Some of the Democratic members of Congress are screaming bloody murder against Obama. His just-released budget proposes capping future Social Security cost-of-living increases. In principle, these Congressional Democrats are right to scream. In fact, Obama should have paid them to scream at him because that makes it look like he's really ready to cut a deal. But don't be fooled. Though they look to be at loggerheads, both Obama and the Congressional Democrats are doing exactly the right thing.
It's two things actually. They are wedging the GOP ever tighter into a corner and they are taking away the only issue the entire GOP has to stand on. It's one of the most clever and yet humane political achievements ever.
Wait! you are saying. Humane? Isn't Obama screwing the seniors by capping future benefit increases?
Nope. Because it isn't going to happen. The cap is conditional upon the GOP approving tax increases, which they will not do. They can't. They are all paralyzed by fear of being "primaried" next year, i.e. outflanked on the right by their own party and dumped out of office.
Once the GOP is on record as refusing to cut the deficit and debt by enacting any tax increase - even when offered a cut to an entitlement program - it's clear to everyone that the GOP doesn't really care at all about cutting the deficit and debt. They care far more about their wealthy selves and their wealthy friends paying low taxes. That's how it's been all along, just a big act by the GOP. Unfortunately the media allowed itself to be hornswaggled by the GOP into treating the deficit and debt as a huge and immediate threat to our country. In reality the debt is an old, old companion. We've never even paid off our World War II debt. I grew up hearing my GOP relatives yelling about FDR and the national debt. The country was supposed to collapse in the 1950s. Now I'm almost 80, and the country is still here, and so is the debt.
Yes, we should lower it over time. And, yes, a balanced budget is nice. But debt for governments and businesses is NOT a sinful and self-dooming thing. (See my posting about "outhouse economics".) Just as long as the debt isn't increasing too fast compared with the increase in growth and just as long as expenditures are for good purpose and the interest rates are reasonable.
(Reasonable interest rates? Wow! They are practically non-existent! The federal government is borrowing virtually free money. Maybe it should borrow tons more at these rates! Like borrow the free money to retire the debt that carries real interest.)
Once the GOP is shown up as not really caring about the debt and deficits, what do they have to stand on as a party? Zero. Zilch. They've abandoned their traditional hawk/militarism by refusing to do anything to stop the huge cuts just handed to the military. They can't rally votes any more around the social "hate" issues because the population has moved on. A majority of even the young Republicans now approve of same-sex marriage. And a majority of the majority, i.e. women, want the GOP to leave the reproductions issues alone. The GOP really tried hard with those issues in 2012 and took a bath. And they've also openly acknowledge that opposing immigration is a loser for them too.
How about the GOP issue of climate change being a hoax? That won't work for them either because, post the nightmare of Sandy, the majority of Americans tell pollsters that they once again believe that man-made climate change is real. And the media - largely based in NYC - is also far more tuned in now to climate change. They too got their feet wet in Sandy.
Nor is the sluggish economy a winner for the GOP. Obama's re-election proved that. And that was held to be their strongest issue.
So what does the GOP have besides the Debt Monster?
Nothing, pal. Just nothing.
And they are now about to kiss that issue goodbye. That means Obama can get on with governing. That's the humane part. Once the public's knickers are no longer twisted over the spooky debt, we can take care of business. Like getting an internet system with speed that's competitive with the rest of the world.
As of now, we trail Bulgaria and many other countries in internet speed. By a lot.
And once we get competitive in internet speed, education, and other good things, we shall have the non-destructive growth that will help lower the debt. That's the smart and humane way, not by cutting programs for the poor as the GOP has just done with the sequestration. Obama took some mud in the face from his Democratic Congressional chums this week but it was to very good purpose.
It was to save the people. It was good in its purpose. And it was brilliant in its execution.
The community organizer is still on the job.