The White House came out today with its doom report on the mandated cuts that will go into effect if Congress doesn’t agree on some form of deficit reduction post-haste. They have already signaled that they don’t expect these to be more than talking/incentive points, but the scope of cuts are illustrative of what counts in DC terms as a bargaining incentive. From Politico:
The overview: There would be a 9.4 percent cut to most defense programs — except those exempted in the sequestration law — and a 10 percent cut to a handful of other Pentagon accounts that are not subject to annual congressional appropriations. Medicare would get hit with a 2 percent cut, while domestic discretionary programs — such as scientific grants and Education Department programs — would be subject to 8.2 percent cuts. Most mandatory domestic programs — those that are funded based on eligibility — would be slashed by 7.6 percent….
The hit list: Education grants, money for the FBI and border patrol agents, air traffic control management, safety measures for food and drinking water, and scientific research, among others.
This part struck me as particularly cynical, both on the part of Politico and of the administration:
But many of Democrats’ favorite programs, including Social Security and Medicaid, were exempted from the pain as part of that debt-limit agreement, possibly leaving Obama less room to portray Republicans as insensitive to the needs of the most impoverished Americans.
Obama is concerned about no such thing. At the convention, both he and Biden went out of their way to frame the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson Catfood Commission as the baseline for negotiations, which is just another way of saying that cuts to these safety net programs have been normalized as legitimate means of deficit reduction. And it’s not necessary to rely solely on the convention speeches. After all, Obama was the one who put Social Security on the table without the Republicans even asking, and has been signaling since before the convention that some sort of reform remained on the table (and by some measures, has made it evident since his May 2008 statement that “everything should be on the table” when it came to Social Security).
I would love to be wrong, but it seems self-evident that we are going to see benefit cuts regardless of who wins in November.