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Obama Is Still Negotiating With Himself

Memo Pad Politics

Obama Is Still Negotiating With Himself


The great mystery of Barack Obama remains the extent to which he has ever believed his own rhetoric about a transformative, post-partisan presidency. Was it really possible, I asked early last year, “that Obama had mistaken the U.S. government for the Harvard Law Review, where the emollient balm of his personality persuaded rival factions to reason together?”

No Chicago politician, I decided, could possibly be that naïve. And yet here we go again. With Mitt Romney in the rear-view mirror and congressional Republicans more intransigent than ever, Obama has been taking GOP senators out to dinner, while the White House has supposedly made party hardliners the proverbial budgetary offer they can’t refuse.

Obama’s willingness to swap “reforms” in the way cost-of-living increases to Social Security benefits are calculated—the so-called “chained CPI”—in return for higher revenues from closing tax loopholes, has many liberals howling mad.

And yet Republicans will almost certainly refuse it.

But hold that thought.

“You cannot be a good Democrat and cut Social Security,” Arshad Hasan, the executive director of Democracy for America, told the New York Times. The group staged a protest outside the White House. Newly-elected Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) dispatched an email to her supporters arguing that “our Social Security system is critical to protecting middle-class families, and we cannot allow it to be dismantled inch by inch.”

Realistically, “inch by inch” is more apt than “dismantled.” According to economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, who strenuously opposes chained CPI, “President Obama’s proposal would reduce benefits by 0.3 percent for each year after a worker retires. After 10 years benefits would be cut by 3.0 percent, after 20 years 6.0 percent, and after 30 years 9.0 percent. Over a 20-year retirement, the average cut would be 3.0 percent.”

That’s about $36 on the average $1,200 Social Security check—noticeable, but hardly crippling. Obama’s proposal also comes with complicated formulas for protecting the poorest recipients.

The kinds of Washington wise men who wear expensively tailored suits on TV talk shows pronounced themselves well pleased. On PBS NewsHour, the lefty/righty team of Mark Shields and David Brooks called Obama “gutsy” and “brave,” respectively, for sticking it to greedy geezers.

And yet, as I say, none of this is likely to happen. No sooner had the Obama budget been released than partisans on both sides began showing something less than earnest good faith. The initial GOP response came from the head of the Republicans’ House campaign committee, Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, who denounced what he called the president’s “shocking attack on seniors.”

Gene Lyons

Gene Lyons is a political columnist and author. Lyons writes a column for the Arkansas Times that is nationally syndicated by United Media. He was previously a general editor at Newsweek as wells an associate editor at Texas Monthly where he won a National Magazine Award in 1980. He contributes to Salon.com and has written for such magazines as Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Esquire, and Slate. A graduate of Rutgers University with a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, Lyons taught at the Universities of Massachusetts, Arkansas and Texas before becoming a full-time writer in 1976. A native of New Jersey, Lyons has lived in Arkansas with his wife Diane since 1972. The Lyons live on a cattle farm near Houston, Ark., with a half-dozen dogs, several cats, three horses, and a growing herd of Fleckvieh Simmental cows. Lyons has written several books including The Higher Illiteracy (University of Arkansas, 1988), Widow's Web (Simon & Schuster, 1993), Fools for Scandal (Franklin Square, 1996) as well as The Hunting Of The President: The 10 Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, which he co-authored with National Memo Editor-in-Chief Joe Conason.

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  1. Dominick Vila April 17, 2013

    There is clear evidence that some Republicans have moved from the far right to the center-right on some issues, but that had more to do with a change in tactics following the 2012 political debacle than the result of a charm offensive by Barack Obama. The GOP finally got it, most Americans are centrists and they dislike political extremism from the right and left. Their problem is how to deal with the Tea Party, which is still determined to advanced their far right agenda regardless of how most Americans feel about their proposals. In my opinion, the approach being taken by senior Republicans to influence Tea Party behavior is as ineffective and naive as Barack Obama’s hope of achieving bipartisanship by extending olive branches to his political opponents. There are times when moderation and compromise is the way to go, and there are times when we must fight for what we believe in. For a Democrat, reductions in Social Security and MEDICARE benefits must be rejected resolutely and without ambiguity.

    1. TheOldNorthChurch April 17, 2013

      “Reductions in Social Security and Medicare benefits must be rejected resolutely and without ambiguity.”

      I actually agree with this statement for the following reasons. Myth 1: I have now paid into Social Security for 42 years and therefore should receive it. Fact 1: I have paid for everyone on Social Security for 42 years and need the next generation of workers to pay for mine so that I can feel good about it. Proof: The current reserve in Social Social Security would last only 3.7 years if no addition person entered Social Security and no new taxes were collected, therefore my money is not there for me.

      Those on Social Security need stability. Those entering it need to really think about a solution. The new generation of workers need to decide what will work for them. Raise taxes on themselves to pay for those captured in the system and then provide for a solution for themselves? If we just let it collapse and then fix it there is no certainty as to the outcome.

      1. Independent1 April 17, 2013

        Has it occurred to you that what you describe is how virtually any insurance policy is created for a group works? Virtually any of the large insurance companies in America would not be able to pay all the death claim or health claim benefits that they are liable for if all their policyholders suddenly stopped paying premiums. Certainly you’ve heard the ads about buy a $500,000 term policy for $25/month; so where do you suppose the insurance company would come up with $500,000 from an insured that was killed in an accident 6 years after paying only $1,800 in premiums?? And the same holds true for health insurance. So should we suddenly abandon the concept of all insurance? – Social Security is run just the same as every insurance company runs their business but instead of calling them insurance premiums, we call them Social Security payroll deductions. And yes, workers, just like insurance policyholders have to keep paying in order for them ever to hope that they will get the benefit they were promised.

        1. TheOldNorthChurch April 17, 2013

          You are describing a Term Life Insurance plan, not a Annuity plan. These are very different. Social Security if run like a term plan would be fine. The original concept Old Age Survivors Insurance, was very much like a term life insurance. If you survived old age you received a benefit. The average eligible beneficiary (65) died before being receiving a benefit (63). But it has been sold as a defined benefit pension plan. In this case it is not structured properly and has become a disaster waiting to happen.

          Federal law requires that retirement plans fund promised benefits
          adequately and keep plan assets separate from the employer’s business
          assets. The funds must be held in trust or invested in an insurance
          contract. The employers’ creditors cannot make a claim on retirement
          plan funds. If the Employer goes bankrupt (No new Taxes into the fund) The beneficiary still gets their pension. Social Security is therefore not a pension plan. If I were to buy an annuity for $250,000, it would pay me $1,000 a month for 20 years. How much money would need to be in the Social Security Reserve to pay its current average benefit of $1,230.00? Answer: About $16.5 Trillion! It currently only has $2.7 Trillion.

          1. ralphkr April 17, 2013

            The one thing wrong with your depiction of a for profit annuity plan is that, for some inexplicable reason, you think that your money is locked away in an untouchable coffer. Consider that if that were true then the company would not be able to either stay in business or pay you as much as you gave them. For example: a customer of my father asked him how much $12,000 invested in his fund 12 years earlier could be cashed in now after commissions. My father checked the tables and told him that it would be worth slightly over $26K. The gentleman then borrowed the phone and called his agent and asked him how much if he cashed in his annuity. $12,400…all the rest of the earnings had been eaten up by commissions (much higher than mutual fund commissions).

            Oh, I know that the salesmen lie and tell you that the law requires the company to keep 100% of your money in equity so you are guaranteed your return BUT what they don’t tell you, and should be self-evident, is that the money is all invested (other than what goes for commissions and management fees). This was certainly brought home to those who had bought annuities from a highly regarded eastern firm when they were informed that if they demanded immediate payment that the company would be paying less than ten cents on the dollar but if they waited an indefinite period of time to collect their monthly stipend they would be paid in full as soon as the real estate market returned to above boom levels since their money was currently invested in nearly worthless real estate at current market value. A rather shocking revelation for those who were depending on an annuity for their retirement.

            And another thing, SS has NEVER been set up like a term life insurance. Term life pays a lump sum if you expires before the policy expires and pays nothing if you outlive the policy while SS pays the most the longer you live.

            Another thing that you missed is that if a private company does NOT have the funds to pay pensioners the Federal government guarantees the pension but if the company has the pension set up as insurance the Feds will not touch it and the pensioners end up with little or nothing..

          2. Independent1 April 17, 2013

            Thanks for helping clarify concepts for Theoldnorthchurch. Well done!!

          3. Independent1 April 17, 2013

            I was not describing a term life contract – I was trying to give you a picture of every type of insurance contract. If you have some wild notion that current commercial insurance companies maintain enough reserves to pay out even 20% of the liabilities they have built up in their contracts, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that’s real cheap. Even a whole life policy that’s suppose to build up cash value isn’t worth anything unless you die within the first at least 7 years – it takes that long just to cover the companies costs of setting up the policy, paying the agent to sell it to you, etc etc. Every type of insurance related product is based on the law of large numbers – the company is going to lose money on the people who die young and make money on the people who live beyond what the actuarial tables said they would live. I worked for a multiline insurer (life,health,auto, financial) for 30 years and taught fundamental actuarial math for 15 of those years. Social Security isn’t exactly like insurance, but like social security, if everyone stopped paying into the class of insurance you’ve purchased, the entire policy line would collapse – and that’s true for every type of insurance – health, auto, life (term, whole life or universal life). What you were trying to demonstrate really makes very little sense as no matter what type of benefit structure you come up with, people have to keep paying into it or it will collapse like a deck of cards. And as ralphkr pointed out to you, that’s also some what true even for annuities – if you stop paying, all bets are off, there are no guarantees. And no current commercial company has enough reserves to cover any more than as ralphkr said, about .10 on the dollar to cover all their liabilites should disaster strike the company.

          4. TheOldNorthChurch April 18, 2013

            I am not an insurance related individual. I have Term Insurance to protect my spouse in the event that something happens to me, but that is about it.

            My point is that we need to come to some agreement as to what Social Security is. Is it a pension plan? Is it a welfare plan? I believe to many people have been led to believe that they paid into Social Security and are therefore owed something back in return.

            I do not believe it is financially possible for the next Generation to pay for Social Security for those who are about to retire.

          5. Independent1 April 19, 2013

            That’s not what studies have shown, in fact, one study suggests that by just raising the limit at which employers stop collecting SS taxes from around 113,000 now up to around $250,000 would make SS solvent to the end of this century. Remember, the big problem at the moment is baby boomers born during and for about 15 years after WWII (starting around 1940 families started having an average of 2.5 children which peaked in the mid 50s at about 3.7 babies/couple. That declined to around 1.7 from the early 1970 through almost 1990; and . Starting in around 2030, the sharp growth in the elderly population created by baby boomers will run down. And over the last 20 plus years or so, the birth rate in America has actually decreased to the point where American couples are not even having enough births to replace themselves (there’s been less than 2 births per couple).

          6. TheOldNorthChurch April 19, 2013

            Here is my final thoughts on this for now. What we are saying to “New” workers is that you all have to contribute more in taxes then we did because there are more of us then there are of you. Somehow it seems very unfair and what if the “New” workers just say no?

            I think it is time for the next “Greatest Generation”, Maybe we all need to step up and say we are not going to take Social Security until age 70 so as to not be unfair to those coming in behind us.

          7. Independent1 April 19, 2013

            I’m not sure we’re you’e getting ‘What we are saying to “New” works is that you all have to contribute more taxes”. That’s not what we’re saying at all. What we’re saying is, all you folks in in the 1 & 2 percent of Americans who earn more than 113,000/year, will have to stop getting such a big break on your SS taxes by having them cut off at 113,000. So you CEOs (earning millions/year) who are now covering your SS taxes for the year on your 1st weeks pay in a year, may have to wait until your 2nd weeks pay before you don’t have to pay more in SS taxes for that year. Raising the upper limit of SS deductions from $113,000 to $250,000 will have absolutely no affect on at least 98% or so of “NEW” workers, since only about 2 maybe 3 percent of new workers will ever earn more than $113,000/yr. You’re really getting yourself worked up about nothing. Fixing SS is not the problem the GOP would like you to believe that it is.

          8. TheOldNorthChurch April 20, 2013

            The question is, Is it fair the someone needs to pay many times more into this system then they will ever get out of it. If this is thr

          9. Independent1 April 20, 2013

            Social Security is an insurance type system. Tell me, do you own a car and buy auto insurance? If so, how many claims have you had? If none or few, then you’ve probably paid like me, over $50,000 during your life and gotten ZERO back for it. SS was designed as protection against workers entering retirement with little or nothing to support them and believe me, it has accomplished that and more, which is wy so many seniors are dead set against Congress trying to mess with it.

            And, Yes, there are many who pay into SS and don’t get their money back, those who die young and have no relatives that are qualified to continue receiving their benefit. But many, especially today, get more back than they ever paid in since people are today living into their 90s. Don’t forget that SS covers a lot more than retirement payments. For a lot of people, those who die in auto accidents or die young, their spouses and kids collect benefits sometimes for years. And even if a worker dies in his early 60s, his or her spouse may collect that worker’s benefits for years. Dumping money into a 401k would probably not provide enough income for people if they were disabled in their early 40s or 50s.

            Again, it’s a lot like insurance but a lot more complex in that it covers not only paying you if you live for 30 plus years after you retire, or it will pay you disability payments for years before you retire and then you can switch to your retirement payments, whichever would be the greater (since disability benefits also have a COLA, it’s possible that if you’ve been on disability long enough your disability benefits would be greater than you would start recieving for retirement.)

          10. RobertCHastings April 20, 2013

            In many 401(k) programs, individuals have the option of contributing up to 50% of their pay after age 50. The best approach to this issue is to allow contributors to put in as much on the front end as they can reasonably afford, as this accrues more interest over 40 years than it would over 15 years. Compounding increases this interest even more; the big problem is getting younger workers to see the value in investing in their future. (sort of like the grasshopper and the ant parable)
            If you want to set up your own IRAs well before retirement you can do that, too; but set up several since, as you say, there are limits to contributions.

          11. TheOldNorthChurch April 20, 2013

            I agree with this approach as well as unlimited amounts to an IRA fund for those not covered by 401(k) plans. Increased savings would help our country and help solve the issues of SS in the long term.

          12. RobertCHastings April 21, 2013

            Absolutely right, and this is something the Republicans should be whole heartedly supporting. There are, however, millions of people in this country, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, who literally do not have two dimes to rub together. These folks are the reason SS and other programs MUST stay in place, at least until such a time as we as a society understandand act upon the root causes of poverty. 1/6 of the US population are currently defined as being inpoverty. Millions of kids, in this country, go to bed on an empty stomach, not because their parents are cruel, but because their parents are ALSO going to bed hungry. Perhaps the biggest mistake George W. Bush made was NOT following through on the Monterey Agreements of 2001, in which he pledged .7% of the US GDP to cure worldwide poverty. Had this program been followed through over the past 12 years, many of the issues that face us and the rest ofworld would be well on the way to a solution, including issues about savings, retirement, health care, etc.

          13. RobertCHastings April 19, 2013

            You have the legal right to do so, if that is what you wish. However, your scenario would in no way change the viability of Social Security. I think the last president to raise FICA contributions was George H W Bush.

          14. Joan Maurer April 23, 2013

            Are you willing to tell the waitress working for less than 3.00 an hour and tips that she will have to keep slinging that hash untill she is 70? Some of us have jobs that are physically demanding and we will not last till 70. Why are all of your fixes that someone receives less? How about if the Mitt Romney’s of the world pay at least as much % of taxes on income as I do first and then take less from SS when they retire?

          15. TheOldNorthChurch April 23, 2013

            Joan if all pay the same percentage of taxes, why would they then be required to take less when they retire? Would that be fair?

          16. RobertCHastings April 19, 2013

            One thing itIS NOT is a welfare plan. Asa previous poster so eloquently stated, he has paid into the SS trust fund for 42 years,so it is not welfare: it has, over the years, been his investment in his retirement.

          17. TheOldNorthChurch April 20, 2013

            Robert many points made in this discussion have established that SS is not a retirement plan. What has been established is that no one has paid into SS during their working careers, they have paid for all those on SS. Future workers can not shoulder the burden of funding this program, because we did not want to pay adequately for it during our working careers. By 65 I will have paid for SS for mre then 47 years, It is time to seriously fix this program. The way it is now structured clearly looks like a welfare plan.

          18. idamag April 20, 2013

            Ever since the inception of Social Security the working generation has paid for the retired generation. It is just the way it works. So what would you have people do when they are too old to work? Dr. Kvorkian died. Until 1980, there were no government regulations in place to protect retirement plans. Non-profit hospitals and agriculture did not even have them. So, there us a segment of retirees who did not have the option of retirement plans. I bought stock and had a retirement plan. My plan was underwritten by Enron. You know what happened there. You also know what happened to the stock market during the Bush years.
            I took my turn paying for those older than me, now quit being so selfish and take your turn and shut up about it.
            Social Security did not add to the deficit. Those who don’t study history and bound to repeat it and history tells us austerity programs do not work. Instead austerity was responsible for WWII.

          19. TheOldNorthChurch April 20, 2013

            Perception is not always factual Here is a Summary from the 2012 Trustee Report;

            In 2011, Social Security’s cost continued to exceed both the program’s tax income and its non-interest income, a trend that the Trustees project to continue throughout the short-range periodand beyond. The 2011 deficit of tax income relative to cost was $148 billion, and the projected 2012 deficit is $165 billion.

            What needs to happen is individuals need to take responsibility for their futures. I have taken my turn paying as well. But if I do not take care of myself then I do not expect others to take care of me either. I believe in a Social Safety net for anyone who is less then fortunate and for unforeseen circumstances, but expecting others to pay for me beyond what I provided for myself is just not fair!

  2. Jim Lou April 17, 2013

    The GOP speaks with forked tongue.

  3. charleo1 April 17, 2013

    First, I’m right there with Dominick, in that, there are those times we must fight.
    Gave him my, “thumbs up,” vote, because, I’m there, in spirit. But, I’m just not
    so sure the Country is as, “there,” as much as we believe they are, or know they
    should be. It is a fact, Barack Obama has disappointed more Democrats by not being Liberal enough, than he has frightened Conservatives, he was spending the Country
    into oblivion. Despite all the over the top rhetoric, that had to have had many
    knowledgeable Conservative leaning economists, and politicians, rolling their eyes
    at the side show the Right Wing, dooms day, provocateurs were putting on in an
    election year. Rightly concerned, that ultimately the public not would buy into such
    hyperbole. And they were right. But, here’s my point, (finally,eh?) There is this,
    common sense concern, that the debt is getting away from from us. And the economy
    has gotten as screwed up as the political system. With the Right protecting the rich.
    Refusing to allow taxes to rise, which most of the public agrees with Obama. That
    they should rise, to accommodate the debt. But a good number also see the Left as just as intransigent about paring back social spending. Just as the Right seems bent on recreating a scene out of a Charles Dickens’, novel. The public, I believe, want a course charted more in the the center. And I believe President Obama, in putting a very popular program, very visibly on the bargaining table, proposing a very unpopular,
    albeit, modest cut. One he knows Republicans will turn down, out of hand, as they have. Not because they want to protect these programs, as they continue to claim. But, because the cuts are not deep enough to a program they have, as a matter of principal, loathed, since it’s inception. And to a larger point Obama is trying to make.
    Republicans have loathed Medicare since it’s inception. Their Sainted Reagan, making
    an urgent plea to reject this, evil program. That would provide millions of American
    Seniors the healthcare, their, “unerring,” free market, had decided there just wasn’t
    enough profit in. So, we all really must reject Medicare. For freedom’s sake!
    Americans know this, but need reminding. I hope this serves as a refresher.
    And I hope I’m not wrong.

    1. Independent1 April 17, 2013

      Let me appease your concern that the debt is getting away from us – it is not! Are you aware that Obama has cut deficit spending faster over the past 3 years than at any time since WWII – and that he’s actually succeeded in cutting spending for 3 straight years for the first time that’s happened since Truman did it right after WWII. Also, that over 3 years he reduced the 1.6 trillion in deficits Bush passed him in his last budget (the 10/1/08 to 9/30/09 budget) down to around a trillion – a 1/2 trillion/year reduction. And that during the past 3 years, America’s GDP has gone up from about 14.9 trillion/yr over 16 trillion/yr, which has reduced America’s debt to GDP ratio from around 73% to a little under 70% – (remember that when you calculate a country’s debt to GDP you do not include the debt the country owes to itself which in America’s case is about 5.3 trillion). And that the big scheme of things, a 70% debt to GDP ratio is low in comparison to virtually every other similarly industrialized nation on the planet, most of which run debt to GDP ratios of 80% or greater; with Canada’s being over 88% and Japan’s around 100%. I’m not trying to imply that we don’t need to watch America’s debt, but it is not “getting away from us”.

      1. charleo1 April 17, 2013

        Actually, I agree with you. But I don’t think the Left has done a
        very effective job of getting that message out there. And maybe that’s
        because, the corporate run media, is not all that interested in people
        hearing it either. We must consider majorities. And people catch a bit of
        nightly news, before the baseball game, or American Idol. We have
        been through an economic maelstrom, and fought two very expensive
        wars. So, people expect deficits. And, let’s face it, the ridiculous, analogy
        about the family sitting around the kitchen table, cutting the family budget
        in tough times, rings true, if one hasn’t taken the time to learn, or have the capacity to understand, the very cogent rebuttals to that, you made here. You know it, because you have done the reading, and research. But, as we know, too often, perception in politics is reality. And it was public perception I was referring to in my comment. And not my opinion.

        1. Independent1 April 17, 2013

          Charle, you sound as frustrated as I am, because possibly through their enourmous spending on TV ads, billionaires have convinced the public of two wrong ideas 1) that America is almost bankrupt and 2) we need to cut spending – both of which are a fallacies. Not only is our debt not totally out of hand as I mentioned above, but America’s nonmilitary spending is at the lowest level in 60 years – so cutting spending further is not the answer. The answer is recreating jobs and companies similar to those that went belly up during the Great Recession – America needs to bring tax revenues back up – revenues are still way down. Getting the American economy reved back up again is the only real solution to bringing down the deficits. I’m puzzled as to why more is not being done to refute the nefarious message from the right and convince the general public that it’s the GOP’s obsturctionism that’s continue to stagnate the economy.

          1. charleo1 April 17, 2013

            Well, I am frustrated. Harry Reid, I’m convinced, is an enabling,
            little mouse, better than half the time. The President has a jobs
            bill, that Conservative economists, and people that identify themselves
            as moderate, to conservative, want Washington to pass. And, concentrate on putting the 8/9 million unemployed, and under employed back to work. Plus 80/90% of Democrats, that voted for Obama, and Reid, agree a package addressing the clear need for infrastructure
            building, and improvement, is a good idea. And, agree the Country can afford it. Then, Boehner steps to the microphone, turns up his nose, and says, it ain’t happenin’! And Reid, says, well, we need 60 votes. Shrugs his shoulders, and goes back to whatever important work he was doing, before being so rudely interrupted, by the idea of actually doing something that would improve the Country, and help regular Americans.
            So I’m sure, and from reading your posts, and comments, you’re
            convinced as well, this is where the Country is. The question is, why
            aren’t more of the politicians, especially the Democrats, out there
            supporting the President?

          2. Independent1 April 20, 2013

            Charle, have you ever gotten on whitehouse dot gov and taken a look at the American Jobs Act??? It covers a lot of infrastructure improvements and a whole lot more; if the GOP would stop sitting on it in the House it would create millions of jobs and go a long way to improving infrastructure across the united states: not only roadways and bridges, but schools and ports and government buildings. The American Jobs Act is a very comprehensive job creation plan that the GOP doesn’t want to pass because it would allow too many good things to get done (and of course they don’t want Obama to get credit for doing any good things – now do they!!).

          3. charleo1 April 20, 2013

            You’re exactly right! And it’s one disgusting, pathetic, and
            shameful outrage. That these gentlemen, and ladies, would
            over partisan politics, work aganist a Country that by any
            measure, has given them so much. Because, someone else
            might get the credit for it. I don’t know if there is, or isn’t a
            Hell. But saying there is. Crap like that, would sure punch
            their ticket.

  4. John Pigg April 17, 2013

    I do not think Obama has been a very effective President. But when it comes to outmaneuvering the GOP he is absolutely brilliant.

    He makes an offer that the GOP has said it has supported, social security reform, knowing full well they won’t accept it. All the while showing that the GOP is disingenuous about what they say they actually want to do reform social security. He knows it will never pass, but in the process he allows the GOP to play the role of defending the program.

    He also did this with tax increases on the rich, which he knew he couldn’t get but would look great in the national media.

    Post ACA Obama has shown himself to be much more adept at cornering Republican agenda’s.

    1. Independent1 April 17, 2013

      Obama has not been very effective? Wow! He sure has accomplished a lot for not being very effective: Let’s see:

      1) Followed through on the auto bailout, not only saving the industry but preventing probably 1.6 million people from losing their jobs and arguably keeping America out of a depression. On top of that, over the past 3 years, people and companies still working have paid over 110 billion in taxes that would have been lost had the industry gone bankrupt.
      2) When 1st taking office, he started a war on fraud in both the defense and healthcare industries and through his efforts America has recovered billions in fraudulently charged monies in these sectors; in addition to brining hundreds of crooks to justice (more than the previous 3 presidents combined).
      3) His administration hunted down and eliminated more than 50 al Qaeda top operatives including bin Laden (can you imagine someone doing more?)
      4) Despite being blocked by a political party hellbent on not letting him be credited for accomplishing anything, his policies calmed a shaky investor market and the stock market has reached all time highs. And at least twice the number of jobs have been created in the past 3 plus years than the Bush administration created in 8 years.
      5) A study done last year found that of 500 promises he made while campaigning for president, he had fully folllowed through on at least 250 of them and had completed another 125 of his promises as far as the GOP would letl him. The other 125 plus have been completely blocked by the GOP using the filibuster in the Senate more than 500 times over the past 3 years.
      6) Despite the GOP’s opposition, his administration has reworked immigration guidelines and has actually located and deported more than 400,000 aliens in the country illegally – far more than Bush did in 8 years.
      7) He pushed for and won middle class tax cuts that benefited every American worker, andsaved the typical family $3,600 in taxes over the last four years.
      8) He doubled funding for Pell Grants, helpingto make college more affordable for nearly 10 million families.
      9) His student loan reform ended billions in subsidies to
      banks serving as middlemen and reinvested those savings directly in students
      10) He has signed 18 tax cuts for small
      businesses since taking office.
      I could go on for about another 20 items but let me know what president you think that’s been in office since FDR has done more for America than Obama. I remember FDR when I was in grade school so I was old enought to appreciate at least what Truman accomplished and all the others since, and I won’t say that Obama has always done the things the way I would have liked to see him do them – but I have real difficulty coming up with a president who has done so much in so many different critical areas of the political spectrum as he has.

      1. John Pigg April 17, 2013

        A majority of the accomplishments you cite are bipartisan in nature or are Republican idea’s to begin with.

        10) Tax cuts continue to be a Republican idea especially when it relates to small business.

        8) He put more money into student loans, impressive but hardly a difficult accomplishment.

        7) If you credit him with extending the Bush tax cuts you have to credit Bush for instituting them in the first place.

        6) He has exported more illegal immigrants, while this is true its hardly something that I would brag about. And I am not sure that he has reworked immigration guidelines.

        5) He kept some of his promises… Okay I will give you that

        4) His policies or the FED’s policies, it should also be noted that the stimulus also enjoyed a large amount of bipartisan support. Before it became a political liability. The Bank Bailout has turned to receive the scorn of both Tea party and Occupy Wall Street.

        3) I think any American President would have supported the continuation for the elimination of high ranking AQ operatives. Especially McCain.

        2) I am uninformed about this and will have to do more research.

        1) The Auto Bailouts also had a great deal of bipartisan support at the time. Even the Bush administration advocated stepping in.

        The only major policy coup of the Presidents administration was the ACA. On a variety of issue’s Obama has continually chosen the safe road, but he remains extremely capable of making Republicans look silly. Problem is at some point we need more than that.

        1. Independent1 April 17, 2013

          Virtually everything you’ve said is an outright lie! I’m only going to respond to your nonsense about the GOP supporting the auto bailout. Here’s the beginning a story from CNNMoney dated 11/13/2008 that categorically proves that:

          WASHINGTON (CNN) — The top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee said Thursday there is not enough support among Republicans to pass a proposed bailout package for the auto industry.

          Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., suggested that Democrats should reconsider plans to push legislation during next week’s congressional session if it’s likely to fail.

          “Right now I don’t think [we have] the votes,” he told reporters. “I don’t
          know of a single Republican willing to support” it.

          1. John Pigg April 18, 2013

            I don’t know why my responses to you keep getting lost. Do you know if they delete your comments if you provide links?

            Anyway, Bush was the one who began the Auto Bailouts in the first place. Which in my opinion made it a bipartisan measure. True a majority of the Republican Party opposed it but 10 Michigan Republicans broke ranks and supported it. Hence in my opinion made it a bipartisan move.

            I can provide sources for both of my claims, but I would like this comment to go through first. I don’t know why they keep getting deleted.

          2. dtgraham April 18, 2013

            John: I was once told by Obozomustgo that links weren’t accepted at the Memo. URL’s I think, but no outright links. Don’t know why.

          3. John Pigg April 19, 2013

            Now I know why some of mine won’t go through.

          4. Independent1 April 19, 2013

            And just in case you don’t believe the auto bailout was blocked, here’s the news item on that:

            Senate Abandons Automaker Bailout Bid
            Published: December 11, 2008

            — The Senate on Thursday night abandoned efforts to fashion a government rescueof the American automobile industry, as Senate Republicans refused to support a bill endorsed by the White House and Congressional Democrats.

            The failure to reach agreement on Capitol Hill raised a specter of financial collapse for General Motors and Chrysler, which some experts say may not be able to survive until the end of the year.

            After Senate Republicans balked at supporting a $14 billion auto rescue plan approved by the House on Wednesday, negotiators worked late into Thursday evening to broker a compromise but they deadlocked over Republican demands for steep cuts in pay and benefitsby the United Automobile Workers union in 2009.

          5. Independent1 April 19, 2013

            What Bush started has absolutely nothing to do with it; he started the auto bailout because he was scrambling to prevent his presidency from totally going down in flames with America falling into depression which is exactly what would have happened had the auto industry gone belly up and the largest manufacturing sector of America with more than 1.6 million workers tied to it going under. But that’s not the crux of it: What you’re failing to remember (which is what has ticked me off with you’re holier than I attituded about presidents and convenience in forgetting the facts) is that the senate BLOCKED THE BAILOUT!! Congress never passed the bailour IT WAS NOT A PARTISAN EFFORT, Obama had to actually use money from TARP which did have bipartisan support to follow through on the bailout: And here’s an excerpt of that from some recent new:

            Obama Administration takes on Auto Bailout

            WASHINGTON (AP)— It was a deeply unpopular move, according to polls at the time. Faced with auto giants on the brink of collapse, the newly elected president authorized an $80 billion government
            bailout to rescue Chrysler and General Motors.

            Barack Obama’s 2009 decision turned out to be pivotal not only for the auto industry and the Midwestern economy, but perhaps for the future of his presidency.

            And what really ticked me off was your offhanded snide remark about:

            8) He put more money into student loans, impressive but hardly a difficult accomplishment.

            What do you mean by – ‘hardly a difficult accomplishment’? What kind of a nut are you anyway. What does any politician do that’s hard?? The fact is HE DID IT!! Why hasn’t any other president done it??

            And everything Obama has done has been with resistence from the GOP. Virtually every other president in office over the past 70 years as had at least some give from the other party, but Obama has had none. The GOP has used the fillibuster to block EVERYTHING the Obama administration has wanted to do over the past 4 years – using the filibuster more in the past 3 years (more than 500 times), than it was used since a Democrat coined the word ‘filibuster’ back in 1859. The Obama administration has had to take it upon themself to follow through on its own for virtually every objective it has wanted to accomplish – that’s unprecidented ( the healthcare bill, immigration, student loan asistance, the auto bailout, trying to get jobs created, and on and on). Even in today’s news, because the GOP has blocked Gun Control, this article was in the news:

            Obama taking action on gun background check system

            WASHINGTON (AP) — Blocked by Congress from expanding gun
            sale background checks, President Barack Obama is turning to actions within his own power to keep people from buying a gun who are prohibited for mental health reasons.

            Federal law bans certain mentally ill people from purchasing
            firearms, but not all states are providing data to stop the prohibited sales to the FBI’s background check system. A federal
            review last year found 17 states contributed fewer than 10 mental health records to the database, meaning many deemed by a judge to be a danger still could have access to guns.

            And your nonsense comment about:

            6) He has exported more illegal immigrants, while this is true its hardly something that I would brag about. And I am not sure that he has reworked immigration guidelines.:
            When virtually the entire GOP has been up in arms for the past 4 years clamoring about illegal aliens in America stealing jobs and creating crimes and everything people can think of, and you say” whilel this is true it’s hardly something I would brag about”!! Well then what the Hell would you brag about???
            Get a life. You’re more clueless than a GOP nitwit!! And it really ticks me off that there are actually people like you in America. When are you going to grow up????

          6. John Pigg April 19, 2013

            I do not support exporting illegal aliens.

            I do not think that allocating more money to student loans is exceptionally difficult. And hardly something I would consider a notable administrative achievement.

            We can argue about the nature of bipartisan and how you define it. But I do think it is important to point out that Bush initiated the auto bailouts, and there was some Republican support in the House for this measure.
            My definition of bipartisan is anything that takes more than one party to pass.

            I accept things on a case by case basis. I do not follow an ideology because ideologies are ludicrous. I voted Democrat last election for every race except Presidential, which if you’re curious to know I voted 3rd Party.

            We could continue this conversation on any number of points, but I do not think that would be constructive to seeing each others point of view. Incidentally I find it interesting that you feel such animosity to my position as to call me a nitwit, get a life, and grow up.

  5. dtgraham April 17, 2013

    As the years go on, I can’t help thinking more and more that there may need to be a second counter prevailing political movement just to keep the equilibrium in American politics. There already is one billionaire funded, fake grass roots movement on the far right pulling the GOP ever rightward. A second one on the left just might restore some balance. Like the so-called Tea Party, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an actual political party but more of a pressure group insuring that the right kind of Democrats get elected in the right places.

    The problem is the goalposts. Who thinks that the political center is the same today as it was in the 60’s or 70’s? Hell, even the 80’s. I know Clinton was supposed to have saved the Democrats through the transformation of the party into “new” Democrats in the 90’s, but there has been a slow, steady, rightward drift ever since.

    I get the feeling that the right is playing a long game and they’re willing to sacrifice some things in the present, if need be, to keep driving the agenda. I think the Dems need somebody constantly tugging on their shirt from the left. Someone that they feel they HAVE to listen to as well. The progressive caucus is clearly not enough. Of course money is the issue isn’t it. The billionaire groups and titans of industry have no problem organizing and funding the Tea Party. On the left, George Soros only goes so far.

    I would be less sure of this if I didn’t think that the Republicans had the Congress rigged for years to come, but with things as they are, this may be something that’s necessary.

  6. browninghipower April 17, 2013

    Gene…once again you write a column that is one the mark. Thank you. I don’t get Obama, but I’m starting to understand why my late wife was never enamored with him. She thought he was a phony from the gate…that he had no depth and certainly was too clever by a factor of 8, if not downright dishonest. Of course, she reviled the GOP. Like Clinton, Obama has been saved by his enemies. But has he once reached out to the Liberal/Progressive Caucus with as much fervor as he has used on the f*****g gop? Once? Has he ever treated the L/P Caucus’ budget proposal with any respect or acknowledgement? No..hell, even Carville said Obama relished the praise he received from the likes of Brooks, Rendall, and Friedman…ugh. Maybe it’s just going to take time for Dems to elect more people like Ms Warren, Sharrod Brown, Bernie Sanders…I hope we have that luxury of waiting. Thanks again for your column. You rarely disappoint. I always enjoyed having you on my radio show back in the late ’90s.

    1. Independent1 April 20, 2013

      A phony huh! Wow!! He sure has accomplished a lot for a fony!! He’s actually accomplished much more than FDR ever did. Keep on thinking that way – you are clueless!!

  7. Dennis Hoover April 17, 2013

    This Chained CPI offer is infuriating in so many ways it leaves we Democrats speechless over its being offered for a so-called ‘grand bargain’ WE DON’T NEED AND DON’T HAVE TO HAVE TO GET THROUGH THIS !!! Let the repugnants intransigence sink themselves without such offers to go down with them such as Chained CPI.

    1. Independent1 April 20, 2013

      Don’t get in too much of a fluster. Keep in mind that any legislation passed affecting the COLA on Social Security will not be cast in stone. And also that the effects of the chained CPI are minimal over the 1st 5 years (my social security payment would decrease by less than $10/month at the end of 5 years). My hunch is that Obama, in trying to get either 1) some movement from the GOP to get more revenues if they agreed to the chained CPI or 2) make lthem look like they’re the obstructionists, was willing to gamble that in the next 3 election cycles, Americans would wake up and give Democrats a majority in Congress. That way, even allowed the GOP to implement the chained cpi, a Dem Congress a few years down theroad could come up with a better COLA formula for SS before the reductions became a big problem for seniors.

      1. Dennis Hoover May 4, 2013

        I sure hope the latter option is what he’s up to, but realistically SS should not be in this discussion at all because it has nothing to do with deficits nor with debt.

  8. Sand_Cat April 17, 2013

    The American people always lose in his negotiations.

    1. Independent1 April 17, 2013

      What else would you expect when he’s been having to negotiate with a party that’s been willing to use the filibuster more times over the past 3 years than it was used from 1859 (when the word filibuster was first used to describe blocking legislation) until 3 years ago – more than 500 times!! Although I’m probably as discouraged as many posters in this thread with respect to legislation not getting passed, I fail to see how you can put that failure on Obama. – It’s clearly the failure of the GOP’s obstructionist attitude. No president can accomplish anything, and even negotiate in good faith, with today’s crazy rules in the Senate when the opposing party is determined to act like a brick wall and say no, even about legislation that months ago they were supporting.

      1. plc97477 April 20, 2013

        Very well done. Thank you for posting it.

    2. idamag April 20, 2013

      The American people should have used better judgment when they elected the House of Representatives.

  9. whodatbob April 17, 2013

    I voted for Obama in 04. His lack of strong leadership so frustrated me I hoped the GOP would run a strong Centerist in 08. Did not happen, I voted for spinless again in 08. I now pray to God the Democrates run a strong canidate with backbone, not Hilary, to lead the Country. We could run the donkey and beat the repuicks. We are in need of outstanding leadership after the last 16 years.

    1. John Pigg April 17, 2013

      Can’t tell you how much I agree with what you wrote. I had reservations about Obama in 08 so I didn’t back him. But the Republican candidate for 2012 was atrocious so I voted 3rd Party. I also will not vote for another Clinton or Bush for that matter.

      1. whodatbob April 17, 2013

        I agree no Clinton nor Bush.

  10. RobertCHastings April 19, 2013

    Unfortunately, until the Republicans are removed, entirely, from Washington, there will never be a post-partisan presidency for Obama.
    What Obama attempted to do by offering up changes to Social Security and Medicare was to give Republicans something, anything, they could grab on to inorder to justify making concessions. As most observers and pundits estimated, the Republicans were too immersed in their partisanship to accept even that olive branch, even though it is exactly what they wanted. The question MUST be, will Obama continue to sacrifice SS and Medicare when the Republican sactually do sit down to compromise.

    1. Independent1 April 20, 2013

      Robert, although I’m also disappointed in the fact that Obama had to offer the chained CPI to try and get something moving with the GOP, I think what many of us need to keep in mind is, that unless the legislaltion changing the COLA is written in a way to make it permanent, it can be changed again down the road (nothing is cast in concrete). So it could be that Obama is assuming that – okay, offer these dimwits in the GOP the chained CPI which really won’t impact seniors severely for the next few years, in order to get them to at least agree to some tax revenues, with a good chance that we can implement a better COLA for Social Security in a few years assuming the American public will wake up and give the Dems enough majority in Congress to get something like that passed.

      1. RobertCHastings April 20, 2013

        Sounds like a game plan to me! It would not surprise me if Obama has gone through this thought process. It is a good risk to offer them something that you know they won’t take because it is linked to increased revenues. It cannot be said that he has not offered them a way out of this predicament they have created themselves.

  11. Budjob April 19, 2013

    I sure hope the Democrats nominate a DEMOCRAT in 2016!!!!


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