The Hill‘s Alexander Bolton reports:
[L]iberal groups are planning to launch an aggressive campaign immediately after Election Day to pressure Obama and Senate Democrats not to endorse any deal that cuts Medicare and/or Social Security benefits. … It is expected to include the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union, Campaign for America’s Future, members of the Strengthen Social Security coalition and dozens of other groups, according to sources familiar with the effort. …
“There’s going to be a major effort by lots of groups to make sure the people we vote for don’t sell us down the river,” said Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future.
Let’s stipulate, first, that Roger Hickey makes six figures from an organization funded by plutocrats and, in the event of a massive downriver sale, would likely be fine. Let’s also stipulate that it’s a nauseating turn of phrase to use in the context of minor tweaks to unsustainable entitlement programs. What’s more, as Grover Norquist notes in the article, though the President would look irresponsible if he didn’t concede–as he does–that some of those cuts are necessary, he has shown little interest in actually pursuing them.
Yes, during the scuttled ‘grand bargain’ negotiations Medicare cuts were on the table. But the President’s rhetorical embrace of Simpson-Bowles, which cuts Social Security but more or less preserves the framework of Obamacare for spending on medical entitlements, is telling. His own budget was criticized by the Washington Post‘s editorial board for being even less serious.
The CAF advocates single-payer healthcare, so that explains why they consider Obama a squish. But the likelihood of their fears coming true is next to zero; despite the President’s debate assurances that sequestration “will not happen,” it probably will.
For it not to, both parties would have to start negotiating, either to avert the fiscal cliff or, even less likely, to strike grand bargain on the deficit. Those lines of communication are apparently not open. Even if they were, unless the GOP were prepared to bring to the table significant concessions to avert the fiscal cliff–an event that will reduce the deficit by itself–the President has no incentive to bring any of his own to the table.
In the somewhat unlikely event that Obama loses the electoral college and there’s a lame-duck president and a lame-duck Congress, do they really think he would use the rest of his time in office to tack to the center? George W. bowed out on the heels of TARP so anything can happen, but still.
Whatever happens to the Senate this November, if Obama wins he will be forced to offer entitlement cuts for a deficit deal in a second term. And an emerging anti-austerity coalition–as opposed to a random smattering of grievances–in an age of “government-shrink” could give the President headaches.