a vital commitment: “we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits — including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”

… Addressed to President Obama, the letter has enabled members of Congress to take a historic stand: joining together in a public pledge not to vote for any cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. …

The Progressive Caucus co-chairs, Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison, signed the letter. So did Barbara Lee, the caucus whip. But no signer can be found among the five vice chairs of the Progressive Caucus: Judy Chu, David Cicilline, Michael Honda, Sheila Jackson-Lee and Jan Schakowsky. The letter’s current list of signers includes just 16 members of the Progressive Caucus (along with five other House signers who aren’t part of the caucus).

What about the other 54 members of the Progressive Caucus? Their absence from the letter is a clear message to the Obama White House, which has repeatedly declared its desire to cut the Social Security cost of living adjustment as well as Medicare. In effect, those 54 non-signers are signaling: Mr. President, we call ourselves “progressive” but we are unwilling to stick our necks out by challenging you in defense of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; we want some wiggle room that you can exploit.

Yes, that’s right the President, who has, “no doubt” that he’s a progressive wants to cut the social safety net, despite the fact that he made rather a big deal that he would not do just that thing:

Now, however, the, “no doubt progressive” President is about to release his budget, which will reportedly contain cuts to programs that have always been the core of progressive policy:

President Obama’s budget proposal to be unveiled next week will include cuts to Social Security and Medicare, according to media reports Friday morning.

Politico reports:

The most controversial element of Obama’s proposal is the inclusion of “chained CPI,” the adjustment that would over time reduce cost-of-living increases to Social Security and other federal benefit programs – effectively, a cut to Social Security benefits by tying them to inflation.

Progressives in the Media and the Blogosphere

So while many congressional “progressives” have chosen between their divided loyalties and come up as cowering yes men for the misguided juggernaut of the Obama administration, parts of the progressive media are spouting propaganda:

John Nichols tells only part of the truth in this piece and the failure to represent the whole truth makes it a specious bit of propaganda, that distracts and diverts attention away from those that are carrying out the agenda of the big money forces he decries.  

[Perhaps this is a problem created by editing as Nichols is generally a reasonable guy, who has written a number of articles calling for opposition to President Obama’s Chained CPI plan.  This was a publication of The Nation magazine, so perhaps they edited it and it represents their editorial position more than Nichols’ opinions and position.  Since Nichols is the face, name and voice of this piece, however, the criticism will be directed at him and presumably if he gives a damn about what some blogger says, he can assert that the blame lays elsewhere.]

Nichols explains that in, as he puts it a, “Dollarocracy,” the ideas that get put forward are the ideas that have big money behind them, like cutting Social Security.  He goes on to highlight the fact that austerity-loving-corporate-greedheads were able to get, “one of their own,” Paul Ryan on a ballot to run for Veep to push their plans.  What Nichols fails to mention is that those austerity-loving-corporate-greedheads were going to win no matter what this election.  They already have a Democratic president who is promoting their agenda on the other ticket.  Guess what, they won! And there was no chance that they wouldn’t!

How is it that Nichols could have failed to notice and call out the Obama administration and the many Democrats that are performing the bidding of the, “Dollarocracy” with such alacrity these days?  Nichols is an experienced pundit, he certainly has been around and allegedly paying attention long enough to know who has been pushing the 1%’s, “Dollarocracy” agenda.  

Let’s take a trip through some of the evidence that one would have to ignore to create that Dollarocracy video with such a glaring omission in it…

Mar 27 2013

Dick Durbin’s new Social Security reform commission

Have you heard about Dick Durbin’s proposal for a new Social Security reform commission?  It sounds remarkably like the failed Simpson-Bowles Catfood Commission, complete with special rules that allow its recommendations, if approved by the commission, to take the express route to the floor of Congress for a vote with no amendments and limited debate.  

The number two Democrat in the Senate championing this bipartisan bill was asked if this new commission would be like the Greenspan commission of the 1980’s and he said that he prefers to refer to it as similar to Simpson-Bowles.  One of the most interesting things about it is that this time, the commission won’t be dissolved after it finishes its work.  It comes back to life every ten years.

So while we are very happy that the Senate rejected Chained CPI in the budget that they passed last week, the reason why it was rejected is most likely because a separate commission for “reforming” Social Security is on the way, and there are other reasons to use caution while considering the weight and effect of the Sanders amendment.

In a recent article, Dean Baker wonders why the media elites did not find the Sanders amendment to be newsworthy.  I agree with his points about the national media corruption on the subject, and that they have been pushing their favorable opinion on cuts, and how the facts and arguments against the cuts have been curiously absent in their reporting and their programs.

Senate Unanimously Votes Against Cuts to Social Security: Media Don’t Notice

This is why the vote on the Sanders amendment should have been newsworthy. Here was an opportunity for all the senators who have explicitly or implicitly supported the adoption of the chained CPI to step up and say why the switch to the chained CPI was a good and necessary measure. However, not one senator was prepared to stand up and argue the case. Not one member of the senate wanted to go on record in support of this cut to Social Security.

With all the Republicans who pronounce endlessly on the need to cut entitlement spending, there was not a single Republican senator who was prepared to say that switching the Social Security COLA to a chained CPI was a good idea. And even though President Obama has repeatedly stated as clearly as he could that he supported the switch to a chain CPI, there was not one Democratic senator who was prepared to stand up and speak in solidarity with the president.

But let’s not get complacent. There is nothing that the media elite and the proponents of Social Security cuts would like more than for us to let our guard down and say “phew, now we can relax because the Senate said they oppose chained CPI cuts to Social Security.”  In fact, it would not surprise me at all if the reason that this amendment was allowed to the Senate floor by the Democratic leadership was that it might calm down the grassroots left and organizations like AARP and give us a false sense of security, resulting in less organizing, less protesting, while they form a new commission prepare the way for the cuts that they are clearly determined to impose.  

The people in power who want to cut Social Security have been working at this for decades, with renewed fervor in recent years, some of them spending millions for astroturf groups, propaganda campaigns, and influence over elected officials.  One non-binding amendment in the Senate is no hurdle for them and if anything, I believe they will try to use it to their advantage.

Some other cautions about the Sanders amendment:  

1) The amendment was framed as opposition to using chained CPI for veterans benefits.

2) The amendment is non-binding.

3) While Sen. Sanders tried to get a roll call vote, he was persuaded by Sen. Murray to accept a voice vote, so none of the Senators, except the sponsors of the amendment, are on the record. The sponsors are: Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).  Four senators.

4) Sen. Burr of North Carolina is on the record as saying he “supported protecting veterans, but supported using chained CPI elsewhere”.