The Widdershins

Archive for October 23rd, 2013

Droopy Dawg

Rejoice! It looks like the Republicans have bowed to the inevitable and agreed to a temporary imposition of fiscal sanity. Robert Reich gives us the skinny.

Republicans have agreed to fund the federal government through January 15 and extend the government’s ability to borrow (raise the debt ceiling) through Feb. 7. The two sides have committed themselves to negotiate a long-term budget plan by mid-December.

Regardless of what happens in the upcoming budget negotiations, it seems doubtful House Republicans will try to prevent the debt ceiling from being raised next February. Saner heads in the GOP will be able to point to the debacle Tea Partiers created this time around – the public’s anger, directed mostly at Republicans; upset among business leaders and Wall Street executives, who bankroll much of the GOP; and the sharply negative reaction of stock and bond markets, where the American middle class parks whatever savings it has.

Yes, as we figured, Boehner boo-hooed his way into an agreement. (I believe “Burnt Orange” was the color du jour.)  I’ll bet that there was pudding involved as well, perchance with a dash of bourbon and a few stray cigarette ashes.

But that was then, this is now. What will happen next?

…The President and the Democrats have made it clear they’ll protect Obamacare at all costs. Which means the real action between now and January 15 will be over the federal budget. The threat of another government shutdown is the only major bargaining leverage House Republicans possess in order to get what they consider “meaningful” concessions.

[snip]

Here, I fear, is where the President is likely to cave.

He’s already put on the table a way to reduce future Social Security payments by altering the way cost-of-living adjustments are made – using the so-called “chained” consumer price index, which assumes that when prices rise people economize by switching to cheaper alternatives. This makes no sense for seniors, who already spend a disproportionate share of their income on prescription drugs, home healthcare, and medical devices – the prices of which have been rising faster than inflation. Besides, Social Security isn’t responsible for our budget deficits. Quite the opposite: For years its surpluses have been used to fund everything else the government does.

The President has also suggested “means-testing” Medicare – that is, providing less of it to higher-income seniors. This might be sensible. The danger is it becomes the start of a slippery slope that eventually turns Medicare into another type of Medicaid, a program perceived to be for the poor and therefore vulnerable to budget cuts.

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