I hope everyone understands that when Paul Ryan said they were going to leave “entitlements” alone and the sequester would take place that it was a form of political trash talk before the negotiation, right? Nobody really believes that either side will allow defense cuts of that magnitude to take place. Nobody. And the domestic cuts would cause havoc too, so they aren’t going to do that either. I’m sure there are a few Tea Partiers who would be fine with all that, but they no longer have the hold on the caucus John Boehner might have once wanted us to think they do.
But just because the looniest Tea Partiers aren’t in charge doesn’t mean the Republican majority in general is suddenly a nice bunch of Rockefeller Republicans who are eager to put all this ill will behind them and work with the Democrats to preserve the welfare state. There all nuts you know, even if they aren’t all kamikazes.
I’m going to take a wild leap here and guess that Ryan said they wouldn’t touch Social Security and Medicare because they’re hoping they can get the White House to be the ones to put it on the table (again) in the negotiations. They know by now that this is likely to divide the Democrats and they are seeking a negotiating advantage.
Here’s a fascinating little discussion about all that from The Cycle on MSNBC yesterday:
Kornacki: It’s hard to believe but the inauguration was just a week ago. In that speech, the president staunchly defended medicaid, medicare and social security and at least made it seem like they would be safe in the next round of debt talks but a month ago he was singing a different tune and hinted at makes cuts to medicare. That move could lead to some Democratic intraparty fighting like we have seen within the GOP recently. Which Obama will show up for the state of the union and more importantly the spending battle ahead? Here to help us make sense of it, Buzzfeed contributor, Blake Zeff. You have been writing a lot about this. I guess what i’m trying to make sense of right now is where Obama is sort of strategically on this. Two summers ago during the debt ceiling talks, there was signals of the White House to raise the eligible age of Medicare like two months ago signals ago CPI change is good and then Paul Ryan saying I don’t think there’s anything and going to accept the sequester, you know, which touches defense and not the social safety net at all and that’s it. Have we entered a new face and Medicare and Medicaid off the table? What do you think? Zeff: I wouldn’t be so sure. You’re right the president is all over the map on this and yesterday there’s an interview with him in The New Republic that might have been code words and wanted the talk about judicious reforms to Medicare and make changes to Social Security and how he’s willing to buck what he called I think “the ideological wing” of the party, this kind of a thing. And so as you mentioned, he’s many times before have been willing to even interested in floating changes to Medicare and Medicaid and now to think he’s not going to is a stretch at this point. Krystal Ball: Have Republicans kind of missed they should moment, though? because as Steve is saying, the president seemed to be willing to offer up entitlement reforms and during the fiscal cliff negotiations, there was an offer of reduced Social Security benefits. Have Republicans kind of missed their chance to really force reforms on the democratic party? have they saved news a sense? Zeff: It’s a good way of putting it. If that’s what happens, that would be the cause. Republicans had overreached or overplayed their hand and certainly possible but I do think that, you know, I just want to be clear. Obama is on the record many times over in the past saying he supports changes to the programs including change CPI as Steve mentioned and raising the age for Medicare and so it would not surprise me at all to see these things come back in talks over the next month or two.
Neither would I. And I’m fairly sure Paul Ryan wouldn’t be surprised either. Ryan is obviously going to be a big player in the next negotiations. He’s been charged with writing the Republican Dream Budget that erases the deficit within 10 years. Whatever they are saying right now is meaningful only to the extent that it positions them in public opinion and among the elite Villagers.