BREAKING: Reports say the president just offered to cut Social Security benefits, if Republicans agree not to let the U.S. default on its debts.Of course, true to form, the email came with a "Sign our emergency petition" link. On their website remains a featured story of a Facebook status update berating the President (is it me or is the Professional Left going all Sarah Palin on Obama?). Reports say. So it must be true. Never mind that an organization that prides itself on progressive values has a responsibility to verify the accuracy of truthfulness of such reports. Especially when verifying the accuracy is so. damned. easy.
It's his offering to the out-of-control Republicans, who are threatening to crash the economy in order to ram through savage cuts to crucial government programs. [...]
President Obama is making a huge mistake that will cost our country dearly.
This is all happening, mind you, after the White House quite clearly and definitively responded that the President will not take any deal that involves slashing benefits, as TiMT reported in his piece yesterday. MSNBC reports that a White House official has made the President's position crystal clear:
*** The White House pushes back: But a top White House official pushes back that it won’t be making a “grand offer” on Social Security. The official explains that the president has always been open to “reasonable changes” to the entitlement programs as a way to strengthen them. Indeed, as Obama said in his fiscal-policy speech back in April, “[B]oth parties should work together now to strengthen Social Security for future generations. But we have to do it without putting at risk current retirees, or the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.” Do Republicans want Social Security as part of the deal? Yes, the White House official responds. Is the White House taking it off the table? No, but it wouldn’t consider changes that are unbalanced and include slashing benefits.MSNBC also points out that it is Republicans who are in message disarray about revenue. President Obama has the Republicans by the ropes, and we have the idiots on the Professional Left focusing their fire on President Obama. We have MoveOn.org going all red-button-sign-the-emergency-petition on President Obama. Why? I think we deserve an answer.
This is also all happening while both the leadership of the House Democrats and the Progressive Caucus have defended President Obama. Shiela Jackson Lee, Vice Chair of the Progressive Caucus:
[Progressive Caucus Chair] Grijalva and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), a vice chair of the caucus, defended the president for signaling he would be willing to take a look at changes to the programs, arguing there are ways to restructure entitlement spending to save money without hurting beneficiaries. [...]Are the people at MoveOn reading? Are they listening? Hello? Is this thing on? Shiela Jackson Lee essentially read the whiners the riot act - focus your fire on the real enemy of the social safety net, and it ain't Barack Obama.
Jackson Lee said the heat should remain on Republicans who want to take down Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- not on the president, because they are still unsure of what changes he will propose.
"We should not let them define the agenda," she told HuffPost. "The president has done something heroic to convene everybody. ... We don't want to get into a mish-mash with the president of the United States when he is clearly on the side of the most vulnerable."
Chris Van Hollen, the Democratic ranking member of the budget committee also spoke out:
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Budget Committee, echoed the statements of Grijalva and Jackson Lee on CNN, saying he does not think the president wants to make major cuts to entitlement programs.Indeed, it isn't what the President is referring to.
"What we have said is that if the president wants to adopt a separate track, just as Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s, to strengthen Social Security, that's one thing," he said. "But to try and balance the budget on the backs of Social Security beneficiaries would be unacceptable and I'm pretty confident that is not what the president is referring to."
So the question must be asked. What gives? Are the people at MoveOn simply being hoodwinked? And what is it with the Palinesque "Oooh look at this Facebook status update" thing? Is it because the status update, "If Barack Obama cuts Social Security to pay for the Bush tax cuts for millionaires, I won’t ever give his campaign another dime. Repost and reshare this image if you agree," sounds like a political threat?
If it is the threat value, and MoveOn is trying to threaten the President politically, they might want to rethink this strategy. Going around threatening President Obama based on a lie is the dumbest thing a "progressive" organization can possibly do. Before you go around threatening President Obama politically, you should perhaps consider that President Obama is not alone. There is the rest of us. There are countless people whose loyalty Obama has earned by working hard on behalf of ordinary Americans, and never once failing to stand up to protect the needs of ordinary people.
Maybe MoveOn needs to be reminded that the singular reason Paul Ryan's Medicare voucherization plan is now in the footnotes of history is President Obama, who masterminded the message of charging 33 seniors $6,000 extra to pay for the average millionaire's tax break. Maybe MoveOn needs to recall that President Obama took took away extra payments to private Medicare Advantage insurers and strengthened Medicare - in fact, the Affordable Care Act cut costs from private insurers while increasing benefits to seniors in the form of free preventive care and closing the Part D donut hole. Perhaps MoveOn could do well to be reminded that it was President Obama who cut the payroll tax for every single worker in this country without reducing revenue to the social security trust fund. Maybe a light bulb could turn on somewhere and remind MoveOn that it was President Obama's fiscal commission (much derided as they may be) that proposed raising the cap on social security taxable income (making it a viable option in these debt limit talks) and diversifying social security trust fund investments to raise return, ideas endorsed by the MoveOn-backed Strengthen Social Security Coalition.
Threatening President Obama politically is not just stupid, it risks losing our best defense in favor of our social safety net: President Obama himself. This is essentially the strategy of burning down the village to "save" it.
If it's that they have just been hoodwinked - both by the corporate media and the professional poutrage manufacturers on the whiny Left, that too is inexcusable. They should be smarter than this. You cannot be a leader in progressive activism when you fall for the cheapest trick in the book. Sending out emails at the outset of freakout-mania with "sign our emergency petition" no longer makes for good online activism, MoveOn. People want the truth from you. They expect you to use your considerable resources to not simply rely on what "reports say" but to find out if what those "reports say" actually has any basis in fact or reality. Those who have signed on with you and given you money do not expect you to simply be a blowhorn for the corporate media's rumor mill.
If we are to judge President Obama by his actions - and we must - he has proven to be nothing but a thoughtful and fierce defender of our social compact, at the heart of which are Social Security and Medicare. To believe - based on anonymous sources, no less - that President Obama would cut actual social security requires a suspension of disbelief of gargantuan proportions. Yet, MoveOn seems to have walked into (or fallen into, depending on what really is going on here) that very reality-free zone.
What's "stunning" is that MoveOn.org is either falling for the faux outrage and the media circus, or they have decided to throw in with the the very media sensationalization they were formed to defend against. Either way, it is time for actual progressives to fight back. Send them a message!
UPDATE, or Why I am still a Deaniac:
Via SmartyPants, we learn Howard Dean's reaction to the bru-ha-ha:
I'm actually pretty pleased with what the President is doing.Here's the video:
That put a smile on my face. What the whiny Left never bothered to find out is that their hero, Howard Dean, is actually a deficit hawk. Not from the conservative standpoint, mind you. He balanced 12 budgets as governor of Vermont - even though he was not Constitutionally required to do so - because, as he aptly put it during is 2004 campaign, you cannot have social justice without fiscal balance. Deficits will always hurt the most needy first.
See, I actually worked within the Dean campaign back in 2003 and 2004. I know the real Howard Dean, not the deified version of him. He knows a thing or two about governing, and it makes me happy that he thinks Obama is on the right track to strike a grand bargain.