Jane Hamsher, after noting that the Progressive Caucus will surely follow Obama no matter what noises they make, concludes that this is about much more than two New Deal programs:
What we’re watching is the death of the Democratic Party. Or, at least the Democratic Party as most of us have known it. The one that has taken its identity in the modern era from FDR and the New Deal, from Keynesianism and the social safety net. Despite any of its other shortcomings (and they are myriad), the Democratic Party has stood as a symbol for commitment to these principles. As recently as 2006, Democrats retook the House in a surprise wave election because the public feared that George Bush would destroy Social Security, and they trusted the Democrats over Republicans to secure it. Just like George Bush, Obama now wants to “save” Social Security….by giving those who want to burn it to the ground the the very thing they’ve wanted for decades.
Any member of any party who participates in this effort does not deserve, and should not get, the support of anyone who values Social Security and cares about its preservation. The amount of damage that the Democrats under Obama have been able to do has been immeasurable, by virtue of the fact that they are less awful that George Bush. But where George Bush failed, Obama will probably succeed.
Which means we’re watching another casualty here: Democracy. Or at least, the illusion that we live in a democratic society. The public, regardless of party, overwhelmingly opposes cuts to Social Security and Medicare. But elected officials of both parties are hell-bent on conspiring to bring the programs to an end. They seem to have come to grips with a fact that the public has not: their tenure in office depends on carrying out the wishes of oligarchical elites.
Matt Taibbi on the inadequacy of Democratic Party excuses for its behavior in executing these policies:
The blindness of the DLC-era “Third Way” Democratic Party continues to be an astounding thing. For more than a decade now they have been clinging to the idea that the path to electoral success is social liberalism plus laissez-faire economics – in other words, get Wall Street and corporate America to fund your campaigns, and get minorities, pro-choice and gay marriage activists (who will always frightened into loyalty by the Tea Party/Christian loonies on the other side) to march at your rallies and vote every November. They’ve abandoned the unions-and-jobs platform that was the party’s anchor since Roosevelt, and the latest innovations all involve peeling back their own policy legacies from the 20th century. Obama’s new plan, for instance, might involve slashing Medicare and Social Security under “pressure” from the Republicans.
I simply don’t believe the Democrats would really be worse off with voters if they committed themselves to putting people back to work, policing Wall Street, throwing their weight behind a real public option in health care, making hedge fund managers pay the same tax rates as ordinary people, ending the pointless wars abroad, etc. That they won’t do these things because they’re afraid of public criticism, and “responding to pressure,” is an increasingly transparent lie.
Mark Thoma on the mindset revealed in the budget press conference:
The president just held a press conference on deficit reduction talks with Republicans. I found the president’s remarks during the press conference disappointing on several fronts. First, I am disappointed that the president seems committed to doing whatever it takes to reach a deal. There are lines that ought to be drawn in the sand, but even when they are drawn the lines are erased and moved as needed. It looks like a deal will be reached, the only question at this point seems to be how much the president will give away to get it. The president was, of course, trying to make it look like he is the one willing to compromise so that if a deal is not reached, the consequences will be blamed on Republicans. But it also appears he is willing to move quite a bit to get a deal done.
Thus, with the best plan ruled out — stimulus now, deficit reduction in the future — we are left with the lesser of two evils. Give in to the job and economy killing spending cuts the Republicans are demanding and the president appears to have embraced, or risk doing even more damage by failing to come to an agreement and defaulting on the debt. Our choices should not be limited to those options, and the fact that they are is yet another reason to be disappointed in the outcome of the talks. The president should have fought for a third option, he has the ability to change the political reality instead of just throwing up his hands and saying this is the best he can do, and those who are the most vulnerable, the unemployed, those relying on programs that will be cut, etc. will pay the largest cost.
David Kurtz of Talking Points Memo on the nearer-term implications:
Self-Defeating on Politics and Policy
Democrats on the Hill in charge of boosting their parties representation in the House and Senate are reportedly deeply concerned that if the White House agrees to Medicare benefit cuts it will squander Democrats’ political advantage on that issue in 2012. They’d be right.
Yves Smith on the broader social ramifications:
Even knowing how dedicated to bad ends Obama is, I still feel like I’ve walked into a parallel universe. He’s now determined to make these horrific entitlement cuts a sign of his manhood. This is “Change” for sure, to a more brutal, grasping, dog eat dog society, all administered by self serving elites. They will in the end reap the whirlwind they are creating, but not before it mows a path of destruction through our social order.