Okay, so it’s only a few days after the election, too early, some would say, to get a bead on where Obama is heading for the next four years. During the entire election cycle, we were hearing from the Obamapoligists that, freed from having run again, Obama would suddenly become the populist that “we all knew he was.” To my mind, that’s just as much magical thinking as the right believing Obama’s a Socialist. I wish he was!
Well, here are, after the election, and Obama has made his first speech. It was on the “grand bargain” that has to be negotiated between the White House and the Congress on the budget and tax plan, in order to avoid draconian cuts to many different programs, agreed upon last year. A few days ago, Glen Greenwald published an excellent essay on Alternet, wherein he laid-out six steps that this negotiation would probably take, if it was like most of the other negotiations the Obama administration has carried-out with the House and Senate. Here is Greenwald’s prediction of the first step, which Obama and other’s took last week:
“STEP ONE: Liberals will declare that cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits – including raising the eligibility age or introducing “means-testing” – are absolutely unacceptable, that they will never support any bill that does so no matter what other provisions it contains, that they will wage war on Democrats if they try.”
Unfortunately, Obama didn’t say anything remotely like that. Here was a guy, recently reelected in a manner that repudiated the “ tea party” mindset that dominated Congress for the past two years, in an excellent position to push for a total repeal of the Bush tax cuts without cutting the social safety net at all, and his position, stated Friday, was that everything is on the table.
“I’m not wedded to every detail of my plan. I’m open to compromise,” he said.
In addition, Chuck Schumer, who’s obviously running point for the negotiation in the Senate, also stated specifically that Medicare and Medicade were on the table.
My point is, why are Medicade, Medicare, and possibly Social Security being considered for cuts in the opening round of negotiations? Why is Obama leading with capitulations, when he just won an election? Some of the stories were calling Obama’s speech “a line in the sand,” and perhaps it was, in some sense, but why was the line drawn where it was? It seems that every time this President goes head-to-head with Congress, he ties one hand behind himself before he even begins to fight.
I was always taught to begin a negotiation asking (or demanding) far more than I was willing to settle for. This President begins with the most negative outcome possible, and begs for a settlement somewhere near it. Why the hell is he giving Medicare cuts away? One can only conclude that these are the marching orders that he’s been given, and, of course, there’s no doubt where they’re coming from.
This is going to be an interesting next few weeks.