Obama will release his budget this week, and we already know that he's going to try to stake out a treacherous "middleground" as he attempts to cast himself as a bold centrist, willing to stand apart from leftist Democrats.
He'll do so by, reportedly, introducing a Chained CPI, which is a way of cutting Social by using a different inflation measure that won't rise as much.
Liberals are already livid.
Congressman Jerry Nadler — who is part of the Democratic party's Progressive Caucus — slammed the reports in a comment made on Friday:
I am quite concerned by reports that the forthcoming White House budget proposal might include chained CPI and other accommodations to Republicans determined to dismantle our social net and the progress our nation has made since the New Deal. I must reiterate that I will never support any reductions in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits – and chained CPI is a direct reduction in Social Security benefits. Along with my fellow progressives, I will vehemently oppose any such cuts.
We cannot lose sight of the facts. Social Security is one of the bedrocks of our middle class society and is an essential safety net for millions of American seniors and their families. Millions of Americans rely on Social Security benefits for medical care, food, housing, and other needs. We cannot force seniors to pay even more to fill the hole left by unnecessary and irresponsible cuts to Social Security.
Other, more grassroots leftists, are even more livid.
Here's the pseudonymous New Deal Democrat, who writes great economics analysis for The Bonddad Blog, and who used to be part of the Daily Kos community:
For many grass-roots democrats, this is a bridge - no, an ocean - too far. Any "democrat" who supports these proposals is never going to get my vote. Period. I will support any primary opponents and I will accept a one term GOPer if necessary to end the political career of any Grand Betrayers, replacing them with a progressive in 2 or 6 years. And I know I am far from alone.
In a blog post, Paul Krugman argues that all Obama is doing is trying to appeal to the "Very Serious People" who insist that both parties are to blame for Washington dysfunction. Krugman argues that if anything, Social Security benefits should be increased, given the collapse of other vehicles (401Ks and such) that haven't panned out as well as people thought.
Obama's gambit will blow up in his face, he argues, as the political points he thought he could score will not materialize:
So what’s this about? The answer, I fear, is that Obama is still trying to win over the Serious People, by showing that he’s willing to do what they consider Serious — which just about always means sticking it to the poor and the middle class. The idea is that they will finally drop the false equivalence, and admit that he’s reasonable while the GOP is mean-spirited and crazy.
But it won’t happen. Watch the Washington Post editorial page over the next few days. I hereby predict that it will damn Obama with faint praise, saying that while it’s a small step in the right direction, of course it’s inadequate — and anyway, Obama is to blame for Republican intransigence, because he could make them accept a Grand Bargain that includes major revenue increases if only he would show Leadership (TM).
Oh, and wanna bet that Republicans soon start running ads saying that Obama wants to cut your Social Security?
Anyway, we'll know more this week.
But while everyone is talking about the "civil war" inside the GOP, watch to see if it's the Democrats who implode over this issue.