OK, I still have my bronchitis and I have been dozing a lot because the meds make me sleepy. So I watched the last three or four days on CNN on a sort of tuned in/tuned out basis that was the perfect mental state for experiencing this painful and maddening episode of Congressional Dysfunction. Talk about officious. Obama had to make another end move around the House of Representatives because all they want to talk about is spending cuts, their euphemism for making huge cuts in social programs. They are still bitter about the Affordable Health Care Act and are still trying to undo it by defunding it. They only faced the single reality left to them when it was the final hour in which to avoid falling off the cliff at least in terms of taxes. They bitterly called the vote that they promised they would take and they seem just as bitter that the measure was able to pass in the House.
I was wrong. Obama was not playing wishbone, he was playing chess. He had a long strategy and it worked. Republicans act like this will be the end of America and they vow that they will foil Obama at each and every financial moment that will come up over the next 3 months. Nice guys or sore losers?
It was delightful to finally turn off my TV in the early hours of January 1st and know that for this one moment we weren’t holding our breath while some reactionary people decide our fiscal fate. This is what we have, one moment in which to celebrate that taxes are taken care of and that we can now turn our attention to cuts and whatever targeted spending is possible. I am unhappy about all the earmarks attached to this bill (why?), but I want to celebrate. I want to celebrate for just a little while before we return to vituperation and uncertainty. I wish I thought that this agreement broke the dam and that from here on out our adventures in decision-making will be less frightening, but I don’t believe that is what has happened. The dam is still there and decisions will trickle forth in the same obstructed way that we have come to expect from this Congress.
Today I don’t care. I’m celebrating. Yay!
We are waiting to learn our fiscal fate. What will happen to our taxes? What will happen to “entitlements”? We have been going round and round about this for years now. I could not believe when the GOP first started talking about our safety net programs as “entitlements”. I was really astounded when they seemed ready to scrap these programs completely, It kind of came out of the blue and I will admit, it shocked me. I did not foresee this attack. Now, of course, we have been through the mill on this one. We have had the privatize discussions (vouchers). We have had the deadbeat discussions (so insulting), But I still thought it was apparent that cutting social programs is not what most Americans see as desirable. And yet these cuts are still on the table after all this time. True, cutting the CPI used to calculate Social Security cost of living raises is not the end the world, but I just did not believe that we would dun our seniors for their meager financial protections. Of course, other cuts are just as unpalatable and no one wants to see cuts that affect the poor (well, except that radical wing in the Republican Party.) Cuts have to be made somewhere. So we will wait it out to see what kind of deal can be hammered out between Congress and the President and we will hope that President Obama doesn’t get in one of his compromising moods where he gives away the store. Social Security is not broke yet. It is a solvent fund and a separate budget item. When I first heard talk of these cuts I thought that they would never happen. Here is what I said two and a half years ago:
The idea of small federal government or “federalism” which may have been appropriate in the 1770’s or even in the 1860’s is not a useful concept in the 21st century. Our population is huge compared to the population in 18th and 19th century America. Our society has become skewed in that the rules have favored the rich for so long that a few people have cornered most of the wealth. Our forefathers were elitist. They did not put too fine a point on the rights of people who did not own land.
We are experiencing a return to elitism. Those who have been financially successful want to cut the rest of us loose now that we have become a drag on the economy instead of a useful work force (cash cow). They want to end all entitlements – no Social Security-no Medicaid-no Medicare. Then they could just pocket our tax dollars in the name of jump-starting the economy.
This approach will not really satisfy anyone. Pretty soon they’ll be tripping over us on the streets, we will have massive new slums, crime rates will rise, disease rates will rise. America will not look or feel anything like America.
This is what the Tea Party wants to do. This is what the Republicans want to do. It is all about greed and the status quo (those with the dollars get to keep the dollars.)
So keep watching our politicians this week. I bet we are going there, it is just a matter of how bad it will be.
We have a box on our paychecks where money is taken that is “supposedly” dedicated to Social Security. We have another box which shows monies deducted from our pay and “supposedly” dedicated to Medicare. Yet when we see graphs on our news media, Social Security and Medicare are included as regular budget items.
Is Washington merging all our tax money, dedicated and otherwise into one budget stream? This is not the way citizens perceive the situation. But since you all keep harping on cutting Social Security, which we are told is not broke yet, then the money merge of dedicated funds with ordinary taxes must be the case.
Medicare, you tell us, costs more than we pay in. We can accept that. We have seen the explosion of costs in health care. Show us how much we pay in and what you have to pay out and the difference between the two. We were hoping you could make up this difference with cost-cutting and fraud prevention. If you can’t we can accept that some changes will have to be made to Medicare. I like the broader-base/means testing ideas best.
Why is our Social Security in jeopardy right now? We still have a little time to solve this one. You need cuts. There are lots of other places to cut. You snatched that money out of our checks with complete regularity. Don’t expect us to kiss it good-bye without a fight. We really need to be able to retire as was promised.
Save Medicare and Social Security for one year. See if the economy starts to make a stronger recovery. Spend that year presenting your plans for these two programs to the American people. Let us vote for them on-line. Do what must be done with these two programs next November (2013).
In the meantime why are we still listening to the same “blame game” rhetoric from Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan who are holding the Republicans feet to the fire when they lost the election!You lost GOP — your approach lost; let the President try his way which is the way America chose! I don’t really think going over the cliff is such a bad option. It will be painful. It will hurt the economy. But it represents a fair approach to budget cuts which we might not have the guts to do otherwise. So if you can’t support Obama’s plan just forget it. We will all hold hands and go over the cliff together.