Welcoming A Discussion of Fiscal Responsibility
By David Sirota
February 18, 2009 - 12:18am ET
The New York Times tells us that President Obama is going to hold a "fiscal responsibility" summit next week. This is likely Obama's olive branch to the Blue Dog Democrats, who have been trying to gut Social Security for at least a decade.
Let's assume for the moment that the Wall Street Journal's suggestion about Obama potentially supporting cuts to Social Security are inaccurate. Why should we assume this, until Obama explicitly states otherwise? I'd say both because Obama promised not to cut Social Security, and because he's a smart person who understands that cuts to Social Security is - mathematically speaking - one of the least most effective ways to restore "fiscal responsibility." Indeed, the Times suggests Obama comprehends exactly that:
After Mr. Obama opens the summit, the assemblage will break into six groups. Each will discuss separate topics that encompass the range of fiscal challenges that would exist even without the current recession and will endure once the economy recovers. The topics include health-care costs, Social Security, tax reform, defense procurement and the federal budget process.
Progressives should welcome a broad-based discussion about "fiscal responsibility" - and remind the so called "deficit-hawk" Blue Dogs Democrats in Congress that their votes have created the fiscal mess they claim to be concerned about.
For instance, most Blue Dogs voted for the Iraq War, which could cost $3 trillion when all is said and done.
Many Blue Dogs supported George W. Bush's tax cuts that blew another trillion-dollar hole into the budget.
Many Blue Dogs also supported corporate tax loopholes that have created a $345 billion "tax gap" between what the Treasury is owed, and what it collects.
Many Blue Dogs have offered lockstep support to a defense budget that continues to hand out contracts to corporations that owe the country billions in back taxes.
And I don't seem to remember "deficit-hawk" Blue Dogs supporting various progressive bills in Congress over the years that proposed to lift the regressive payroll tax cap and therefore funnel additional billions into Social Security. I also don't remember Blue Dogs supporting universal health care bills that would press down the overall cost of health care and potentially save Medicare trillions.
With the Congressional Budget Office telling us that Social Security is fiscally sound for the next 40 years, all of these other options for achieving "fiscal responsibility" (which, of course, have been on the table for years) are empirically more "pragmatic" courses of action than attempting to balance the budget through cuts to the most popular and fiscally stable program in American history. Indeed, considering all of this evidence, anyone insisting that cuts to Social Security should be the primary way to achieve "fiscal responsibility" isn't a "pragmatist" at all - he/she is the most zealous kind of ideologue looking to shield the wealthy and powerful from sacrifice and punish senior citizens.
That's why progressives should welcome a discussion about "fiscal responsibility." If the Obama administration is as devoted to "pragmatism" as it says it is, then we're going to be in good shape. Why? Because we've got far more pragmatic ways to achieve "fiscal responsibility" than Blue Dog Democrats whose votes have created the fiscal problems we now face.
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