Friday, October 25, 2013

Grand Bargain Bait & Switch

When is a Grand Bargain not a Grand Bargain?

When the movers and shakers of the Beltway realize that "Grand Bargain" is now one of the most loathed phrases in America. When the bipartishits realize that the whole country is on to their collusion to defy the wishes of 80% of the American public by "reforming" the great social insurance programs of the 20th century. When they resort to weasel words and to Grand Bargain Denialism to throw the AARP and various progressive groups off the scent.

The liberal blogosphere was orgasming today over the news that Majority Leader Harry Reid has finally grown a pair and vowed to protect Social Security and Medicare from the budget chopping block!
 “If you give a bully a dollar today, they ask for a dollar and a half tomorrow,” he said in a radio interview with Nevada's KNPR. “It has taken a while for all my caucus to come to that understanding. And quite frankly, the president, wonderful man that he is, he doesn’t like confrontation and he likes to work things out with people.”
“I was too lenient. Don’t blame it all on him,” Reid added. 
He also ruled out the possibility that a budget conference committee convening next week will reach a "grand bargain" that would cut entitlements, raise taxes and reduce spending. 
“We are not going to have a grand bargain in the near future,” he said. 
Not so fast with the congratulations to Give Em Hell Harry, liberals. Read the fine print. By "near future," Reid means in the next six weeks, or until mid-December when the latest bipartisan gang has deadlined itself into striking another nibbler of a deal to only temporarily stave off disaster.

There's always early next year. The government could shut down again on January 17th, and the debt ceiling is again in danger of being breached right before Valentine's Day. And thus, in only a few short months, Reid will again be open to some grand-bargaining on "entitlements":
The Democratic leader signaled that he could be open to minor trimming of some Medicare or Social Security spending as part of deal that involves tax revenue. Obama in his last budget included more means testing for Medicare and lower Social Security benefits as part of a new inflation calculation. 
“The president has stuck his neck out ... there has to be some reciprocity here,” he said. 
Asked about entitlements, Reid said: “I am happy to do that on some grand bargain ... that is not going to happen this time.”
Reid said this even while admitting that Social Security is "the most successful program in the history of the world. It's not about to go broke."
Thus does Harry Reid echo the sentiments of chief GOP budget negotiator Paul Ryan, who has once again pivoted from Tea Party Crazyville and is safely back in Third Way New Democrat (centrist plutocrat cult) territory. Remember, it was only a couple weeks ago that Ryan, too, was heavy into Grand Bargain denialism.  Of course, it's just a matter of employing the right semantics and weasel words. Although, like Reid, he proclaims himself opposed to a Grand Bargain, he, too, still wants a grand bargain of entitlement cuts in the not-so-distant near future:
"If we focused on doing some big grand bargain, like those prior efforts ... then I don't think we'll be successful because we'll focus on our differences. Each party will demand that the other compromises a core principle and then we'll get nothing done."
Ryan, who will lead Republicans on the 29-member negotiating panel that convenes on October 30, said there is a better chance of finding common ground with Democrats on "smarter" spending cuts to replace the across-the-board reductions to discretionary spending. He said these include reductions and reforms to expensive federal benefits programs known as entitlements, such as Social Security, Medicare and some farm subsidy programs. (Karen here: he means cutting food stamps to starve people, but is too cowardly to say so right out loud.)
And don't despair, all ye who entered here in hopes of finding a stocking-full of cat food for Christmas. Because President Obama is suddenly agreeable to cutting reforming Social Security Disability in the current negotiations. (I knew there was a reason 60 Minutes just ran a propaganda hit piece falsely claiming that hordes of malingerers are bilking the system.)

And now I know what Obama really meant when he appeared before a group of disabled people last year and promised he would "have their backs."

As an antidote to the Grand Bargain propaganda campaigns of Plutopundit Tom Friedman and his pluto-pal Stan Druckenmiller, and all manner of Doomsday Coots in Suits, Paul Krugman has written a great column ripping them all a new one. My response:
Druckenmiller belongs to the Forbes 400 billionaires who now possess more wealth than 150 million other Americans combined. Yet there he goes, touring the country, whining to college kids and scapegoating Grandma as the Cruella DeVil stealing their hopes and dreams and puppies. Not he and the austerian masters of high finance!
They've got a bad case of plutocratic paranoia -- fear that the old, the disabled, poor families, and veterans are scraping by at their expense.
Druckenmiller, Pete Peterson and the whole gang of media-dubbed "thought leaders" think they own the place. Well, actually they do own the place. And they want to own the people inhabiting the place. They're the ideological descendants of feudal lords, plantation owners and robber barons. They want their labor free or cheap, and they want the right to discard it when it's outlived its usefulness.
And the people at the bottom are starting to get restless. McWorkers are demanding a living wage. Retirees are refusing to accept chained CPI cuts to their earned benefits. Teachers and students and other victims of privatization are striking. The SEC is threatening to enforce a Dodd-Frank rule that CEOs must reveal the obscene gap between their wealth and the peanuts they pay in wages. (average ratio is now 350 to 1 and climbing.)
The paranoid plutocrats know they've gone too far, but they're powerless to overcome their own addictions. It's past time to give them some hefty taxation therapy, wouldn't you say?


Elizabeth Adams said...

"Taxation therapy"!

Thanks for my early morning lol! I will be using that phrase a lot in the near future.

stev-oe said...

I have been away for a few days - in Montreal(reveling in the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the Musee de Beaux Arts, speechless) and Karen posts something every friggin day! I will go away more often. What a treat to come home and be hit with this, my head exploded! Like the decal on the car says: "I am much happier since I gave up all hope" Karen, thank you for your effort. By the way, getting across the border was a breeze this time, both ways. I really don't care about anything, anymore. What is to be gained by caring? Nothing, nothing is going to change.

Pearl said...

Stev-oe and others of like mind:

" What is to be gained by caring? Nothing, nothing is going to change."

Something has come to mind which I will try on for size with you. Yes, it seems hopeless because we expect that our capitalist system will suddenly metamorphosis into something we can live with. I believe that what is really happening is that the nation is now plugged into an unstoppable trajectory whose momentum is shredding the current system no matter what faux changes that Karen speaks about are happening. In other words we can no longer be heard
as we are not able to stop the momentum of this runaway train. That
whooshing sound you hear are the pieces tearing off which has taken the place of a people led revolution. However, our job now
is to keep our balance until it runs itself out and then begin the job of
repair work. Our criticisms are not useless but a guidepost to putting a
giant crossword puzzle together with a workable picture on its cover when
the time comes.

I sent a comment to Krugman's column suggesting that since it is past time
to keep spouting theoretical philosophies, I hoped
he would step off the economist pedestal at this point. He should
join the people who need help in learning how to survive and help turn some things around that may change direction, or at least blunt it until sanity may begin to prevail once the dust has cleared.

I feel that the U.S. has finally run out of steam in its mad rush to nowhere and we have to start thinking beyond the immediate.
This may sound like a fantasy, but why do I keep hearing those whooshing
sound going by louder and louder?
Time will tell if I have become a conspiracy nut or are really hearing
things that are coming closer and closer. Meanwhile imagine the reactions of all the unlovable officials and pundits when things really hit the fan and
cannot be excused or dismissed. Just a year or two ago who could have
imagined some of the events that have occurred such as the exposure of the
NSA activities which have outraged the rest of the world (thank you
Snowden), or the turnout of the ACA for Obamacare, or the temporary shut
down of the government, ad infinitum. All this is now accelerating so be on

Flame Warrior Pearl

Jay - Ottawa said...

Hope belongs in churches. It’s a theological virtue, not a civic virtue.

Believers get down on their knees with hope. Fine, but that doesn’t work in the political world, where we have to stand up and fight for fairness every day of the week.

Hope on earth is a word properly trotted out around the gambling tables of Reno or the countless cash registers where hopey fools buy lottery tickets. If you deconstruct the word hope honestly, you find cynicism or humor at its core. Never dependable results.

The political fortunes of ordinary Americans are at an unusual low. Check out Charles M. Blow’s op-ed for this morning’s stat sheet where he compares the depression of commoners with the mounting fortunes of the rich. (Then jump down a bit, past all the loyalists and Republican bashers who still hope in Obama, to Karen’s comment.)

The rich don’t hope to get where they are. Neither should the poor to get what they need.

Pearl said...

Thank you Jay for your honest comment including access to Blow's painfully
honest column and Karen's as always brilliant response.
As long as people wait for others to lead them out of the desert as Moses
supposedly did (which never happened according to honest investigations of
this event), nothing will change. Obama, God, prayer will not save anyone - it never has. The trick is to get it through the heads of the victims of injustice that they have the ability to change their lot if they organize and fight despite all the obstacles. In many cases they have nothing to lose anymore. This will happen when as I mentioned in my recent diatribe, the political system we live under is no longer functional and it is time to step in and reorganize how we choose to live.
When and how it will take place is coming at us pretty soon but of course, how we metamorphosis into another form could be better or worse.
There are nations that now exist which have resolved some of the problems that are occurring in the U.S. and elsewhere.
There were also other excellent responses to Blow's column that made sense which is encouraging.
I and others of the older generations can only try to imagine what will
transpire but our progeny will be forced to face these realities and make hard decisions. Meanwhile, we still have the power to help the most
vulnerable as little as it may be and are responsible for supporting the
saner elements of our system for the time being. Instead of God Bless
America as Obama and others often end their speeches with, it should be God
Help America which will never happen either way.And if I should discover when I expire that there is indeed an existing deity running the world,
he, she or it will really hear from me!

Jay - Ottawa said...

Here’s a grand bargain:

-- a 78-year old president who (though not rich) gives 90% of his salary to charity;

-- a president who doesn’t live in the presidential palace but chooses to stay in the same home he had before he became president;

-- a country with pretty good health coverage for all;

-- a country where marijuana is about to become legal as a first step in undermining the narcos;

-- a president who thinks and says absolutely crazy things like this:

"We have sacrificed the old immaterial Gods, and now we are occupying the temple of the Market-God. He organises our economy, our politics, our habits, our lives and even provides us with rates and credit cards and gives us the appearance of happiness."

Sorry, Jose Mujica of Uruguay is not eligible to head a Third Party ticket in the USA, much as some of us might like to bait and switch to something other than what we've got..

James F Traynor said...

Yeah, Pearl, you give him, her or it hell! But don't go there anytime soon; I've always hated goodbyes and the older I get the harder it gets.

That whooshing sound you hear is because we're getting closer to the ground in our trajectory. Like the time I was standing last in line waiting to go out the door of a gimpy Goony Bird. Scary as hell, but the old Goony (C47), along with a great re-tread pilot, saved our asses. This time there's no chute, no great plane, or pilot to get us out of the mess.

Hope is the universal narcotic of our species and religion the emergency room. But in the end, all we've got is a rickety transport and a DUI at the controls. So hang on everybody and, what the hell, hope!

October 27, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Pearl said...

The other day I was in the exercise room of our retirement development and
said Hello to a lady I often see using the treadmill. I was going to the pool next door which is a wonderful salt water warm one and relieves a lot of my arthritis misery. We sat down and we started chatting about our efforts to keep our bodies going and it turned out that she is a survivor of serious heart surgery some time back (for atrial fibrillation) and I as
well with a complicated triple bypass 15 years ago. We looked at each other
and I said "You know you are alive and I am alive", sharing the amazing
realization that medical advances had given us this extra bonus of life. I
then mentioned my excitement at being involved as a future donor with the
Cancer Center in Toronto where the research going on is on the track to
finding the prevention and cure for cancer and now has become a major center for Canada as well as the world.
She knew all about it as a relative with breast cancer had been saved at
their cancer center and now goes for regular check ups. I told her of the
personal conversation I had with one of the major researchers where he took
the time to tell me of his work on prostate cancer and had thanked him for his dedication and hard work for such a noble cause. There ARE areas in our lives where hope does reside and involves the use of science and knowledge and experiment by people with talent and idealism to
create better health prospects for humanity. Here is the model that should be a signpost for dealing with other aspects of people's needs. And as I mentioned previously about the cancer center in Toronto, they are creating a tremendously important group of researchers led by an American medical scientist who has hired several outstanding researchers from the U.S. whose work has been hampered by Federal cutbacks.
I felt a sense of real hope regarding this topic of conversation and it
renews my ongoing comment battle every chance I get in the NYTimes when
Obamacare articles come to the fore. No, I do nor support it.
In addition, this lady and I found other mutual areas of shared interests
and this experience has lifted my spirits all around which I wanted to share with all of you.
And James I am so glad you survived WW2 when we felt we were fighting for a
just cause. Now we are facing another kind of war for political and social

Pearl said...

Comment to Paul Krugman's column, "The Big Sludge"

Burlington, Ontario

Dr.Krugman, you have repeated in today's column what has been stated by you several times before. Namely, that Obamacare has its inefficiencies but it was the only thing we could get since it was not politically possible to extend Medicare to cover all, etc. . We never knew what we could have gotten since it was all prearranged as soon as President Obama got into office and pushed and prodded for a huge complicated health care bill wherein the private sectors were calling the shots and the American people were never

I think the citizens of the United States deserve more than the crumbs of a health care bill which for those of us knowledgeable about other kinds of health coverage as in Canada where I live, know for certainty despite all
the hopes and promises of Obamacare that it cannot survive and cover even a fraction of the needs of Americans. The fact that you keep trying to excuse the recent history of how health care is being handled in the U.S. means that you are not comfortable with its formulation but are willing to accept what the limited vision in Washington has formulated for us.

Even extending Medicare which already is passing on costs to Seniors will
not work until and when it is removed from the hands of the private profit
making sectors in the U.S. We need fighters on this issue, not cavers in to the bankrupt policies being instituted. Perhaps more will come forward once we begin to see the handwriting on the wall.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Pearl. PK just can't bring himself to blame a single Democrat, can he? I am pleasantly surprised that so far tonight, no commenters are really sticking up for Obamacare just for the sake of Obama. None of the "GOP bad, Dems good" baloney for a change. Here's my comment:

It wasn't just "the power of the insurance industry and the reluctance of workers" that prevented single payer. What about the political cowardice and corruption? Remember: the ACA was passed without one GOP vote.

Think back to "independent" Joe Lieberman and the single-handed way he denied Medicare buy-ins to millions in the vulnerable 55+ population. Cringe to the memory of Finance Chair Max Baucus, who actually barred testimony from physician proponents of Single Payer at hearings. His chief of staff, Liz Fowler of WellPoint, was tasked with writing the 2000-page "kludge" before she moved to the White House to help implement it. Then it was through the revolving doors to lobby for Johnson & Johnson.

The ACA doesn't need to be repealed. It needs to be reformed. And by that, I mean getting rid of those eminently "preventable" middlemen of an insurance industry with its bloated costs, obscene CEO profits, and built-in aggravation.

Progressives need some rallying cries. Suggestions:

The era of Big Privatization is over.

We are citizens with a basic right to health care: we are not consumers of health insurance "product."

We demand the health care we need, not the health care we can afford.

We have to shrink democracy-crushing neoliberalism down to the size of a pea, and then drown it in the kludgey-sludgey bathtub.

An estimated 31 million people are being denied admission to the ACA pool. That is unacceptable. Support John Conyers' H.R. 676. (Medicare for All.)

James F Traynor said...

.No, Pearl, not WWII, but a little later during a routine flight, but still a great old bird, loosing altitude with a feathered engine and a pilot, and crew chief who had survived the big one.

They've been weeded or retired out, those people who we once depended upon in the Democratic Party to represent our interests and we're left with the likes of Bacchus who can now safely withdraw with his avatars, the Clintons and Obamas, to take his place.

I've joined the Greens but with no great hope. Only the embers, Warren in the Senate and Grayson and Sanders in the House, along with a few others remain.

Zee said...


You say “P[aul] K[rugman] just can't bring himself to blame a single Democrat, can he?”

Well, I'm seeing indications that he is now going well beyond merely not criticizing Democrats, to out-and-out-lying for them. Or, at least, lying in defense of ObummerCare.

In a recent column, “Lousy Medicaid Arguments,” PK sez:

“ Remember “rate shock”? A few months ago it was all the rage in right-wing circles, with supposed experts claiming that Americans were about to face huge premium increases.

It quickly became clear, however, that what these alleged experts were doing was comparing apples and oranges — and as Ezra Klein of The Washington Post pointed out, oranges that, in many cases, you can’t even buy. Specifically, they were comparing the premiums young, healthy men were paying before reform with the premiums everyone — including those who previously couldn’t get insurance because of pre-existing conditions — will pay under the new system. Oh, and they also weren’t taking into account the subsidies many Americans will receive, reducing their costs.

Now people are signing up for policies on state exchanges and, to a limited extent, on the federal exchange. Where are the cries of rate shock? Anecdotal evidence, which is all we have so far, says that people are by and large happily surprised by the low cost of their insurance.
(My bold emphasis.)

“by and large happily surprised by the low cost of their insurance?” What has Krugman been smoking lately?

The Los Angeles Times had no problem finding plenty of people who have been unpleasantly surprised, first by being booted from their old plan, and then finding that any new plan will cost them big bucks. (And there's the blogger on The Daily Kos, for which I provided a link a thread or two ago, who was pretty pissed of by “sticker shock,” himself.),0,2756077.story#axzz2iupB65YY

“ Jennifer Harris thought she had a great deal, paying $98 a month for an individual plan through Health Net Inc. She got a rude surprise this month when the company said it would cancel her policy at the end of this year. Her current plan does not conform with the new federal rules, which require more generous levels of coverage.

Now Harris, a self-employed lawyer, must shop for replacement insurance. The cheapest plan she has found will cost her $238 a month. She and her husband don't qualify for federal premium subsidies because they earn too much money, about $80,000 a year combined.”

“Pam Kehaly, president of Anthem Blue Cross in California, said she received a recent letter from a young woman complaining about a 50% rate hike related to the healthcare law.

"She said, 'I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it,' " Kehaly said.”

“The federal government picks up much of the tab through an expansion of Medicaid and subsidies to people earning up to four times the federal poverty level. That's up to $46,000 for an individual or $94,000 for a family of four.

But middle-income consumers face an estimated 30% rate increase, on average, in California...”

(To be continued...)

Zee said...

(“PK lies,” continued.)

PK implicitly—and disingenously—says, “How could there possibly be any 'sticker shock?' The American people had to know that they couldn't compare the cost of pre-ObamaCare policies (PK's “apples”) with post-ObamaCare policies (PK's “oranges”). The American people must have known that premiums had to go up big-time for some, by extending coverage to previously-uninsured individuals and to those with pre-existing conditions who were previously 'uninsurable.' How could there be any 'sticker shock?' Could the American people possibly have been so stupid as to not understand this?”

Well, clearly, the American people are that stupid! That's exactly what “right-wing...supposed experts” whom PK mocks, were frantically trying to explain to the public—before they bought this pig-in-a-poke—that "Yes, rates will go down for some (or be low for the newly-insured), but they will go up for others. And not necessarily just for the upper class."

(As an aside, the American people were equally stupid to believe Obama when he lied, saying “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” The catch is that under ObummerCare, “But your old plan may no longer like you, and your doctor may not like—or be on—the only new plan you can afford.”)

Finally, IMHO, PK goes on to out-and-out lie in defense of ObummerCare, saying

“Anecdotal evidence, which is all we have so far, says that people are by and large happily surprised by the low cost of their insurance.”

Clearly, that's just not true.

And if PK will so obviously lie about this, I just can't help but wonder about his credibility on other issues.

Zee said...

And for those of you out there who--like--me, can no longer stay up late enough to watch Saturday Night Live, enjoy this video if you haven't already see it!

Zee said...

The previous link to the SNL spoof of Kathleen Sebelius and the ObummerCare sign-up debacle seems to have expired. Perhaps this one will be more long-lived:

2 cents said...

And with one ad hominem

"Tea Party Crazyville "

your credibility is gone.