Obama Wants to Be the President Who Rolled Back the New Deal
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There is no more pretense possible. As we’ve warned for some time, Obama is eager to put a notch on his belt by being the President that rolled back the New Deal programs that helped create broad-based middle-class prosperity and dignity. He’s cast himself as an adult inflicting discipline on profligate Americans. But in reality, the profligacy was most concentrated among elite financiers who used leverage on leverage vehicles to stoke liquidity that led to worldwide underpricing of risk. They paid themselves record bonuses in the years immediately preceding the crisis, and then in a grotesque display of ingratitude, did so again in 2009, able to do so only thanks to massive taxpayer support, alphabet-soup special borrowing programs, and the tax on savers known as ZIRP. And the direct result of their looting exercise that produced the crisis was the explosion in government deficits, due to a collapse in tax revenues and a rise in payments under countercyclical programs such as unemployment insurance and food stamps.
But are the real perps the object of Obama’s disciplinary impulses? No. He seems spectacularly unwilling to take on anyone even remotely approaching his size (as if a President should be cowed by senior banker bullies like Jamie Dimon). The President’s failure to reprimand the financial CEOs who dissed him by refusing to attend his address on the first year anniversary of Lehman was a tacit acknowledgement that they were really in the driver’s seat.
Keep in mind what is happening here. We are not in the realm of Obama kayfabe, where he pretends that those big bad Republicans forced him to do what he wanted to do all along. This is Obama’s budget offer, not the result of pretend hard fought battles over positions that are at most 10 degrees apart. As the Grey Lady describes it:
President Obama next week will take the political risk of formally proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare in his annual budget in an effort to demonstrate his willingness to compromise with Republicans and revive prospects for a long-term deficit-reduction deal, administration officials say…
Besides the tax increases that most Republicans continue to oppose, Mr. Obama’s budget will propose a new inflation formula that would have the effect of reducing cost-of-living payments for Social Security benefits, though with financial protections for low-income and very old beneficiaries, administration officials said. The idea, known as chained C.P.I., has infuriated some Democrats and advocacy groups to Mr. Obama’s left, and they have already mobilized in opposition…..
Mr. Obama will propose other spending and tax credit initiatives, including aid for states to make free prekindergarten education available nationwide — a priority outlined in his State of the Union address in February. He will propose to pay for it by raising federal taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.
I assume Obama’s flacks understand full well what an extreme porcine maquillage exercise “in an effort to demonstrate his willingness to compromise” is. We now have the absurd spectacle of Paul Ryan’s budget being to the left of Obama’s on the issue of Social Security and Medicare. If the Republicans have an iota of sense, they’ll take full advantage of the weapon Obama has handed them. Every poll ever done over the last 50 years shows substantial majorities favoring continuing and increasing Social Security and Medicare provisions, and either increasing taxes or cutting other spending to do so.
And Obama will pay for kiddie photo ops by increasing regressive taxes. Charming.
If it is any consolation, the chattering classes are ripshit. The article went up at the Times after 12:30 AM. By the time I saw it, about an hour later, it had 48 comments. Of them, 46 were disapproving, ranging from resigned to ripshit. A few examples: