Monday, December 17, 2012

Coldly Sadistic Passions

I knew we were in trouble the minute I read this New York Times headline:
Newtown Shooting May Cool Washington’s Partisan Passions
White House mouthpiece correspondent Jackie Calmes writes that the slaughter of 20 first graders has a miraculous silver lining! It seems that mass infanticide is magically greasing the skids of the Two-Man American Catfood Team. Boehner and Obama may be coasting to the finish line* in the Grand Bargain Olympics! They're putting the brakes on just in time to avoid that terrible horrible plunge down the pretend Fiscal Cliff.
BobamaRama DingDongs
Other players on the corporate media's Trial Balloon Team are signalling that our Social Security benefits will be cut after all, thanks to that sneaky cost-of-living adjustment known as chained CPI. It's sneaky, because not only will our lifetime benefits be cut, but middle income people will actually end up paying more in taxes now for less generous monthly checks when they retire. Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post explains the horror so I won't have to:
The group getting the biggest tax hike is families making between $30,000 and $40,000 a year. Their increase is almost six times that faced by millionaires. That’s because millionaires are already in the top bracket, so they’re not being pushed into higher marginal rates because of changing bracket thresholds. While a different inflation measure might mean that the cutoff between the 15 percent and 25 percent goes from $35,000 to $30,000, the threshold for the top 35 percent bracket is already low enough that all millionaires are paying it. Some of their income is taxed at higher rates because of lower thresholds down the line, but as a percentage of income that doesn’t amount to a whole lot.
Meanwhile, consummate centrist cheerleader Jackie Calmes is framing this as a great victory in her news analysis. You may remember that she'd dutifully helped get the austerity ball rolling with her recent puff piece about the Catfood Duo of Simpson & Bowles. The Chained CPI Plan of Death comes direct from their shriveled little reptilian brains.
 Think about it this way -- two other political hacks named Obama and Boehner are actually using the slaughter of children as cover for slaughtering old people. In the stifling world of Jackie Calmes, anyway, children's deaths are having a "salutary effect" on the deal made in hell. Her nauseating analysis:
While seemingly unrelated — the emotionally wrenching holiday-season massacre of 20 first graders and six of their guardians, and Washington’s mind-numbing fiscal fight to reduce deficits — the first cannot fail to have a salutary effect on the latter, say veterans of Washington’s partisan wars from both parties.  (I am taking bets on whether the initials of these "veteran insiders" are B&S).
For all their dissimilarities, past horrors — like the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, the 1998 killings of two Capitol policemen, the Columbine school murders the following year in Colorado and certainly the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — at least for a time cooled partisan passions that had been high beforehand, and in some cases prompted bipartisan actions on unrelated matters. (The two factions of the Money Party came together in a wondrous Kumbaya moment to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act just a few months after the massacre at Columbine High School. And who could forget the way they joined forces to kill the Bill of Rights after 9/11? Ain't disaster capitalism da bomb?)  
Yeah, put the emphasis on the "unrelated matters." If you were thinking, as I was for about five minutes, that Obama meant what he said at last night's memorial service and would be bully-pulpitting on gun control today, you were sadly mistaken. To the contrary -- the White House is already tamping down any great expectations. Spokesman Jay Carney was characteristically mealy-mouthed:
 "I think we all recognize that this is a complex problem and there are obstacles to taking action coming from a variety of places. What the president hopes is that everyone steps back and looks at the situation that has to be addressed and thinks broadly and thoughtfully about how we can move forward."

Carney suggested that the most Americans can immediately expect to see out of the White House will be an effort to engage the public "in the coming weeks." (wait till after Christmas when low attention spanned citizens will have forgotten all about Newtown.)
But back to our looming diet of cat food. Paul Krugman is on the fence about it, agonizing over whether we should agree to a bad deal in order to save the most vulnerable from an even worse deal. His commenters (me included) are understandably gobsmacked. This is just one more chapter of lesser-evilism in the 50 Shades of Sadism series of schlock that we are being forced to listen to, day in and day out.

* The Times is now reporting that Obama made the latest counter-offer. Obama put Social Security on the table. He didn't cave, he didn't capitulate. He is simply making good on his promise to piss off his base. Now we have to hope that the Republican wingers will give it a thumbs-down and we can all merrily sled down the slippery slope.


Denis Neville said...

So we have the confirmed offer by President Obama to cut Social Security benefits.

Shocked that Obama would do such a thing? Our only solace is that Romney would have been much worse?

Republicans love this idea because it cuts Social Security benefits and lowers the deficit. DINOs love it because it raises revenues. And they all love it because nobody understands what it means!


"Chained CPI" is code for "let's really impoverish the elderly and the disabled!"

In other words, austerity imposed by the elites. Another solution based on making poor people even poorer.

And we can count on the elite media to be on board this “Let’s-Whack-Entitlements” train.

Switching to the Chained CPI would result in cuts to already modest Social Security benefits. Tying the COLA to a chained CPI would result in a 3 percent benefit cut after 10 years and a 6 percent cut after 20 years. It would have the greatest impact on older retirees and disabled beneficiaries, who are often the poorest beneficiaries. Because Social Security provides an ever-greater share of their incomes as they grow older - as pensions are eroded by inflation, employment options end, and savings are depleted - even a minor erosion of the real value of benefits must be a public policy concern.

How would shifting to a Chained CPI affect the federal budget over the next decade (2012-2021)?

“It would reduce benefit outlays and increase revenues. Nearly two thirds of the impact would come from benefit reductions in programs such as Social Security, federal pensions, veterans’ pensions and compensation, and Supplemental Security Income, while one third would come from increased revenues. Beyond the first ten years, revenue gains are likely to shrink, while benefit cuts borne by elderly and disabled recipients are likely to remain indefinitely.” - National Academy of Social Insurance

“Serious agonizing for progressives, yours truly [Krugman] included.” The agony of it all??? Who in their right mind thinks what we need is for seniors near poverty to become poorer?

And not only would it be a painful cut in Social Security, the Chained CPI would be a stealth income tax hike for working Americans:

Valerie said...

This is why I voted for a Third Party - I couldn't be party to the rape of the Lower and Middle Classes in America that both parties promised. At least if Romney were in office, the Democrats in Congress would be motivated to vote against him. With Obama at the helm, Democrats will go right along with anything their Democratic leader tells them to throw their support behind.

Denis Neville said...

Stealth attacks are quietly slashing Americans:
• stealth Social Security cuts for the elderly and disabled
• stealth income tax hikes for working Americans
• stealth defense spending cuts for the Veterans Administration and military benefits

Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism: “One element of the coming budget pact that is not getting the attention it warrants is a covert effort to gut military benefits by privatizing them…The manufactured fiscal cliff crisis means that more profiteering is coming to the military, this by fundamentally changing the relationship of soldiers to the armed forces…

"On the healthcare side, this is simply an excuse for the medical industrial complex to get its blood suckers into the huge military budgets.The plum for privatizers is the healthcare and pension budgets: Instead of using the current government-contracted HMO/PPO model, called TriCare, military personnel and their families would receive health care vouchers allowing them to either purchase whatever health care plan they chose from an array of private sector providers.

"Instead of earning defined retirement benefits – pensions – soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines would each pay into privately held 401K programs – or simply take a lump sum of cash.

"In a win-win for corporate advocates, cuts to what they call the “excessive” and “burdensome” human side of the military will simultaneously fund greater spending on expensive weapons and communications systems.

"And under the pretext of providing “choice” to military personnel, the programs decrease total benefits and increase private sector access to government funds and the money of military personnel.”

“Soldiers who have often risked their lives and mental health will be shafted by these changes. It’s increasingly evident that the social contract, American style, is bait and switch.”

Disgraceful!!! Flat out disgusting!!!

Looks as if the Sadistarians in Washington will be serving sadistic fruitcake to the huddled masses for the holidays.

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism:

“A more accurate term for a system that erases the boundaries between Big Government and Big Business is not liberal, conservative or capitalist but corporatist. Its main characteristics are huge transfers of public wealth to private hands, often accompanied by exploding debt, an ever-widening chasm between the dazzling rich and the disposable poor, and an aggressive nationalism that justifies bottomless spending on security.”

“Once you accept that profit and greed as practiced on a mass scale create the greatest possible benefits for any society, pretty much any act of personal enrichment can be justified as a contribution to the great creative cauldron of capitalism, generating wealth and spurring economic growth – even if it’s only for yourself and your colleagues.”

James F Traynor said...

There really should be no surprise among progressives as to Obama's intentions regarding 'entitlements'. Almost immediately after the 2008 election when he named his financial advisors it should have become apparent that he was the quintessential new Democrat, a faithful member of the DLC, as were the Clintons before him. No friend of the working class they. The problem is what to do about it. But the tide may be turning within the party itself. I have some hope in people like Elizabeth Warren, Grayson and others. It's slim, I know.

Denis Neville said...

Very uncomfortable times for Paul Krugman, as he prepares to endorse Social Security cuts.

How it works.

The Obama White House floats rumors of cutting Social Security.
Krugman signals acceptance or rejection.

Krugman signals acceptance, but it just makes the progressive multi-millionaire economist feel so icky -

George Carlin warned us:

James F Traynor said...

Krugman! Et tu ...

Carlin. Loved that man.

Checked Move On's listing of Dem senators on cuts. Only 15 stood firm against them, 30 wavering, 3 gutless fucks.

Called Senator Nelson (FL) left message.

Beginning to snarl down deep in the old amygdala. Going to be pretty hard to control my beast. Wish I were a buddhist

Zee said...


Why should it come as any surprise that Obama is selling veterans down the river by (once again) proposing to privatize their insurance?

Back in 2009 or so Obama was floating this same proposal, from which he later backtracked under pressure.

I dared to mention this to a "Progressive" couple at my church who were crowing that they had voted for Obama because he would be ever so much better for vets than would have been McCain.

I was publicly and loudly called a "liar" by this couple in the presence of some of my fellow congregants, even though the then-co-pastors of the church told this couple and the bystanders that they had seen news articles similar to those to which I was referring back then.

When I sent this couple--and others who were present--links to numerous articles such as these,

I received neither reply nor apology from the couple, or any acknowledgement of any possible error by those who overheard me called a liar.

Nothing but stony silence to this day.

2nd-term Obama supporters, you're getting what you deserve.

Denis Neville said...

Thomas Geoghegan writes, “the biggest crisis we face is that most of us have nothing meaningful saved for retirement,”

“A recent Harris poll found that 34 percent of Americans have nothing saved for retirement - not even a hundred bucks. In this lost decade, that percentage is sure to go up. At retirement the lucky few with a 401(k) typically have $98,000. As an annuity that’s about $600 a month - not exactly an upper-middle-class lifestyle.”

“Retirees today are shortchanged on Social Security because they have been shortchanged on wages for their entire working lives…The United States is one of the few developed countries where workers are routinely cheated of a share in higher productivity. And where has the money from the extra productivity gone? It’s gone right to the top, to the top few percent.”

Contrast the above with the social networking in high places, “the massive business kaffeeklatsch - a stateside Davos,” by Kevin Roose, The Fixers: How Fix the Debt Won Over Wall Street and Built a Fiscal Cliff Army:

“The beautiful thing about this is that, when you get a room full of incredibly bright people with compelling ideas together in a room, something good comes of that.”

“Fix the Debt is a PR campaign that appears as a very sensible, very bipartisan effort. But at its core, all of it is window dressing for a very ideological, partisan policy position, which is the destruction of Social Security,” Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works

Obama lacked Romney’s oligarchic bona fides. However, he has proven himself to be a neoliberal without a conscience and, obligingly, has thrust the sword into Social Security while reducing the proposed taxes on the wealthiest by $400 billion - more than three times the savings of the planned cuts in Social Security.

Well at least a disguised cut in Social Security is not quite as bad as raising the Medicare eligibility age, sings the sainted Paul Krugman.

Glenn Greenwald, the day after Obama’s re-election, “the political leader in whose triumph liberals are today ecstatically basking is likely to target their most cherished government policies within a matter of weeks, even days. With their newly minted power, will they have any ability, or even will, to stop him? If history is any indication, this is how this "fight" will proceed:

We are at Step Four.

“Something good” comes from “incredibly bright people with compelling ideas together in a room.”

Valerie said...

The problem with politics today is that both Democrats and Republicans have their positions on issues spoon-fed to them. And instead of forming their own opinions, most Americans simply echo what someone has told them to think. It is easy to be this way - no searching for the real truth, no grappling with contradictory information. People don't use common sense to see what is happening before their eyes. Instead, they accept the spin on issues, which is always convoluted and fundamentally dishonest - leaving out critical details, twisting the truth to support their agenda or capitalising on fear.

The bottom line is we have a population of citizens largely too lazy to think for themselves. And this laziness knows no political affiliation. Both parties are full of ignorant voters who blindly follow whoever is leading their party and politicians who don’t mind selling those who trust them down the river.

I agree with @Zee – those who voted for Obama shouldn’t be surprised he is selling them out in favour of those who contributed the millions he "needed" to run his campaign. He was a traitor to his base in his first term - Do it to me once . . . and all that. As for the horrors of Mitt Romney – I doubt things would be all that different because the Democrats in Congress wouldn’t go along with Romney the way they are going along with Obama. Six of one, half a dozen of another.

Either way, the Middle Class and the Lower Class and the most vulnerable in our society get screwed while those who have the most, are allowed to take even more. I used to think, "Wake up America!" But I don't think America really has the ability to wake up to what is happening. - Only us Casandras who try to warn people but who aren't taken seriously.

Denis Neville said...

Karen, terrific response to Krugman’s “That Old Sick Feeling”

Another classic example of Naomi Klein’s 'Shock Doctrine’ – how those in power exploit times of crisis to push through their unpopular policies. "Never let a crisis go to waste."

Could there be any better timing to sneak this through? The American people are completely distracted by slaughter and guns and Christmas.

Just ram it through ASAP!

How will the Obot dead-enders spin this?

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Denis. Happy to see PK has finally seen the light and is off the fence. I wrote a very similar comment on one of his columns prior to the election, and it evoked a torrent of criticism from the same people who are now shocked, shocked I tell you that the president is "caving." Well, it seems the kool-aid high of the Times commentariat is finally wearing off. There are still a few die-hards stilling blaming Republican intransigence and Obamian weakness, however. I notice that Obama for America has suddenly stopping sending those annoying emails urging supporters to call Congress to make a deal: they know that we know what the real deal now is.

Anyway, here is my rehash of a comment to Krugman's blogpost:

We can't say we weren't warned. At the first debate, Barack Obama hazarded a guess that he and Romney weren't all that far apart on Social Security. At his nominating speech, he vowed he'd negotiate with the GOP on a deficit reduction plan based on the recommendations of the cat food commission. I was amazed when this promise actually became an applause line.

Mr. Obama is simply a much more adept politician than Mitt Romney. Unlike Romney, he had the good sense to make his wealthy donors check their cellphones at the door of his fundraisers, so as not to have those embarrassing 47% videos show up on youtube. He won the election by default.

Why try to sneak through Social Security cuts now? White House correspondent Jackie Calmes had an interesting (and rather nauseating) take this week on the seeming suddenness of the Boehner-Obama rapprochement: the Newtown massacre. Tragedies have a funny way of greasing the bipartisan skids. Hearts have apparently softened enough to make a deal to slowly kill off the old, the sick, and the poor. As the estimable Rahm Emanuel once said, "Never let a crisis go to waste."

Remember how Glass-Steagall was repealed only a few months after Columbine? And we all know what happened to the Constitution after 9/11.

I look forward to hearing the president's inaugural address. If he channels FDR and says he welcomes their hatred, he won't be talking about Wall Street. He'll be talking about his own base.

spreadoption said...

Well said, Valerie, and that about sums it up for us Cassandra's. Just above, Denis referred us to an article by Glenn Greenwald. It lists the six steps Democrats (and Obamabots) use to defeat us Progressives. It all rings too true as we're seeing it played out perfectly against us.

Ultimately, it's the Pogo thing: "We have met the enemy and he is us." What reason do we have for hope when almost half of us voted for Rmoney-Ryan and we keep re-electing terrible sociopaths like McConnell and Boehner and so many others? And the narcissist Obama!

Whatever economics I know I've learned from Paul Krugman over the past five years. What has been disconcerting, and seemingly inconsistent in his reasoning, is his enthusiastic support of Obama. Now he seems trapped over the issue of Social Security. Good! Let's see him squirm (or not).

My one thin sliver of hope is that a few individual Democrats in Congress will come together, as James Traynor suggests above, and form a nucleus to begin overhauling the Democratic Party. Probably it's a false hope. We've always had a few good people (I always think first of Bernie Sanders, and now we're getting Elizabeth Warren) but they remain sidelined and powerless. Go back to Greenwald's six steps.

It was encouraging, too, that on Current TV a few nights ago, Eliot Spitzer and his guests were direct in pointing the finger of responsibility at Obama (as well as Congress, of course) for his failure (refusal) to act on gun control. Hooray for that, but let's see what actually happens in the next few days and months. By now we know the routine.

So what do we Cassandra's do now, Ollie?

Denis Neville said...

Fix the Debt’s “core principles” focus on social safety net spending cuts, while defense spending cuts as a viable deficit reduction option are not.

Well, as Gomer Pyle used to say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

38 Fix the Debt leaders have ties to 43 companies with defense contracts totaling $43.4 billion in 2012. Fix the Debt leaders profiting from defense spending include the group’s co-chairs, steering committee members, and CEO council members; they have ties to these companies as board members, executives and CEOs, and lobbyists.

Outside of Fix the Debt’s CEO Council, four individuals in Fix the Debt’s core leadership group have strong ties to defense contractors: co-chair Judd Gregg (director, Honeywell), and steering committee members Sam Nunn (director, GE, Hess, Coca-Cola), Vic Fazio (director, Northrop Grumman), and Jim McCrery (lobbyist, GE and Chevron).

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower

James F Traynor said...

"I look forward to hearing the president's inaugural address. If he channels FDR and says he welcomes their hatred, he won't be talking about Wall Street. He'll be talking about his own base."

Shit, Karen, that's great and I hope so, though I think a lot of them have truly imbibed of the cool-aide. I can understand voting for him out of real politik, which I did, but supporting what he's doing after is pure insanity. He truly is a prick. Failure to recognize that is pure insanity.

Denis Neville said...

Just as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was George Bush's poodle, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is Obama’s poodle.

Pelosi says that the Social Security cut proposed by Obama would “strengthen” the program, and that liberals in Congress who are unhappy with Obama's concession to the GOP would nevertheless support him.

Fetch Nancy! Heal Nancy! Good girl Nancy!

Bloody poodle!

Valerie said...

When it came out how many members of Congress were guilty of what amounted to insider trading - and Nancy Pelosi has made a fortune this way - it was clear to me that she was one of the many for sale. I can't stand her.

She and Boehner are cut from the same cloth. Obama's poodle - I can think of worse names for her.

Outsida said...

President Obama may soon have more than he can handle. He believes he has a mandate in this country, but winning in large part because of a politically incorrect unspoken fear of Mormonism or a distaste for a pampered rich man doesn't give him one.

Gun owners already weren't happy with his buying the election, and now they are doing some heavy duty buying of their own, adding to their formidable arsenal in the face of a federal crackdown on weapons.

Soon taxes of one kind or another will go up, benefits will go down, and nobody is going to be happy with the deal he cuts, except the wealthy who will weasel out of anything that impacts them.

When the expense of Obamacare finally hits taxpayers personally, it could be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Does anyone actually see a future that looks promising for anyone but the rich?

Obama may soon get his chance to try on one of his many personae, and probably his favorite - Lincoln. Too bad it will only be a role played by a self-taught yet gifted actor with no spine, no core, and no moral compass. Will he play his role to perfection? Stay tuned.