The Rough Beast Slouches Towards Bethlehem**

The Grand Bargain looms. As the DISSENTING DEMOCRAT has been lamenting for the past several years, the Democrats will be primary culprits in the dissolution of Social Security and Medicare as-we-know-it. Obama and his are the greatest threats to the continuance of the New Deal’s Social Security and the Great Society’s Medicare programs active today. The essay at COMMON DREAMS warns that unless Progressives unite and mount a comprehensive campaign, the Obama-crats and the Repugnantcans will slice and dice what remains of the national commitment to a decent and just society.

As [Richard] Eskow*, citing ample evidence, writes:

Not only do [Democrat leaders] apparently want to cut “entitlements” – some such cuts are included in the President’s current budget – but they’ve essentially conceded as much, leaving them very little negotiating leverage.

For their part, Republicans say they’re willing to give up the harmful cuts known as sequestration – and only those cuts – in return for Social Security and Medicare benefit reductions. Their defense-contractor patrons would be amply rewarded in return for sacrifices from America’s seniors and disabled.

Within the established circle of Beltway punditry and cable news shows, the idea of a negotiated settlement in which Democrats offer up cuts to earned benefit programs like Social Security in exchange for some sort of vague “revenue increase” is now heralded as the “obvious” and “mature” course for Congress and the Obama White House.

However, as Eskow argues, “entitlement cuts are not an ‘adult’ position” but rather “the conservative position” of long-standing.

Further, pushing back against Democrats who have embraced the idea of a so-called ‘Grand Bargain’ with their Republican counterparts, Eskow says that unless a broad-based populist movement against such a deal manifests—and soon—the American public should expect some scenario in which programs like Medicare and Social Security receive long-term cuts in exchange for a short-term budget deal with Republicans.

More and more, Eskow writes, “we find ourselves in a Bizarro-World situation where too many Democrats speak like Republicans, most Republican Party leaders speak like right-wing extremists, and the Republican Party ‘insurgents’ sound more and more like the leaders of paramilitary militias.”

This lurch to the right is not only bad economics, he argues, but clearly bad politics, too. He writes:

Any scenario which leads to Social Security or Medicare cuts would be bad for seniors. It would also be bad for any politician who supported it.

A recent poll by Lake Research shows that 82% of all Americans oppose cuts to Social Security, including 83% of Democrats, 78% of independents, 82% of Republicans – and, in one of the most startling findings of all, fully three-fourths of all self-described Tea Party members (74%). (Social Security Works has a video and a petition on this subject.)

Democrats hold the advantage on this issue right now, which means it’s theirs to lose.

But for those Americans forced to watch the increasingly ‘Bizarro-World’ of Washington politics surrounding the budget battle, what is the scenario in which the idea of Social Security or Medicare cuts are vanquished? Eskow predicts the odds are slim, but argues the only scenario to be hopeful for is one in which “progressives, both officeholders and activists, lead a popular movement which reflects public opinion and defends these programs from so-called ‘Grand Bargain’ cuts.”

* Richard Eskow is a Fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future

** T S Eliot’s poem “The Second Coming”



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