Thursday, April 14, 2011

In more serious news

President Obama proposes to cut the deficit by Four trillion dollars divided by twelve per year.

I know, it sounds more impressive when you say PRESIDENT WILL CUT DEFICIT BY $4 TRILLION overtwelveyears.

It's only a tiny fraction of what we need to cover our deficit. Calling it a "staggering" cut is pretty silly, given its proportion to the cuts we need. And even if we could get the deficit under control, we still need to deal with the ever-increasing interest payments on the debt we've been taking out to pay our bills. But the reason this news isn't made of pure suck is the signalling going on:

In a move that will anger the Democratic base, Obama is also suggesting further cuts to come from reforms to Medicaid, which provides basic health provision for the poor, and Medicare, which provides healthcare for those over 65.

In addition to the traditional Democratic demands that we eat the rich and cut military spending, the President is proposing cuts to one of the Democrats' sacred cows. His actual proposal may have trivially modest cuts. But even speaking of a willingness to discuss Medicare is a very good sign. Democrats have built a large portion of their constituency on dependence on Medicare, and scaring dependent voters into voting for them rather than for the evil Republicans who'll take away "their" money*. Having a liberal Democratic President from Chicago come out and say Medicare isn't sacrosanct could be a very good sign indeed. We do need to talk about cutting back our out of control military spending, and tax increases may be inevitable, but cutting Medicare is another essential part of the solution; we can no longer pretend that we can recover while completely shielding either party's altars. (We need to address Social Security, too, which may just not be rescuable, but Medicare is a good start.)

Don't get me wrong; there's a very good chance he has no intention of ever making meaningful cuts, and just wants to offer a meaningless pittance so come election time he can tell his faithful, "look, I even offered Medicare reform, and the evil bankster-sympathizing obstructionist PARTY OF NO rejected it!" But there's potential here that wasn't there before. I'll take it.

[* - Just as Republicans have sunk a ton of political capital into conflating "we spend more on war than every other nation in the world combined and can carry on two occupations simultaneously" with "we can defend ourselves", to scare their base with the implication that Democrats want to leave us defenseless against the Korean commie mutant zombie biker terrorists...]

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