Surely, President Obama can’t be serious when he proposes to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits in order to get Republicans to allow an increase in the country’s debt. He must know that such a plan is unlikely to win approval in Congress, and that if it does, it would probably mean the end of his re-election hopes.
The president is not talking only about future “reforms”; he is talking about reducing the income of today’s Social Security recipients by changing the way cost-of-living adjustments are calculated.
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There are still Democrats in Congress who believe in preserving the social safety net, and they cannot be expected to vote for such an assault on seniors.
Not surprisingly, organizations like AARP are up in arms. I got a phone call yesterday inviting me to join a conference call that was in progress. AARP officials were discussing the issue and urging older folks to contact their representatives in Congress.
Some commentators suggest that the president knows Republicans will not accept the deal, that they will reject any proposal to increase tax revenue, even by closing loopholes and ending wasteful government subsidies. They see President Obama’s latest overture as political gamesmanship designed to make him look as if he is bending over backwards to placate the unreasonable Republicans in a last-ditch effort to avert an economic catastrophe. Annoying as that would be, I hope it’s true.
But if so, the president is playing a dangerous game. In his obsession with bipartisanship, he has antagonized organized labor, the anti-war movement and other key elements of the Democratic base. Now, he is picking a fight with seniors.
That’s no way to rally support for his 2012 re-election campaign.
It’s not as if he has no choice. He could accept the McConnell-Reid plan that would raise the debt ceiling in three stages.
Or he could do as Bill Clinton suggests and invoke his Constitutional authority to raise the debt ceiling by executive order.
Undoubtedly, that would enrage Republicans.
They would retaliate in every possible way – by a lawsuit perhaps, or even through an attempt to impeach him.
The way I see it, that would simply mean precipitating a battle that must be fought sooner or later, anyway.
This country is irreparably divided. Bipartisanship and compromise are no longer possible.
To end the gridlock that is paralyzing Washington, the battle must be joined. The victor will determine the path forward.