If U.S. citizens are increasingly concerned that the Democratic Party is no longer willing to fight off the right-wing attack on Social Security, Medicare, and other key social programs, Sen. Dick Durbin, President Obama and other party leaders have recently offered plenty of evidence to increase that worry.
Since the end of the government shutdown and standoff over the debt limit ended last week, Obama has repeatedly said that he wants to find a “balanced” solution to the ongoing budget debate with Republican lawmakers.
Unless a broad-based populist movement against such a deal manifests—and soon—the American public should expect some scenario in which programs like Medicare and Social Security receive long-term cuts in exchange for a short-term budget deal with Republicans.
In his first public remarks following the reopening of the government, Obama said his goal would be a “balanced approach to a responsible budget” and later declared: “The challenges we have right now are not short-term deficits; it’s the long-term obligations that we have around things like Medicare and Social Security.”
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On Sunday, Durbin repeated another familiar GOP talking point by telling Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace: “Social Security is gonna run out of money in 20 years. The Baby Boom generation is gonna blow away our future. We don’t wanna see that happen.”
But as the Huffington Post’s Zach Carter, reporting on Durbin’s Fox appearance, immediately pointed out:
Responding to Durbin’s Fox News performance, FireDogLake’s DSWright fired off a post which included:
And Richard Eskow, a fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future, went further, blasting Durbin for what he termed “inflammatory” rhetoric that isn’t “just false” but comes “dangerously close to demagoguery.”
According to The Nation’s John Nichols, the budget battle is now heightened in the wake of the latest shutdown fiasco, and it remains unclear how members from the Senate and House will craft a deal that doesn’t end inb a repeated stalement. As Nichols reports:
However—and despite those (Eskow among them) who congratulated the president for “not negotiating” when the recent threat of a federal default loomed—it seems that the long-game for GOP “hostage-takers” is to see how often they can impose a crisis before the Democrats finally are allowed to bend (as they’ve repeatedly suggested they will) on dismembering their most successful and once-coveted policy achievements: Social Security and Medicare.
As Eskow, citing ample evidence, writes:
Within the established circle of Beltway punditry and cable news shows, the idea of a negotiated settlement in which Democrats offer up cuts to earned benefit programs like Social Security in exchange for some sort of vague “revenue increase” is now heralded as the “obvious” and “mature” course for Congress and the Obama White House.
However, as Eskow argues, “entitlement cuts are not an ‘adult’ position” but rather “the conservative position” of long-standing.
Further, pushing back against Democrats who have embraced the idea of a so-called ‘Grand Bargain’ with their Republican counterparts, Eskow says that unless a broad-based populist movement against such a deal manifests—and soon—the American public should expect some scenario in which programs like Medicare and Social Security receive long-term cuts in exchange for a short-term budget deal with Republicans.
More and more, Eskow writes, “we find ourselves in a Bizarro-World situation where too many Democrats speak like Republicans, most Republican Party leaders speak like right-wing extremists, and the Republican Party ‘insurgents’ sound more and more like the leaders of paramilitary militias.”
This lurch to the right is not only bad economics, he argues, but clearly bad politics, too. He writes:
But for those Americans forced to watch the increasingly ‘Bizarro-World’ of Washington politics surrounding the budget battle, what is the scenario in which the idea of Social Security or Medicare cuts are vanquished? Eskow predicts the odds are slim, but argues the only scenario to be hopeful for is one in which “progressives, both officeholders and activists, lead a popular movement which reflects public opinion and defends these programs from so-called ‘Grand Bargain’ cuts.” And concludes: