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Chained CPI and Presidential Position-Taking

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Chait on the removal of Social Security cuts from Obama’s budget:

In reality, the fundamentals of the situation have not changed at all. Last year, Obama was willing to adopt C-CPI in return for concessions Republicans would never, ever make. This year, Obama is still willing to adopt C-CPI in return for concessions Republicans would never, ever make. Putting the compromise in his budget was merely Obama’s way of locating the blame for the reality that Republicans in Congress will never, ever, ever strike a fiscal deal with him. The disappointed deficit scolds sitting just to Obama’s right, and the joyous progressives just to his left, are committing the same fallacy. They are mistaking a step premised on an impossibility for a semblance of reality.

This is largely true as far as it goes. There was no chance of a Chained CPI-for-upper-class-tax hikes deal passing last year or this year, and to infer from the offer that Obama was determined as an end in itself to cut Social Security and would find some way to do it was really, really, stupid.* Does this mean that liberals have no reason to be happy that Chained CPI was removed from this year’s budget? I wouldn’t say that. The only useful thing congressional Republicans have to contribute to society is that they make “grand bargains” impossible, so in terms of the policies that will be enacted the precise content of Obama’s proposals isn’t important. But presidential position-taking might have some symbolic effect, and so if nothing is going to pass you might as well not have crappy policy proposals in your budget (even if they can’t be enacted.) To whatever marginal extent the politics matter, better that the Democratic brand be “we will protect Social Security” than “we care about the deficit.”

*You may wonder about how the guy who embarrassingly “bet” that Obama would get his wish of Social Security cuts enacted by early this year would react. With a gracious concession of error! Just kidding. Leaving aside the particularly puerile ad hominems:

Sadly, as anyone who reads liberal blog comments knows, there really are people who believe, or at least pretend to believe, that any position taken by an public official represents a sincere position, and elementary concepts such as “tradeoffs,” “bluffing,” and “strategic misdirection” represent immensely complicated eleventy-billion dimensional chess that cannot possibly reflect reality. Apparently, junior high civics textbooks just aren’t what they used to be. To add to the comedy, in my experience there’s a roughly 100% overlap between people who believe that 1)Obama inherently supports Social Security cuts and/or that Orrin Hatch and Bob Dole sincerely favored John Chaffee’s Potemkin health care proposal and 2)Obama, despite his public position in favor of the public option, secretly prevented staunch liberals like Evan Bayh, Ben Nelson, and Max Baucus from voting for it. The pretense that strategy doesn’t exist in politics would appear to be highly selective.

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  • That Vecchione guy used to follow me on Twitter. Out of nowhere one nice Sunday morning in the fall, he sent me like 20 tweets in a row accusing me of being a class traitor because I wasn’t focusing enough on promoting Barbara Buono’s NJ governor’s campaign. To say the least, I put a stop to that.

    • Anonymous

      Do us all a favor: introduce him to Freddie DeBoer.

    • N__B

      What’s his position on meat eating?

    • Anonymous

      I never called you a “class traitor”. Also, it would be impossible for you to focus on the Buono campaign at all, when you’ve never mentioned her at all, ever. So instead I’ll just call you an idiot for letting the most dangerous anti-labor politician in the country become even more powerful. Just because he has a northeastern accent, that doesn’t diminish how conservative he is.

      • curiouscliche

        Sorry. I forgot to put my name to that last comment.

        • curiouscliche

          Also, I never followed you on twitter.

          • curiouscliche

            I do, however, paw through your garbage, and occasionally eat some.

            • curiouscliche

              I didn’t leave that last comment, but whatever. This place has been and always will be a cesspool. If you still think Scott Lemieux has anything insightful to offer or that he’s not a despicable liar, that’s on you.

              • curiouscliche

                I didn’t leave that one either. Says it all about what lengths you will all go to.

                • curiouscliche

                  And now, farewell, citizens! Duty calls! Up, up, and away!

                • curiouscliche

                  I have to go now. My planet needs me.

      • postmodulator

        So instead I’ll just call you an idiot for letting the most dangerous anti-labor politician in the country become even more powerful.

        Loomis has a veto over general elections in NJ?

        That seems like a lot of power to give one person. And it’s surprising they didn’t go with an NJ resident for that.

        • My power is immense.

          • Barry

            Erik,

            I have a list of people whose heads on stakes conversion to good would immensely benefit the country.

            How much for you to use your immense powers?

            • IM

              Cheap. Just a head on a stick or two.

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            hell, you’re right up there with Castro and that other guy

            • Rigby Reardon

              You know, that one guy from that thing ….

        • cpinva

          ” And it’s surprising they didn’t go with an NJ resident for that.”

          giving it to someone in another state makes its use more “objective”.

      • djw

        letting the most dangerous anti-labor politician in the country become even more powerful.

        With this kind of power you’d think we’d be doing a better job of monetizing this blog.

        • Malaclypse

          Loomis Won’t. Even. Try.

          • curiouscliche

            Right, because a soi disant progressive blog certainly doesn’t have any responsibilities.

            • Malaclypse

              Fair enough, but genuine blame rests with noon, who hasn’t posted a Worst American Birthday in years.

              • Rigby Reardon

                Perhaps all those Worst Americans have quietly died off …

            • postmodulator

              How long shall Loomis and Lemieux kill our prophets?

              • curiouscliche

                Your imperialism is disgusting.

                • Junker

                  As if one needed more evidence that the word imperialism has lost all meaning.

                • curiouscliche

                  That was an impostor.

          • How can he try? He’s not a lawyer. He can, I assume, hist.

      • joe from Lowell

        So instead I’ll just call you an idiot for letting the most dangerous anti-labor politician in the country become even more powerful.

        Yeah, Erik, thanks a lot!

        lol

    • Scott Lemieux

      Ah, yes, I got the same tweets about how I was personally responsible for Chris Christie’s re-election. The relationship between “cause” and “effect” would seem to be lost on poor Vincent.

  • Anonymous

    “We’re all Keynesians now.” — Richard Nixon
    “Read my lips: no new taxes” — George HW Bush
    “The era of big government is over” –Bill Clinton
    “[MISSION ACCOMPLISHED]” –George W Bush

    Takeaway: Presidents never make strategic feints.

    • Gern Blanston

      +1

    • postmodulator

      I think George H.W. Bush was sincere, and Dubya was almost certainly too dumb to know he was lying.

      • The impressive thing about W is that I don’t think he was personally committed to one damn thing other than the tax cuts for his base.

        He just read the lines they gave him, badly.

        He missed his calling as an auto dealer greeter. “Hello, we’ve got plenty of terrific cars available, they’re all affordable, with easy financing!”

        If the cars suck, are more expensive than even same brand dealers, if the loan rates are unconscionable, if the car odometers are turned back, that’s not his problem and causes no twinge of his conscience.

        His job was to sell, it was the hired help’s job to deliver. if they didn’t – bad on them. And no one’s getting their money back.

    • NPR

      Clinton cut the relative size of government by nearly 4 points of GDP – more than all the other presidents since Truman combined.

  • Lee Rudolph

    1)Obama inherently supports Social Security cuts and/or that Orrin Hatch and Bob Dole sincerely favored John Chaffee’s Potemkin health care proposal and 2)Obama, despite his pubic position in favor of the public option, secretly prevented staunch liberals like Evan Bayh, Ben Nelson, and Max Baucus from voting for it.

    Ok, Lemieux, I’ve about had enough of this! What is it with your refusal to put whitespace after the close-parenthesis in enumerated points, like “1)Obama”? I BET YOU WILL DELETE THIS POST.

    • I am so glad that someone finally had the courage to stand up against the whitespace austerity lobby and speak out against this policy which most strongly falls on the most vulnerable populations like single parenthesis. You have shamed and inspired me to tak click-action as well!

      • Lamont Cranston

        That type of frivolous waste of space is nothing more than bourgeois decadence.

        • sparks

          Bastard! You will pry my white space from my cold, dead hands.

          • Lee Rudolph

            Whenwhitespaceisoutlawedonlyoutlawswillhavewhitespace!

            • “yout laws”…it’s been a while since I saw My Cousin Vinnie.

              • Warren Terra

                Yeah, sure, the polar bear pops up for the discussion of white spaces.

                • Gotta hide somewhere.

      • ChrisTS

        And let’s be clear about on whom this vicious practice falls most heavily: visually challenged children, post-menopausal women, and older men.

        So there it is. Lemieux’s parentheses policy injures children, the handicapped, women, and the elderly.

        • Lemieux’s parentheses policy injures childrenheses.

          Fiqqst.

    • Malaclypse

      The lack of expending pixels on whitespace is proof that Lemieux, like Obama, is all about austerity. Lemieux could use spaces, but He. Won’t. Even. Try.

      • JoyfulA

        What about an open parenthesis for the close parenthesis? What’s going on there?

        • Michael

          you do notice that the close-parenthesis leans to the right>?!

    • Hoyt Axton

      Why you’re nothing but a white space supremacist.

    • Miss Adelaide

      One also must appreciate Obama’s “pubic position.”

      • Hogan

        I always have.

    • Bart

      Each needless white space character that can be prevented from transmission over the Internet saves approximately four (4) valuable hertz.

      • Michael

        or, 4Hz

        • ExpatChad

          Wow. That really Hz.

    • Barry

      It’s his style, like Zorro’s ‘Z’. Loomis carves it into the minds of all who oppose him.

    • hylen

      This. As they say on the intertubes.

  • Of course, I’m absolutely convinced that a future Republican president will not propose chained CPI as an interim cut to SS (before they try again to kill it) and convince low information voters that it’s OK because even the muslim socialist Kenyan supported it. So there was no harm or risk in Obama making it the sort of unofficially not entirely firm part of his grand bargaining budget where no proposal was real and no administration values were reflected at any time.

    Everyone should feel free to project their own negative/positive interpretations of any given point of any budget/platform/proposal to fit their personal subjective narrative at every point in time.

    Just like Republicans put anti-abortion proposals in their platforms/budgets knowing the Supreme Court will never allow their full enactment, Democrats make empty, symbolic promises to Republicans in their platforms/budgets that will never be enacted because . . . . . . . the strategy has proven to be a winner in the past?

    I’m guessing in 2020, everyone will realize that Obama was really a masterful negotiator who was 457 steps ahead of everybody and we just didn’t realize it. My guess that realization will hit when the next Democratic president appoints more conservative Republicans to be the Fed chair and SoD in their administration.

    • Personally, I’m very impressed that Democrats know how to negotiate with themselves much more effectively than Republicans know how to negotiate with themselves.

      Plus, how the Democratic administration prove their bipartisanship by trading their DoT, DoD, and Fed chair appointment picks when their guy is in the White House for a future DoT cabinet pick in Republican administrations plus grudging Republican respect for their negotiating skills at a time to be named much. much, much later (think never).

      • joe from Lowell

        Chuck Hagel’s going to come out today and announce large cuts to the Pentagon budget.

        The value of his appointment, however, will continue to elude you.

    • JoyfulA

      This posturing makes feet-on-the-ground amateur campaign work very difficult. “He’ll save Social Security and Medicare” is a great selling point to the undecideds and intermittent voters, but not when “He’s offering to cut Social Security” is in every headline.

      • DocAmazing

        And people wonder why getting out the vote is such s chore.

        • JoyfulA

          The candidate has to give volunteer canvassers and GOTVers something to sell. I spent 2 hours in 2004 persuading one undecided to vote for Kerry (and I was not enthusiastic about voting for Kerry myself), but 2010 left me just exhausted, even though I had a great Senate candidate to support (who lost narrowly, thanks to the DNC, DSCC, Obama, Rendell, and other powers that be).

          I am hoping 2014 brings lots of selling points.

    • Random

      Based on looking back over that thread from June of 2013 and seeing how nothing you said turned out the way you said it would turn out but it did turn out about how I said it would turn out, I am going to just skip over any predictions you may have for the future.

      My favorite is when you guys ragged on me for pointing out, in June of 2013, that the mainstream media was obviously willing to embrace the frame that the GOP were extremist assholes who could not be reasoned with.

      Man, was I ever right about that one and were you guys ever wrong.

    • joe from Lowell

      Of course, I’m absolutely convinced that a future Republican president will not propose chained CPI as an interim cut to SS (before they try again to kill it) and convince low information voters that it’s OK because even the muslim socialist Kenyan supported it. So there was no harm or risk in Obama making it the sort of unofficially not entirely firm part of his grand bargaining budget where no proposal was real and no administration values were reflected at any time.

      I see you shifted your prediction of when the Republicans are going to gain a huge strategic advantage from this non-proposal from the 2012 elections all the way to some indeterminate point in the future. That’s probably a good move.

      Anyway, why do you live in a perpetual 2002, when everything the Republicans say becomes conventional wisdom and the dominant analytical paradigm? Nobody can agree on what happened in those negotiations right now, or when they were actually going on, but you think the Republicans are going to be able to sell the voters on Obama’s support for these proposals in 20 or 30 years?

  • CaptBackslap, YOLO Edition

    Obama, despite his pubic position

    huh huh huh huh heh huh huh huh heh

  • Jesse Levine

    The Chained CPI is the zombie that will never die.I thought it would take at least a week to reappear.

  • Crunchy Frog

    Even if you hold that Obama does not personally favor chained CPI – that it was just another brilliant 11th dimension chess move – you have to admit that it is very, very, very bad optics for a Democratic president to propose such a thing.

    One of the most valid criticisms of Obama from the left is his tendency to put the compromises into the proposal itself, rather than have his opponents wring it out of him. I know the theory is that this will show him to be a centrist who is willing to “reach across the aisle”, etc. How has that worked for him in terms of public impressions?

    • I blame the lenses.

      • cpinva

        the lenses didn’t fail us, we failed the lenses.

        • DocAmazing

          Ze lenses…zey do nossing!

    • Total

      Obama: 332, Romney: 206.

      Pretty well, actually.

    • SamR

      First Democrat to win over 50% of the Presidential vote twice since FDR, and did so despite being named “Barack Hussein Obama.” I’d say its gone OK.

      • Davis X. Machina

        He lost the critical netroots, however.

        President Dean was smart enough never to do that.

        • Paula

          Seriously, though. What universe do these people live in that progressive policies are automatic winners and all Obama had to do was say he wanted [insert progressive policy here] and the American populace would be right there with him?

          Last I checked, he was trying to give people good health insurance and they got freaked out about losing bad policies. Because they apparently can’t do the math on the difference between expensive policies that cover nothing and expensive policies that cover a lot.

          • joe from Lowell

            What universe do these people live in that progressive policies are automatic winners and all Obama had to do was say he wanted [insert progressive policy here] and the American populace would be right there with him?

            The internet. Every single person on the internet, from Jonah Goldberg to Ralph Nader to the staff of Reason magazine, goes through a phase in which they argue that the objectively smartest political strategy for the Democrats to adopt is to advocate for a platform that just happens to line up precisely with the writer’s own ideal policy program.

            Some people grow out of this phase.

      • Vance Maverick

        Indeed. Not that there’s any shortage of reasons to be displeased and disappointed with Obama. But on the specific test Crunchy Frog proposed, he’s doing fine.

    • Random

      How has that worked for him in terms of public impressions?

      He has a 24-point aggregate approval lead over his opponents and every single poll that asks the question in any form shows that voters overwhelmingly see him as a lot more reasonable and realistic than the Republicans.

    • At this point, I think it’s fair to just replace all instances of “optics” not dealing with the properties of lenses with “magick” or “sacred merit”. It’s the go-to word for saying “I can’t argue there’s anything wrong with this, so let’s just speculate about its rhetorical effect on unspecified third parties”.

    • joe from Lowell

      you have to admit that it is very, very, very bad optics for a Democratic president to propose such a thing.

      Why do I have to admit this? This game has been going on since 2011. Name a single bad outcome that has ever happened because of those optics.

      The predicted “club” the Republicans would wield in the 2012 elections completely failed to turn up. They Didn’t. Even. Try. The shift to the right among the public is also nowhere to be found in any public polling data.

      How has that worked for him in terms of public impressions?

      It caused the favorability of the Republican Party and Congress to crater into the single digits, and even the “both sides do it” mainstream media to turn on the Republicans. Don’t you remember the fiscal cliff debate or the Ted Cruz shutdown?

  • jeer9

    My guess that realization will hit when the next Democratic president appoints more conservative Republicans to be the Fed chair and SoD in their administration.

    Yeah, sure, snipe all you want but Bernanke, Gates, Geithner, Summers, and Duncan had no idea their unsuccessful policies would actually be implemented. And you can’t blame Obama because his appointees lack the prescience he possesses.

    • Let’s look at the positive side, today is Feb 23 and it marks the 23rd day that a Democrat has held the Fed chair position in the past 13 years of Democratic presidential terms.

      Who says Democratic administration’s can’t stand up for their principles despite putting things like chained CPI in their ‘these are not my proposals, values, or beliefs’ budgets?

      • IM

        Is Yellen a democrat? I mean technically?

        • JoyfulA

          She worries about unemployment, which is more than you can say about most Fed people. So maybe how she’s registered to vote doesn’t matter that much.

        • Let’s see on the scale of Ayn Rand acolyte (Greenspan) to President George W. Bush’s chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (Bernanke) to someone who’s to the left of Larry Summers (Yellen) she’s a functional human being, which makes her a de facto Democrat. She’s not a hard money guy like Volcker, either.

          And her technical track record is outstanding as well.

        • She was chief economic adviser to Clinton for a few years. I think that (and maybe just personal identification) is how she gets labeled as a Democrat.

    • joe from Lowell

      Uh, Bernanke’s policy of running the looses monetary program in the history of the Fed, then piling additional stimulatory measures on top of that, was adopted and was successful enough to prevent a depression or double-dip recession.

      Now, it is true that the policy of increased fiscal stimulus he repeatedly urged Congress to adopt, above and beyond the ARRA, was not adopted.

      Do you actually know anything about Ben Bernanke beyond his party identification?

      • Rigby Reardon

        Evidently not.

  • Steve S.

    concessions Republicans would never, ever make.

    Is it wise to say “never, ever” about Republicans? You might recall your ancient history where they passed a compromise budget and capitulated on the debt ceiling. Maybe this one should be categorized as Unlikely But Nonzero.

    • Anonymous

      Both things they have a solid recent history of doing. When was the last time they let an upper class tax increase go through?

      • Steve S.

        January 2, 2013.

        • Facts are stupid things. Reagan proved that.

          • junker

            I know how very impressed you are with your own intelligence, but that is not remotely a comparable situation to this one. The automatic expiration of the Bush cuts meant that Republicans had to choose between allowing some of the cuts to stay in place or none of the cuts. In other words choose between getting some of your policy preference or none of it.

            The c-CPI for tax increases involves giving up their highest policy preference for something way down the list. It’s not even remotely the same.

            A better question: when was the last time the Republican party agreed to a tax increase without an automatic deadline looming?

            • Of course, looming deadlines are such a rare occurrence and hardly ever the way that compromises are made or how the impetus for legislative deals is created, so I’ll concede your point on those circumstances being quite unusual.

            • Steve S.

              An even better question is, do things remain forever static or do they evolve? Have recent events shown that maybe you have to convince only about a quarter of the GOP caucus to vote for something rather than all of them? Did you think a couple of years ago that you’d see the Republicans wage a bloody three year fiscal war only to basically just surrender overnight? As I said above, Unlikely But Nonzero.

              Absolutist statements are never, ever, ever a good idea.

              • junker

                I’m going to say it right now: If John Boehner allowed the house to pass a “grand bargain” of the type we’ve been discussing (exchanging entitlement cuts for higher taxes) with a majority of dem votes and only a few Republicans, he would be deposed as Speaker.

                Furthermore, I am going to go ahead and suggest that Obama and house dems are smart enough that they wouldn’t agree to a grand bargain of this type without a LOT of Republicans on board. I think one of the implicit premises of this debate is that the only way dems agree to a grand bargain is with enough Republicans to show that it’s a bipartisan thing. I think the chance of this kind of thing passing is literally zero percent.

                Furthermore, your examples of Republicans supposedly being willing to violate their orthodoxy are all “exceptions that prove the rule” scenarios, like the Bush tax cuts, or situations that would have resulted in a government shutdown, after the disaster that was last fall.

                • I was under the impression that there’s not really any way they could depose Boehner without the Democrats — it requires a majority vote.

              • Rob Patterson

                “Absolutist statements are never, ever, ever a good idea.”

                I see what you did there; I’m just not certain it was intentional. :-\

                • Steve S.

                  If I not only separate it from the main text but also add bolding and all caps will that help?

                • cpinva

                  “If I not only separate it from the main text but also add bolding and all caps will that help?”

                  needs more white space.

                • Why can’t we have rainbow space?

        • Craigo

          The Republicans didn’t “let” the increase go through. Upper-class taxes were going up no matter what they did. Instead, one out of every three House Republicans voted for a bill to raise taxes to a lesser degree that they would have anyway.

          If this is the nest example you’ve got, then you’ve conceded the point.

          • Steve S.

            The Republicans didn’t “let” the increase go through. Upper-class taxes were going up no matter what they did.

            Yes, and interesting that even though they supposedly had zero bargaining power they managed to keep a fair percentage of the cuts intact.

            If this is the nest example you’ve got, then you’ve conceded the point.

            My point that a grand bargain is unlikely but a nonzero probability? No, haven’t conceded it.

            • Random

              Yes, and interesting that even though they supposedly had zero bargaining power they managed to keep a fair percentage of the cuts intact.

              I have no idea what GOP Congress you were watching but the one the rest of us were watching was in control of the House in January of 2013 and had enough votes to filibuster anything in the Senate.

              My point that a grand bargain is unlikely but a nonzero probability? No, haven’t conceded it.

              Now that it hasn’t happened you don’t have to concede it, but for the record there was a 0.000% probability of the Grand Bluff ever happening.

              And under the assumption that it somehow magically came up for a vote in both chambers of Congress, that probability still remains level at 0.0000%.

              • Steve S.

                a 0.000% probability

                Fine. Take it up with Lemieux. “Good riddance, chained CPI” is an implicit admission that it might have happened.

                • Junker

                  Or maybe you can think it wouldn’t have passed but be happy it’s gone because of the optics,as many on this thread have said?

                • Scott Lemieux

                  “Good riddance, chained CPI” is an implicit admission that it might have happened.

                  If you ignore the content of the relevant posts entirely.

                • Random

                  Hey here’s yet another hard-core centrist deficit scolding sellout agreeing that it was a charade:

                  http://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/must-read/an-end-to-the-grand-bargain-charades

        • joe from Lowell

          January 2, 2013.

          Incorrect. The Republicans did not let that increase go through; it was going to go through regardless of what they did.

    • Nobody has ever held a gun they thought was unloaded to their head and killed themselves. Never happened. Ever.

      • DocAmazing

        This point needs to be repeated. The problem with sticking dangerous policies into your bargaining strategy is that if anything at all goes wrong, you’re stuck with the results. It isn’t at all difficult to imagine a bunch of Blue Dogs failing to adhere to the party’s plans. That happens, and you’re stuck with a shitty policy.

        (Arguments that Chained CPI isn’t a shitty policy pretty much refute themselves.)

        • Random

          Arguments that Chained-CPI could pass Congress in the first place also pretty much refute themselves.

          Arguments that Chained-CPI and tax increases for rich people could pass Congress are even more absurd.

          • DocAmazing

            Glad you’re confident enough to juggle chainsaws. Many of us aren’t willing to take chances that depend on the goodwill of conservadems.

            • Junker

              You keep saying this. What is the path to passage of a grand bargain that involves conservadems? How does a group of conservadems work with republicans in the senate to bypass parliamentary procedure and pass something?

              • Scott Lemieux

                I don’t see what depends on conservadems. Since there’s a 0.0% chance that the Republican House will vote for tax hikes, they’re irrelevant in this context.

                • junker

                  Exactly – blue dogs and other conservadems seem to have become a sort of boogie man to some on the left.

        • The problem with sticking dangerous policies into your bargaining strategy is that if anything at all goes wrong, you’re stuck with the results.

          “All all” is way overstated. There are risk in any move. If you appear too intransigent, you can end up marginalised. (I mean, the Tea Party strategy isn’t an unalloyed success, to say the least.) And bargaining offers aren’t fixed: As JFL pointed out, Obama raised his tax demand at one point, which effectively killed any hope of it going through.

          (This doesn’t mean that Obama is a flawless negotiator, just that “never put a bad idea in as a negotiating ploy” isn’t a firm rule.)

        • joe from Lowell

          The problem with sticking dangerous policies into your bargaining strategy is that if anything at all goes wrong, you’re stuck with the results.

          But putting that proposal into the offer didn’t “stick” the Democrats with anything.

          When it looked like Boehner might agree to the $1 trillion tax hike, Obama merely had to up it to $1.4 trillion.

      • SamR

        This is a fair point. Another example, sequestration won’t ever happen b/c the GOP won’t accept the military cuts…whoops.

        • EthanS

          This.

          Sequestration IS beast-starving austerity. Dems were too clever on this one…

          • joe from Lowell

            No, sequestration is delay of beast-starving austerity.

            Once the Republicans won a house of Congress, a shift in fiscal policy was certain. Delaying a lot of those cuts as the recovery sputtered to cruising speed was a smart move.

    • joe from Lowell

      Maybe this one should be categorized as Unlikely But Nonzero.

      There was a really good treatment of the problem of using non-zero risk as your standard in yesterday’s newspaper.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    part of me thinks it’s just all inside baseball- that most people don’t care that the president said to the gop, “sure, I’ll make that cut- provided *you* cut your head off and shoot baskets with it”… but it still bothers me, in a lizard-brain sort of way, that he has played along with the right wing line that the best way to fix social security is to cut benefits. why *shouldn’t* a democratic president be out in front on actually expanding social security? or has Obama already lost whatever effectiveness he might have had on that

    • EthanS

      Obama’s audience is the beltway press. Always has been. Without his own Fox-talk-WSJ media noise machine, he has to rely on the mainstream media to present him as reasonable. And the beltway press is upper-income, inside baseball, out-of-touch, etc…

  • andrew long

    it wasn’t stupid to believe he wanted it in 2011. it was in the the final confidential memo to Boehner.

    It wasn’t stupid to believe he wanted it during the fiscal cliff. It was in his mid-December counteroffer.

    Hell, Nancy Pelosi defended it!

    The President wanted to enact “superlative CPI” because he either believed or was convinced that the CPI needed to be updated. That’s what Sperling, Orszag, Goolsbee, and Nabors believed and pushed. Hell, Summers and Yellen co-opted and developed the idea in Clinton’s White House!

    Here is Sperling’s justification, from a Reddit session 11 months ago:

    The cost of living question relates to how the government measures inflation. Today, we use a measure of inflation called the “CPI” or consumer price index. An alternative would be to switch to what is known as the superlative or “chained” CPI. The superlative CPI makes two technical corrections to the standard CPI: it accounts for consumers’ ability to substitute between goods in response to changes in relative prices and accounts for biases arising from small samples. Most experts agree that the Superlative CPI provides a more accurate measure of the average change in the cost of living than the standard CPI.

    The President would prefer to have this adjustment in the context of a larger Social Security reform, but he has said to Speaker Boehner that if it is part of a larger agreement that would include tax reform that would raise revenue by cutting loopholes and expenditures from the most well off, that he would be willing to agree to it because in divided government, if we’re going to make progress, we have to be willing to compromise. One important note: any agreement to make this change to the CPI must include a dedication of a portion of the savings to protections for low-income Americans, certain veterans, and older Social Security beneficiaries. Our current offer which reduces the deficit by $230 billion over the next 10 years includes those protections.

    That’s it. Obama wanted to do it, on the merits, but only for his preferred trade-offs. That’s about the extent of strategic position-taking I can give him credit for.

    • Anonymous

      ” but only for his preferred trade-offs.”

      …annnnnnd we’re back at square one.

      • andrew long

        no. you don’t give up something for nothing, whatever your motivation. that’s just political reality.

        • Anonymous

          Scott’s point (and yours): the trade-off matters. We’re in agreement!

          • Steve LaBonne

            The tradeoff does matter, but it is not a fallacy to be worried that some past and present people in the White House, such as the above-named, seem actually to think that chained CPI is a worthwhile “reform” in and of itself.

        • MDrew

          If he wants it on the merits (which have to include both the policy and political merits), then it’s not giving something up if it were to happen.

        • joe from Lowell

          you don’t give up something for nothing, whatever your motivation.

          But you just claimed that he wasn’t “giving it up,” but that it was an idea he and his advisors supported on the merits.

    • JoyfulA

      it accounts for consumers’ ability to substitute between goods in response to changes in relative prices

      This meme goes back at least to the 1980s. It’s where “catfood for seniors” started: When chicken gets too expensive, switch to tuna; when tuna gets too expensive, switch to catfood.

      Even this level of substitution doesn’t work anymore, give the steep rise in the price of catfood.

      • Chained CPI = declining standard of living

        Not a problem for those that aren’t experiencing it.

        • Steve LaBonne

          Sadly, that comment neatly sums up our whole political culture.

          • joe from Lowell

            Odd, then, that with the whole political culture, as well as the President and his party leadership, and the opposition party, behind it, it is both unpopular among the public and dead in the water as policy.

        • Random

          Not a problem for those that aren’t experiencing it.

          A serious problem for people who have a performance evaluation every few years administered by the people who are experiencing it that determines whether you get to stay in office or not. Same goes for tax hikes too.

          • DocAmazing

            Yeah, out-of-work politicians suffer as much as impoverished seniors. Did you read this before you hit “send”?

            • Random

              Yes I did. I just read it a third time and not seeing where I’m wrong in pointing out that politicians in both parties have no motive for passing a Grand Bargain that has little constituency outside of Washington DC.

            • joe from Lowell

              Right. Incumbent politicians don’t want to stay in office, and avoid losing elections. What a silly thing for Random to say!

    • patrick II

      I believe Obama actually wanted a “grand bargain”, and that he, as much as the republicans, were using the first debt ceiling negotiations as an artificially invoked crisis to justify sacrifices from both sides. I also think he underestimated republican resistance and willingness to harm the country rather than have any tax raises. Which is why we are living under sequestration today. Obama screwed up with the first debt ceiling “crisis” and played along for what he thought would be a negotiated settlement. This second debt “crisis” he got right but only after his first effort caused harmful cuts to federal programs across the board.
      To say that he was just playing a clever political game is to ignore both his real attempt at a grand bargain and the harmful results his misjudgments have caused.

      • Random

        This theory has been scientifically debunked several times now.

        The theory that he doesn’t sincerely want to cut SS predicts the results. He dropped the offer without once untethering it from totally unacceptable preconditions.

        The theory that he really does think cutting SS is a great idea on its own merits does not predict the results. He did not at any point drop the preconditions and push for the SS cut on its own.

        Therefore, the theory that he really wants to cut SS must necessarily be wrong.

        • MDrew

          Not necessarily wrong, but the evidence suggests it.

      • joe from Lowell

        Are you seriously arguing that, after the Tea Party Republicans took over the House, there would have been no change in fiscal policy except for President Obama’s negotiating tactics?

        That the Democrats can lose a House and see no alteration in policy, if only the President negotiates well?

        The sequester, and the negotiations that preceded it, didn’t cause a single penny in cuts. The sequester delayed the cuts, which were always going to happen, for a year or two.

  • MRL

    This guy from the Balloon-Juice comments had to be the best

    Obama has wanted his Grand Bargain since 2009.
    Not up for re-election, he has no motivation now to appease his base.
    I predict he will trade unneeded Social Security cuts and Medicare cuts for tax cuts on the wealthy.
    We will garment-rend, to no effect.
    Obama has said he wanted this long before the Tea Party. And now he will get it.

  • Derelict

    Tell ya what, Scott: I’ll believe Obama doesn’t support cutting Social Security when he stops proposing those cuts with every budget cycle and negotiation.

    Fer cripe’s sake. Obama’s been offering up cuts to Social Security every freaking year he’s been in office. After a certain point, you have to believe that he actually means it.

    • Davis X. Machina

      How badly can he mean it?

      For years Obama’s had means — albeit he had better means before 2010, because of the party division of Congress, motive — take your pick, Chicago-school perfidy or bloodless technocratic fix — and opportunity — five, six budget cycles, and God knows how many continuing resolutions.

      If you want it badly enough, and Nancy Pelosi’s right there with you, you put it in your budget or CR as a standalone. You have her whip it through with the requisite support from Boehner, who shouldn’t be adverse to producing votes for an SS cut, especially if there’s no counterweight on the tax side.

      And Bob’s your uncle. You’ve cut SS. Which is what you wanted all along, and what the Very Serious People wanted all along. The Very Serious People are happy. And you go on to the next thing.

      But it never happens, somehow.

      How can Obama be that incompetent, with one of his major priorities?

      • How can Obama be that incompetent, with one of his major priorities?

        See, Debt Ceiling. How not to negotiate.

        Unless of course the debt ceiling wasn’t a major priority. Which is an entirely different problem.

        • junker

          “Obama negotiated on the debt ceiling the first time around. This explains why he never passed c-CPI when his party controlled both houses of congress even though it is supposedly a deep, important desire he holds.”

          Makes sense to me!

          • I don’t believe Obama wants to or has ever wanted to unilaterally implement Chained CPI. I don’t think anyone on this thread believes that either.

            Regardless of intent or belief on Obama’s part, I share the concern that just like I would not put a 16 year old behind the wheel of a Ferrari, Obama has not shown enough negotiating dexterity to be trusted to use Chained CPI as a bargaining chip. He might not be able to pull that football back at the right time.

            Even well intentioned, the chip could be lost by Obama for something far less than it’s value based on his past negotiating performances.

            I view him as one of the weak links (along with red state Democratic senators) in sustaining new deal Democratic values.

            • Anonymous

              After all, all he did was bring in the biggest redistributive change in 50 years.

              • DocAmazing

                That being?

                • Malaclypse

                  Turning Medicaid into an entitlement, I’d guess.

            • MDrew

              Obama has not shown enough negotiating dexterity to be trusted to ç. He might not be able to pull that football back at the right time.

              Except insofar as he… used Chained CPI as a bargaining chip for five years, getting little concrete in return, true, but consistently demonstrating the Congressional GOP’s bad-faith negotiating stance to be what it is, defusing a critique of himself as unwilling to deal with Republicans on the deficit (a cost which they could and were intent to impose on him simply by adopting an intransigent negotiating stance absent a mitigation strategy from Obama), thereafter pulling the football back when the pretense that broad budget negotiations were something the GOP was interested in was dropped and was no longer something he could be critiqued for neig unwilling to engage. So, in other negotiating he failed to convince you that he had the dexterity to do something without disaster that, separately, he simply went ahead and did – without disaster.

            • MDrew

              …Let me try that again:

              Obama has not shown enough negotiating dexterity to be trusted to use Chained CPI as a bargaining chip. He might not be able to pull that football back at the right time.

              Except insofar as he… used Chained CPI as a bargaining chip for five years, getting little concrete in return, true, but consistently demonstrating the Congressional GOP’s bad-faith negotiating stance to be what it is, defusing a critique of himself as unwilling to deal with Republicans on the deficit (a cost which they could and were intent to impose on him simply by adopting an intransigent negotiating stance absent a mitigation strategy from Obama), thereafter pulling the football back when the pretense that broad budget negotiations were something the GOP was interested in was dropped and was no longer something he could be critiqued for neig unwilling to engage. So, in other negotiating he failed to convince you that he had the dexterity to do something without disaster that, separately, he simply went ahead and did – without disaster.

      • andrew long

        There were constraints in his first two years.

        They couldn’t put it in FY 2010, in Feb. 2009. Pointless and stupid during the nadir of the crisis.

        And as you see above, his stated preference was for it to occur not on its own but within a larger SS reform, either stand-alone or in a grand bargain.

        They did push it big time in the 2010 pivot, particularly by creating Bowles-Simpson. It was also in Domenici-Rivlin. And while Pelosi at first opposed B-S, she later defended it. If Ryan et al had not rejected it, we probably would have enacted chained CPI within whatever the larger B-S package ended up as.

        • andrew long, the received wisdom on this blog is that Bowles-Simpson was another head fake.

          • andrew long

            oh. well, I remember that line of thinking, but I don’t agree with it. because Pelosi never would have walked out so far on that plank. she would have been happy to let Steny keep doing that. And this was after the 2010 thrashing. She was clearly carrying water for the White House, all the way through the disastrous Grand Bargain. It was no head fake.

            That said, I don’t mean that naming the BS commission was not initially strategic. The GOP senators reneged on establishing a commission themselves, so Obama did it to force the issue, and see how it would all play out, without having to carry the ball himself through 2010. But he clearly desperately wanted the Grand Bargain, and that would never not include a version of chained CPI.

          • Scott Lemieux

            the received wisdom on this blog is that Bowles-Simpson was another head fake.

            Whereas, apparently, the sophisticated view is that nothing demonstrates a stronger commitment to action than Blue Ribbon panels that requires supermajorites. Well, I guess he could have proposed a constitutional amendment; then we’d really know he was serious.

            • andrew long

              “sophisticated view”? huh. I don’t think anything I wrote deserves that kind of condescension.

              do you think the president’s Ahabesque pursuit of the Grand Bargain was also a head fake?

        • Random

          If Ryan et al had not rejected it, we probably would have enacted chained CPI within whatever the larger B-S package ended up as.

          There you go again, just walking right past the fact that there was always a 0.0% chance that Ryan et al would ever agree to put a loaded gun in their collective mouth and pull the trigger.

          • andrew long

            of course that was clear by December 2010, after the elections. and it was even clear by the summer. but in Feb. 2010, while the landscape had deteriorated significantly, I nevertheless do not think counting on 3 GOP senator yeas (which they got) and at least 2 of 3 GOP House yeas was a 0% proposition.

            • joe from Lowell

              Why would assume that every Democrat in the Senate would go along with it, leaving only 3 Republicans to get?

              • andrew long

                no I don’t assume that. I was just referring to the commission vote. it doesn’t get you to 60 in the senate at all, but it gets you to a promised (not required) vote. so when you’re at that point, you have more work to do. In dec., as I said, it’s obviously dead in the water. but in February, it wasn’t a 0% proposition to think that if you did get a commission supermajority, then a bipartisan Senate vote could take you over 60, since Conrad-Gregg got 53, with 37 Ds and 16 Rs, and another 7 R Cosponsors reneged and voted against it. If it was ever going to happen, it would have to come together again like that. So they kept the ball in the air.

      • patrick II

        How can Obama be that incompetent, with one of his major priorities?

        See “sequster” as an clear example.

        • joe from Lowell

          Delaying spending cuts? Ensuring that Medicare and Social Security benefits were untouched in those cuts (everyone seems to forget that part)?

          What part of this is supposed to show poor negotiating skills?

    • Scott Lemieux

      when he stops proposing those cuts with every budget cycle and negotiation.

      Like he just did?

      • Random

        Exactamundo.

        Our theory predicts that Obama would never untether SS cuts from unacceptable preconditions, and would eventually stop offering them at all. Exactly what happened.

        Their theory predicts that he would never stop pursuing those cuts and at some point would drop any conditions just to get them through. Exactly what didn’t happen.

        One theory predicted the results and the other doesn’t. Their theory is, scientifically speaking, wrong.

      • Well, no one didn’t say he wasn’t incapable of unlearning bad habits.

  • lawguy

    My question is what has Obama gained by taking this position for several years? If he hasn’t convinced the smart people or the right wing crazies that he really wants this, than what is the point? If all he does is piss of the part of his own party that gets out and works for democrats then what good does that do? Unless of course he is in it for the hippie punching. Which may be the point.

    • Ronnie Pudding

      The audience is the Serious Pundit Class.

    • SamR

      I think his goal would be to gain Village approval and acknowledgement that he’s willing to compromise and the GOPers are not.

      I don’t think it really succeeded.

      • slightly_peeved

        Except that a fair chunk of the US media started to blame the republicans for the debt ceiling debacle rather than doing the normal “both sides do it” rubbish.

      • Random

        I pointed this out at the time, summer of 2013, you can see it on the comment thread linked at the top of the page.

        Partly because of Obama’s Grand Bluff the centrist media in summer of 2013 were definitely much more willing to embrace the frame that the GOP were the real crazy in the room and actually somewhat abandon ‘both sides do it’.

        This narrative climaxed with the government shutdown a few months after I posted that. Even other Republicans were saying they had Gone Too Far.

    • joe from Lowell

      My question is what has Obama gained by taking this position for several years?

      The destruction of the Republicans’ political standing. Over the course of the debt ceiling negotiations of 2011, the Republicans went from a dominant political position in which they controlled the political narrative and enjoyed superior popularity to record-low approval ratings and a reputation as kooks. Subsequent episodes of this drama, such as Ted Cruz shutting down the government and the fiscal cliff negotiations, made things worse and worse for them, to the point that even the mainstream media was calling out the Republicans.

  • “any position taken by an public official represents a sincere position, and elementary concepts such as “tradeoffs,” “bluffing,” and “strategic misdirection” represent immensely complicated eleventy-billion dimensional chess that cannot possibly reflect reality”

    Please explain the benefit that Obama has obtained by taking what you believe is an insincere position in favor of a Grand Bargain involving Social Security cuts. Other than alienating his base and enraging Congressional liberals. Oh, and giving Republicans a stick to beat congressional Democrats with, as you point out in your linked post of last year.

    • Oops, sorry lawguy, didn’t read yours before commenting.

      • lawguy

        Well with two of us saying the same thing can Joe from Lowell be far behind to explain how stupid we both are for not seeing what is before his eyes?

        • joe from Lowell

          I loom way too large in your consciousness.

          I don’t recall even once fretting that you would write something that made me look dumb in a reply to my comments.

    • Ronnie Pudding

      How much has he actually alienated his base?

      • DocAmazing

        For better or for worse, we’re likely to find out in November.

        • NonyNony

          No we won’t – November will tell us nothing except whether or not incumbents in Congress are vulnerable or not. Nothing that Obama does in the next year has much impact at all on whether or not Congressmen and Senators get re-elected. What they do might have an impact on their own re-elections, but at this point that’s about it.

          Believing that it’s the President’s actions that primarily drive off-year elections is like believing that blowing on the dice for luck help you get better dice rolls.

          • DocAmazing

            To the extent that there is such a thing as “the Democrat bran”, and to the extent that the president helps to identify that brand in the minds of less-engaged voters, the president’s actions matter. To the extent that otherwise-politically-engaged voters are discouraged, the actions of the president matter. I realize that it seems to be the position of many that advertising and public relations have no effect whatever, but I would contend that when AARP members are confronted with two candidates both associated with parties that have threatened social security cuts…they’re not really motivated.

            • I think brand maintenance is important (I don’t think anyone thinks that advertising and public relations don’t matter, just that they don’t matter in the way that many people think e.g., both parties do enough, are competent enough, etc. that no particular marginal flub makes a difference in a presidential election). But advocating C-CPI as part of a grand bargain has to be one of the safest way to propose any modification to SS from a PR perspective (this is one reason Republicans are keen on it). It’s geeky, it’s super obscure, the effects kick in fairly slowly over time, etc. It’s hard to imagine that low information voters are going to swayed either way. For highly politically engaged voters, well, are we really going to back down or give up over C-CPI *proposals*?

              For people like curiouscliche, there is always another massive betrayal to be upset about, so it’s hard to see that they’ll be more turned off.

              Some of these poison pill offers Obama made probably did help make the Republicans seem more radical. Whether this helps a lot is still pretty open, but to the degree this put them in a worse position wrt the shut down and debt ceiling fights and convinced them to stop that crap, it was probably a net good.

              Also, note that the Republicans are still championing C-CPI! Bohener’s complaint is that Obama’s stopped putting it in and that he always coupled it with a tax rise. This is not exactly massively damaging to the Democratic brand. Contrariwise, it makes the Republicans seem pretty bad to anyone who’s paying attention.

              • Random

                Also note that any time from now on that a centrist pundit pushes a Democrat to go for entitlement cuts, the answer is ‘Did you see what happened to the last guys that tried that? No thanks!” and the pundit will sagely nod and agree.

        • joe from Lowell

          For better or for worse, we’re likely to find out in November.

          So the 2012 elections were a mulligan?

    • Scott Lemieux

      Please explain the benefit

      I would suggest that you read my posts on the subject before commenting.

      an insincere position in favor of a Grand Bargain

      Ditto.

    • Random

      Please explain the benefit that Obama has obtained by taking what you believe is an insincere position

      Compared to impotently offering up an unapologetically liberal position for 4 consecutive years and watching it also go nowhere in front of the entire nation?

      Just negotiating with the Kenyan Usurper over proposed tax increases shakes one of the only unifying threads between the various GOP factions. The Republicans doing the negotiation got called way worse things by the right than Obama ever did by the left. All while looking like irrational hapless crazies to everyone else.

      Over a dozen primary challenges, 17% approval ratings in the QPAC, 2-4 points behind the Democrats in the generic ballot, and a universally-embraced narrative among the mainstream media that the Republicans really are the irrational ones in the room.

  • lawguy

    Obama can get elected again, but he isn’t running. What happened in 2010 when he alienated his base, I mean it is so long ago who could remember?

    • djw

      What happened in 2010 when he alienated his base

      For the umpteenth time, this is is a complete misrepresentation of the 2010 election. Obama’s base liked him and supported him as much as ever. It’s all the other parts of the electorate where his support declined. From taking office to the 2010 election , his approval rating declined from 88-81 with self-identified Democrats. It dropped from 62-42 for Independents, and 40-10 for Republicans. Democratic turnout declined in roughly the same quantity is usually does for midterms, so there’s no reason to think there was an unusual lack of motivation there.

    • Bruce Baugh

      Not that that happened in 2010, of course. One of many good summaries of relevant data. Liberals turned out as usual; “moderates” turned out less and were more inclined to vote for Republicans than in 2008.

    • joe from Lowell

      The people you mean when you use the word ‘base’ couldn’t swing a state senate seat in Montana.

  • curiouscliche

    Fuck you. I conceded that I’ll probably lose the bet in the tweet right before that one. But how incredibly typical of you to distort reality. I fully intend to comply with the terms of the bet, but not until the actual expiration of it. Until then I’m going to point out what a pathetically destructive liar you are.

    I didn’t realize that corporate Democratic think tanks made policy proposals just for appearances sake:

    http://www.cbpp.org/files/2-22-12bud.pdf

    http://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2010/12/pdf/social_security.pdf

    Atrios recently said that shouting and screaming is part of his job: http://www.eschatonblog.com/2014/02/shouting-and-screaming-is-part-of-my-job.html

    What the fuck is your job in the progressive movement? You’re nothing but a shill for neoliberalism and cynicism. You actually still try and convince people that politicians’ main interest is being re-elected. So you’re either hopelessly ignorant, or horrifyingly malicious. All the evidence suggests the latter.

    • “curiouscliche” seems an appropriate nym here.

      • curiouscliche

        Thanks! It works on so many levels

    • Ian

      Atrios recently said that shouting and screaming is part of his job

      They’re part of his job because a lot of people are listening to him. You, on the other hand, have sent over 90,000 tweets to about 300 people.

    • Jeffrey Beaumont

      I am really confused about what the hell this guys is talking about… Scott just pointed out that the chained CPI thing has been a political football, and now it is off table. He claimed no certainty about what Obama really wants with regard to SS cuts, but pointed out that he has never pursued them realistically. All that is true.

      And sure, Lemiuex is a bit cynical, but how is he a liar or malicious and destructive?

    • Fuck you. I conceded that I’ll probably lose the bet in the tweet right before that one.

      You mean:

      Vincent Vecchione ‏@curiouscliche Feb 22
      [email protected] I will probably lose our wager, but you’ll still be a fucking destructively pathetic liar.

      Wait, this is “With a gracious concession of error!”? This is not better for you.

      And the second tweet is more relevant as it basically is a take backsies. Yes, you’ll lose the bet but somehow you’re right anyway?

  • curiouscliche
    • joe from Lowell

      Then steps on it, only to realize it’s his own dick.

      • Rigby Reardon

        He wishes.

  • curiouscliche

    Fuck. That’s embarrassing. I meant this link: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2009/01/obama-calls-for-2/

    • Malaclypse

      And he’ll do it, any day now. He’s just been kinda busy.

      • curiouscliche

        Yes, just like all his progressive promises.

        • Malaclypse

          I’m just pissed he’s still defending DOMA.

          • Junker

            And when are they going to get around to DADT repeal?

            • lawguy

              Well, although I do think he did the right thing with DOMA and DADT, neither of those involved money and bankers. He was also certainly not out ahead of any progressive on those.

              • Malaclypse

                He was also certainly not out ahead of any progressive on those.

                Name any president who was “out ahead” of progressives.

                • Gene Debs.

                • Malaclypse

                  Gene Debs.

                  Emma Goldman.

              • junker

                Remember, progressive policies ony count if they involve screwing over banks in someway.

          • curiouscliche

            Hey remember that time that Obama proposed raising the minimum wage to 9.50 an hour in 2008, and then didn’t do shit about it for four years? And then he proposed a minimum wage increase that was significantly less when you account for four years of inflation? http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/02/obama-retrades-unmet-first-term-campaign-minimum-wage-promise-in-state-of-the-union-address.html

            • Malaclypse

              You say he’s not passing laws without Congressional approval? That tyrant!

              • curiouscliche

                You do understand how completely circular your argument is right?

                • Jeffrey Beaumont

                  Do you?

            • Scott Lemieux

              Do you remember when you responded to being humiliatingly wrong with a whole bunch of non-sequiturs?

    • Malaclypse

      Also, did you know that George Bush didn’t want to use force in Iraq? It’s true – he said so, and we see from your clever example that Presidents never tell anything but the unvarnished truth.

    • Col Bat Guano

      You do understand what “Drops the mic” actually means don’t you?

      • curiouscliche

        Worst. Rapper. Ever.

    • joe from Lowell

      So, as evidence for your claim of Obama’s determination to impose austerity, and his lack of public posturing as a fiscal scold/grand bargainer while actually working in favor of a progressive economic agenda, you cite an interview in January 2009 calling for a grand bargain to reduce the deficit, published a couple weeks before he came into office and made the passage of the largest stimulus bill in American history.

      Wow. You sure did pwn those of who who thinks he postures for effect.

  • Michael

    Perhaps we can all agree that if Obama’s embrace of this bad policy was pure politics, it was bad politics.

    I for one was never under the illusion that Obama was some kind of secular saint. I did once hope, though, that he was a better politician than he has shown himself. I know he positioned himself as a post-partisan in 2004-08, but by the end of ’08 it was fairly clear that the political landscape had shifted. Faced with a moment when unapologetic, activist progressivism was at last the winning strategy, we got appointments and rhetoric dominated by chickenshit Clintonism (yes, we did get relatively progressive results in the ARRA and the ACA, but the politics was never about the people, always about the Very Serious People).

    And I’m sorry, but not losing to Mitt Fucking Romney does not convince me of O’s political omniscience.

    • Michael

      Meaning, his personal victory over a horrible candidate with horrible ideas doesn’t completely erase his culpability in electing the Worst Congress in History.

      • Junker

        What was his specific culpability? Presidents essentially always lose seats in the midterms, unless 9/11 happens. Demographics also make democratic control of the house difficult in non wave years. What specifically did Obama do wrong leading up to that election and what evidence do you have that it was his actions that lost the house?

        • lawguy

          Um were you just born in November 2010? Did you not watch the politics going into that election? I’m not sure I could have imagined a more tone deaf series of political moves than Obama managed leading up to that election.

          Yes losing some seats was probably inevitable but this was a loss on an epic scale, in congress and the various statehouses. He is a bad politician in every way but in getting himself elected. He is amazing at that. Although it help having the candidates who ran against him.

          • Junker

            That sure was definitive. Did you miss the part about “evidence” and “specific actions?”

            “He just messed up, okay” is not an argument.

            • Sharon

              Actually, 2010 was a group fuck-up for the Democrats. The Administration didn’t explain what the PPACA would do for people in a meaningful way. The house democrats ran on… Nothing. When you have no message it’s hard to run. They just let the GOP lie about Medicare cuts, lie about the Democrats’ House votes for Climate change legislation, and hid under their desk until the mid-terms were over.

              It was a cavalcade of suck!

            • Michael

              For me it was 1) the inadequacy of the ARRA, which helped set the economic conditions for the debacle; 2) the utter lack of any move to hold the financial community accountable in 2009-10, if only via some sort of Pecora Commission vehicle; 3) the weak response to the “death panel” craziness of 2010.

              Or more concisely, exhibit A: Timothy Geithner; exhibit B: Larry Summers; exhibit C: Rahm Emanuel.

          • joe from Lowell

            Yes losing some seats was probably inevitable but this was a loss on an epic scale, in congress and the various statehouses.

            You’d think the Democrats were the incumbent party during the worse economy since the Great Depression, the losses were so huge.

            Obviously, the determining factor was Obama’s rhetoric.

    • IM

      Indeed. The centrist media he wanted to appeal to, e. g. Wapo never gives him credit anyway.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      This.

      If this was all about pretending to support chained CPI, doing so gained Obama nothing politically while giving a little more oxygen to the idea of chained CPI.

      • Random

        The results say otherwise.

        C-CPI is deader than a junkyard battery now, after never having once been given any serious chance to live in the first place. Every future Democratic president can refuse to even consider pursuing entitlement cuts at this point and can just point to the Obama Admin if some centrist pundit gives them any guff.

      • joe from Lowell

        If this was all about pretending to support chained CPI, doing so gained Obama nothing politically

        Most observers consider the collapse of the Republicans’ support between the fall of 2010, when they had a huge lead over the Democrats and were controlling the national political discourse, to the end of 2011, to be “something” in terms of politics.

  • Anonymous

    Again, what was gained? Why was this a good or useful strategy?

    To me, a lot of amateur commentary on political gamesmanship recalls amateur poker players discussing the mechanics of a hand – a successful outcome always implies an unbroken series of successful moves.

    That a player could make a bet on the flop or turn that was terrible strategy and useless in expected return, yet go on to win the hand, is incomprehensible to some. For such people, if the outcome was satisfactory, then clearly everything was done correctly.

    Sometimes a move is bad in isolation and in context. Any support for Chained CPI is just that, in my view, from any Democrat.

    • FlipYrWhig

      “Support for chained CPI” is about as meaningful as “support for an individual mandate for health insurance.” Or “support for higher taxes.” In isolation, yes, all of those would create tangible harm and be dreadfully unpopular. Good thing no one supports any of them in isolation, then.

      It would be more sensible and more accurate to say, instead of “support for chained CPI,” “support for a series of changes to Social Security that includes both a reduction in the cost-of-living adjustment and an enhanced minimum benefit.” (All of the various blue-ribbon commissions kicked around the latter, as I recall.)

      At least that way it would be clear what the dispute was about: a package of changes, not a single, deplorable one.

      • Anonymous

        Around 40% of seniors derive 90% of their income from SS, and the average monthly benefit is something less than $1,400.

        What about that picture indicates COLAs for SS need to be cut? Is $1,400 too much money?

        How does an accompanying minimum benefit make the picture any prettier for you? Are we assuming wise and beneficent adjustments to that minimum going forward, even as we reduce the COLA .3% annually?

        • FlipYrWhig

          Social Security by definition gives worse benefits to people who spent their lifetimes earning less. From a social justice perspective, that sucks. Substantially increasing the benefits of lifetime low earners would be a huge advance. People who made a lot of money over their lives don’t need a guarantee that their benefits will always go up. I know politically why it happens, but, still, it’s a terrible way to design an old-age pension. A better way to design an old-age pension would be to cut retirees a monthly check that keeps them out of poverty, index it to a COLA formula that gets revisited periodically, and stop keying the whole thing to what they earned when they were working.

    • joe from Lowell

      Again, what was gained? Why was this a good or useful strategy?

      It destroyed the Republicans’ political standing, reducing them from the agenda-setting, popular winners of the 2010 elections to the despised, rock-bottom fringe they were during Ted Cruz’s shutdown.

      Sometimes a move is bad in isolation and in context. Any support for Chained CPI is just that, in my view, from any Democrat.

      A certainty that a thing must, by definition, be a bad move would seem to be a hindrance to making an evidence-based determination about specific cases. It’s like asking a vegetarian if you have your grill set to the right level for a steak.

      • Nathanael

        It really didn’t do that. Republicans destroyed their own political standing, and they were *itching* to do so.

        This is the same period when Obama signed the Bush tax cuts extension, which WAS a VERY bad move. I think proper analysis says that Obama was actually seriously offering concessions which he shouldn’t have.

  • Paula

    I’m sure many of you are now ready to denounce FDR’s presidency because if he was a true Democrat, surely he would have realized that binding industry to the war effort would have created the military industrial complex. He should have realized that a Republican would have exploited it!

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      Putting aside for a second the truth of the assertion, saying that Obama supports chained CPI and that that’s a stupid thing to support does not necessarily entail denouncing Obama’s presidency, anymore than saying that FDR’s enacting Japanese internment was morally abhorrent necessarily entails denouncing FDR’s presidency.

      • Paula

        Can you speak for everyone else who somehow wants to know what’s in Obama’s heart-of-hearts, for whom apparently actual happenings are less important than judging whether we know this politician actually supported something vs. was just saying things to provoke the other side into action/non-action?

        anymore than saying that FDR’s enacting Japanese internment was morally abhorrent necessarily entails denouncing FDR’s presidency.

        Why not, though? It’s not just internment, and the military-industrial complex, but also the permanent political shafting of American leftists and the blind eye to union racism. These are policies that can be (and have been) attributed to FDR and which that have borne pretty noxious fruit over the years.

        By the logic presented in many places, Barack Obama is responsible for many horrible policies, not just C-CPI. By that same logic, FDR is the root of/enabled many equally horrible policies.

        • Random

          Barack Obama is responsible for many horrible policies, not just C-CPI.

          C-CPI never became a policy and its chances of becoming a policy in a future Democratic administration are considerably less. Obama and Congressional Democrats made damn sure of that.

          • Paula

            Right you are. I guess I should amend their position to: merely suggesting this policy is one of the many bad things that Barack Obama did during his presidency.

          • EthanS

            C-CPI never became a policy and its chances of becoming a policy in a future Democratic administration are considerably less.

            Ah… but when it does, we will blame him. Why not start now and beat the rush?

        • Nathanael

          “also the permanent political shafting of American leftists”

          That was, in a very real sense, the goal of FDR’s policies, and was successful. Liberalism blunts the political demands for communist revolution.

          Same way Earl Grey’s goal in the 1830s was to preserve the nobility in England. He succeeded. He had a cautionary tale across the Channel in France at the time.

          The failure actually lies in the elite forgetting that there is a threat of communist revolution and starting to act like noblemen at Versailles. This happened starting in the 80s.

  • scott

    If I give up anything resembling a Green Lantern theory of presidential leadership, will Scott abandon his serial Eleven Dimensional Chess explanations for why Obama didn’t mean what he said or proposed?

    • Random

      Obama didn’t mean what he said or proposed?

      Whoever said Obama didn’t mean what he said?

      “I will agree to C-CPI reductions that I don’t want in the first place as soon as the GOP agrees to raise taxes”

      is functionally equivalent to:

      “I will never agree to C-CPI reductions under any circumstances.”

    • Scott Lemieux

      Eleven Dimensional Chess

      Assuming House Republicans won’t vote for upper-class tax increases is more like one-dimensional checkers.

    • joe from Lowell

      If I give up anything resembling a Green Lantern theory of presidential leadership, will Scott abandon his serial Eleven Dimensional Chess explanations for why Obama didn’t mean what he said or proposed?

      Why would you giving up a framework that has failed at every turn as a predictor cause Scott to give up a framework which has proven to be extremely effective?

      • Nathanael

        Scott’s framework is not effective as a predictor.

  • Gwen

    “In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H Club — the ‘hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.’”

    This is literally Spiro Agnew’s only great achievement, and it’s attributable to Safire. But anyway… it is applicable here, I think.

  • Paula

    Just worth noting that the people who are very concerned about the lowered cost-of-living adjustments for seniors are probably the same people who shrug at the additional thirty million people who are now insured under the ACA because the policy itself fails the principle of Not Being the Public Option/Single Payer.

    • Nathanael

      Correct estimate last I checked: an additional 14 million people insured thanks to ACA — great!

      30 million is the number who will still be uninsured after ACA.

      Get your facts straight.

  • joe from Lowell

    Sadly, as anyone who reads liberal blog comments knows, there really are people who believe, or at least pretend to believe, that any position taken by an public official represents a sincere position, and elementary concepts such as “tradeoffs,” “bluffing,” and “strategic misdirection” represent immensely complicated eleventy-billion dimensional chess that cannot possibly reflect reality.

    Well, they manage not to understand bluffing and misdirection when it suits them not to know it. The same people manage to figure these concepts out when they complain that Obama doesn’t start out with implausibly high opening offers so he can be bargained down to his real position.

    It doesn’t take much “knowledge” to know Obama supports chained CPI on the “merits”, when it’s in his budget

    Given the habit of recent Congresses to ignore the President’s budget entirely and write their own from scratch – remember the gleeful line from Republicans that the President’s budget didn’t get a single vote in Congress? – the White House budget proposal itself has become a low-stakes forum for bluffs and misdirection.

    • Nathanael

      Sure. I can agree with this.

      And Obama’s been quite good at misdirection, when for instance he lied to all of us about his position on warrantless spying on all Americans, claiming he’d vote against the FISA Amendments Act. (Then voting for it. Then lying about what was in the Act.)

      On the other hand, when push came to shove, Obama signed a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts for the Koch Brothers. I think that shows where his priorities lie.

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