Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) preemptively rejected President Barack Obama’s upcoming budget proposal Friday, slamming the president’s offer to cut Social Security as “only modest entitlement savings.”

President Obama’s budget plan, which he will send to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, will reportedly seek $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction through a combination of new revenues and spending cuts. The most controversial cut is the move to the chained consumer price index (“chained CPI”) for Social Security, which would significantly reduce annual cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security beneficiaries. President Obama has long suggested that he could support the measure, which would cut federal spending by about $130 billion over the next decade, only if Republicans agree to raise new tax revenues.

To many of the president’s liberal allies, such a proposal has been a non-starter. When he floated the idea in late 2012, many House Democrats warned that they would rather go over the “fiscal cliff” than accept the cut. Similarly, in an exclusive interview with The National Memo in March, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka vowed that America’s largest labor federation would oppose any budget deal that included chained CPI, saying the index is “another example of how Washington creates fancy-sounding phrases to mask stupid policies that only work for the rich.”

The public seems to stand with Trumka; recent polling suggests that Americans strongly oppose any Social Security cuts.

The budget reportedly includes several other cuts, such as $400 billion in health care savings (including additional means-testing for Medicare,) and $200 billion in cuts to farm subsidies, federal employee retirement programs, and unemployment compensation. Obama’s budget also aims to raise $600 billion in new revenues, including an increased cigarette tax, which would be used to finance the president’s proposal for universal pre-K.

“While this is not the president’s ideal deficit-reduction plan, and there are particular proposals in this plan like the CPI change that were key Republican requests and not the president’s preferred approach, this is a compromise proposal built on common ground, and the president felt it was important to make it clear that the offer still stands,” a senior Obama administration official told The Hill.

Obama’s offer to meet in the middle has already failed to move House Republicans, however. Not waiting for the full proposal to be released, House Speaker John Boehner quickly released a statement Friday blasting Obama’s plan.

“Despite talk about so-called balance, the president’s last offer was significantly skewed in favor of higher taxes and included only modest entitlement savings,” Boehner said. “In the end, the president got his tax hikes on the wealthy with no corresponding spending cuts. At some point we need to solve our spending problem, and what the president has offered would leave us with a budget that never balances.”

“If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there’s no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes,” Boehner added.

Although Boehner’s statement still completely ignores the $2.5 trillion in deficit reductions to which the White House has agreed since 2010, it does at least acknowledge that Obama is offering “entitlement savings” — even if Boehner rejects the compromise out of hand. This is a modest step in the right direction, considering that until this budget, Republicans have consistently denied that Obama has offered them anything at all.

In the end, that subtle shift may end up as the most significant result of Obama’s budget deal. Although the proposal has no real chance of becoming law — as evidenced by Boehner’s immediate rejection — making a highly publicized compromise offer will further expose the Republicans’ intransigence.

In March, President Obama reportedly offered congressional Republicans a choice: accept a deal that raised revenue in exchange for chained CPI and means-testing of Medicare, or walk away with no budget deal at all. In April, it appears that Boehner has made his decision.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]