Politicians are in the habit of repeating, often excessively, a policy meme or buzzword in hopes it catches on and becomes part of the public’s lexicon as an identifying trait of a political party or particular candidate’s agenda. Whether it is to demonstrate consistency of intent, or just to drive a point home, offering the same policy recommendations as a be all, end all, fix for anything is why America is stuck in an austerity trance with little to no hope of recovering anytime soon. President Obama is a masterful tactician when it comes to reiterating propositions he knows Republicans will reject out of hand, and with news of his symbolic budget proposals due out next week, he is repeating the same plan he offered Republicans in the past and as sure as the Sun rises in the East, Speaker John Boehner rejected them immediately revealing he certainly did not have time to read them in their entirety.
In the President’s last plan to avert the fiscal cliff, he called for major health care cuts by reducing payments to drug companies and hospitals, recommended changing COLA measures tied to inflation which raises taxes and slowly cuts Social Security benefits for some recipients, replaced Republicans’ sequestration cuts, and proposed additional spending focusing on infrastructure improvements. His new budget proposal, which is strictly symbolic, is a nearly identical reiteration of his last offering with some incorporation of his policies in his State of the Union address. Liberals are rightly upset over the shift to chained-CPI for Social Security cost of living adjustments, but they were equally incensed when he offered them during fiscal cliff negotiations and their tantrums were wasted because as expected, Republicans rejected his entire plan.
Republicans have reiterated their own rejection of the President’s plans because they include new revenue, spending on infrastructure to create jobs, and do not eliminate the New Deal programs they have lusted to demolish for 75 years. Critics of the President’s budget claimed that including cuts to Social Security would give Republicans a talking point that even Obama sees the necessity to reduce the deficit by slashing “entitlements,” and they have a point because Boehner said “it included only modest entitlement savings,” and that “if the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there’s no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes.” Boehner is not interested in shoring up Social Security or he would be first in line to lift the cap on earnings and put the Trust on track to solvency for several generations. Republicans plainly want the program eliminated to create a permanent underclass of elderly Americans dependent on Wall Street for their retirement or die, and to seize the trillions in the Trust’s coffers to hand out as tax cuts for the rich.
There were other aspects of the President’s budget proposal that drove Boehner to reject it without reading it besides new revenue that are reiterations of Republican policies over the past four years. The Republicans hate the notion of spending to create jobs through infrastructure improvements, spending on education, and replacing their sequestration cuts with more measured reductions in other areas. Republicans worked too hard to get the sequester cuts that for nine years and nine months will slash education spending, kill jobs, decimate anti-poverty programs, and hurt the economy to settle for any replacement short of imposing an enhanced version of Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity budget that piles on debt due to massive tax cuts for the rich. They also have stated in no uncertain terms that infrastructure repairs are off the table to maintain America’s pathetic standing as one of the poorest infrastructures in the developed and developing world, and the idea of putting Americans to work goes against everything Republicans have stood for over the past four years.
The President knows offering a carrot to Republicans in the hopes of a so-called grand bargain is an exercise in futility, but with the American people watching, he is shining a spotlight on Republican intransigence and allegiance to the rich. By offering an olive branch in the form of chained-CPI for Social Security, Republicans can no longer say the President is afraid of his base, or unwilling to meet Republicans half way to solve the nation’s phony deficit crisis, and their immediate rejection to compromise further portrays them as the real problem in Washington. Social Security and Medicare are extremely popular programs, and Republican insistence that they be eviscerated to give more tax cuts to corporations and the rich far exceed the President’s offer to change the COLA methodology. It is also worth noting, again, that the Center for America Progress, no conservative belief tank, recommend chained-CPI as a revenue raising long term fix for Social Security, but with Republicans bound and determined to reject any proposal that fails to end Social Security and Medicare in their entirety, and rejection of any new revenue to create jobs and repair the decrepit infrastructure, or replace the job-killing sequestration cuts, it is doubtful there will be a grand bargain, or any bargain, between the President and Republicans. Besides, the President’s budget proposal is only symbolic because in America, Congress makes the budget and as long as Republicans run this country, any budget that does not kill jobs, kill safety nets, and end public education, is doomed to fail regardless who proposes it.