For the past few days, we've been treated to an explosion on the Left over proposals for savings in Social Security and Medicare. Pres. Obama has been excoriated as a Democrat In Name Only, wanting to put grandma on cat food, and in at least one blog's comments as a "gelding".
I'm not going to go into the particulars on the budget. You can do a search on Google and find plenty of ammunition to support whichever side you're on. (I recommend this blog post for a rather thorough explanation on the budget.)
Pres. Obama's budget is, in part, a good-faith offer to the GOP. He's taking John Boehner and Paul Ryan at their words that they don't want to destroy Social Security and Medicare, but to "reform" them. Obama's budget does that, while preserving both programs, and even enhancing them by setting a minimum benefit above the poverty line, and upping the benefits for seniors once they reach the age of 85. He achieves savings in Medicare by cutting wasteful payments to providers and drug companies; and, of course, the PPACA has provisions in it which help ensure Medicare's solvency. If Boehner, Ryan, and Eric Cantor were sincere in their stated purposes to "save" Social Security and Medicare, they would accept Obama's offer, or at least negotiate based on it.
Of course, they're not. Boehner dismissed the budget blueprint after it was leaked as too little, too late. Paul Ryan is on record as saying that there is no room for compromise. The GOP leadership and rank and file is united as a bloc against the budget.
And small wonder that it is. Yes, Obama has taken heat from the left for his chained CPI proposal. But the budget is loaded with items which should make people on the left happy, from closing tax loopholes for the rich to universal pre-K education funded by cigarette taxes. That the left has launched a jihad against Obama for his heresy against the dogma that there's no looming danger to Social Security is part of the problem facing this country.
Pres. Obama had to include social insurance "reform" in his budget. The Serious People ™ would demand nothing less; of course, they, like Boehner, say that Obama still isn't showing "leadership".
But this was aimed at neither the GOP caucus or The Serious People ™. All this infuriating kabuki is aimed at voters, at those who answer poll questions and determine the national debate. Because, despite what the DC media thinks, there is a debate going on in the country irrespective of their analysis.
Voters are tired of Washington gridlock. They want the two parties to work together for the good of the country. And they are on the verge of severely punishing the people they see as obstructing governance.
Obama created a firestorm over chained CPI with the megaphone left. But he now has the battle scars to go on the hustings and tell voters: "See, I gave in on something dear to my base. But the GOP is against any proposal if it includes extracting extra revenue from their backers." Obama faced down the leftist lions; Boehner doesn't have the courage or the power to do likewise with the rightist radicals. The Right demands nothing other than complete surrender on the part of Obama and Democrats. And, despite what the Left has been braying about for days, this budget is far from a surrender. As I said, it's loaded with proposals which should win praise from the Left. The fact that it isn't enhances the Kabuki element with the middle-of-the-road voters who will decide the 2014 midterms.
Pres. Obama proposed a budget which he could sign into law. But he also proposed a budget which he knew the GOP would reject. They would reject it because as the price of their "reform", Obama would extract spending on needed national improvements, as well as closing tax loopholes. But, mostly, they would reject it because it was offered up by Obama.
The GOP has no coherent ideology left, other than irrational Obama hatred. There will be no effective governance of the nation until and unless we can unseat the GOP House in 2014. A ten-year budget blueprint is what is needed for stability in the economy; it's a blueprint which can only come to fruition with a Democratic majority in both houses.
And so, the Kabuki, to take the voters by the hand and show them step by step the reasonable steps Obama proposes, and the intransigence and wrong-footedness of the GOP opposition.
It shouldn't be necessary. A free people should be so knowledgeable about politics at both a federal, state, and local level that no politician could get away with blatant demagoguery and outright lies. But that isn't the country in which we live. People demand everything in easily digested bites; right and wrong, black and white. So Obama puts on the drama, somehow making himself heard over the din of the commentariat, and bit by bit reminds voters that they have responsibilities as well as rights; that, indeed, without fulfilling those responsibilities, the rights will be dead letters.
The country, despite being over 200 years old, is still reeling in its adolescence. Pres. Obama is trying to make sure that it reaches maturity in a fit state. For our sakes, we have to make sure he succeeds.