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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press WaPo Tells Liberals That They Have No Political Power: The Case of Social Security

WaPo Tells Liberals That They Have No Political Power: The Case of Social Security

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Saturday, 22 February 2014 09:39

The WaPo gets infuriated at the thought that anyone who doesn't have lots of money could affect political outcomes in the United States. Hence it was quick to run a piece with the headline:

"Liberals didn't kill Obama's Social Security cuts: Republicans did."

The reference is to President Obama's decision to remove the proposal to reduce the annual cost of living adjustment to Social Security benefits. The proposal would have reduced benefits by roughly 0.3 percentage points annually against current law. This cut is cumulative so that after ten years it implies a cut of roughly 3.0 percent, after twenty years, 6.0 percent, and for someone who lives to collect benefits for thirty years the cut would be 9.0 percent. (Obama's proposal includes some offsets, so the actual cuts would be somewhat less, especially for the oldest elderly.)

The point of the piece is that Obama would have gone with this proposal, and probably still would today, if the Republicans were prepared to make some concessions on revenue. This is the logic of saying that the Republicans killed the plan, not liberals.

However this is just half the picture. The Republicans did not force President Obama to take the proposal out of his budget, liberals did. Because of a massive outpouring of opposition from across the country, Democratic members of Congress, who have to run for re-election, urged President Obama not to include the proposal in his 2015 budget.

Otherwise, this might have been a case where you just leave the Christmas lights out all year. Why bother to take them down? It's of course painful at the Post to acknowledge that progressive groups without big bucks can make a difference in national politics, but it does happen from time to time. 

The piece also tells readers:

"many of his advisers believed that chained CPI [the cut to the annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustment], with protections for poor seniors, was a good policy that used a more accurate measure of inflation."

Actually, the Post doesn't know what President Obama's advisers believed. The Post knows what they said. President Obama's advisers hold their positions because they are thought to be good at spinning reporters. Part of that spin means telling reporters that they really "believe" that President Obama's positions are the best possible policy.

It is possible that President Obama's advisers really do believe that seniors living on $1,300 a month (the average Social Security benefit, which is more than 90 percent of the income for almost 40 percent of retirees) have too much money, but they would say this to Washington Post reporters regardless of what they actually believed. That is a job requirement.

If a Post reporter claims that they know an Obama official well enough to ascertain their true beliefs then they are probably too close to that person to be able to report on them objectively.

Comments (8)Add Comment
more paranoid conclusions derived from the beltway's favorite Marxist, Low-rated comment [Show]
Time to axe the cap
written by Steve Bannister, February 22, 2014 9:46
Time to really fix the social security non-problem. Axe the cap, take it all off. Make it a progressive insurance program. That will probably really make heads at WaPo explode, and maybe some readers here, but it is the economically and socially right thing to do.
...
written by ltr, February 22, 2014 12:11
Missing the word "not"

It is possible that President Obama's advisers really do believe that seniors living on $1,300 a month (the average Social Security benefit, which is more than 90 percent of the income for almost 40 percent of retirees) have too much money, but they would [not] say this to Washington Post reporters regardless of what they actually believed. That is a job requirement.
Give Cantor Some Credit
written by Paul Mathis, February 22, 2014 12:18
If Eric Ivan-the-Terrible Cantor had not stabbed Boehner in the back over the Grand Bargain Obama was pushing, no doubt seniors would be looking forward to more hard times than usual. It's true that Obama finally backed off because of liberal pressure, but Cantor drove a stake through the heart of this zombie.
...
written by TK421, February 22, 2014 12:51
All that said, the president should be ashamed of himself for considering this plan.
...
written by urban legend, February 22, 2014 2:16
The question is whether the Democratic Party can save itself from the appalling political stupidity of the Obama team -- or the absence of any interest it seems to have in the fortunes of the Democratic Party. Regardless of any "corrections" in the proposal to prevent low-income seniors, the black-letter takeaway was always going to be that Obama (and his Democratic allies) are proposing to cut your Social Security. In local races, Republicans would not have hesitated to destroy their opponents by accusing them of wanting to take away their Republican base's income while still appealing to them on social issues. The Obama group also has no conception whatsoever that in a mid-term election it is turnout that matters, and that it is the strong Democrats, the "base," who do all the work to generate high turnout. If you care about winning these elections, you DO NOT piss off your base in order to score legacy points in DC groupthink.

You would think they would have learned that lesson in 2010, when Rahm Emanuel's gratuitous insults of strong Democrats insured a lot of couch-sitting and the worst mid-term result in a century.
paranoid?
written by JayCee, February 22, 2014 10:37
sounds like JC is running on one solo-noid. He probably thought twain was incomprehensible, too.
UL
written by Jeffrey Stewart, February 23, 2014 6:59
"If you care about winning these elections, you DO NOT piss off your base in order to score legacy points in DC groupthink." -Urban Legend


I would add that this chained CPI benefit cut proposal gets rave reviews from all the VSP that Dr. Baker rakes over the coals daily: David Brooks, Tom Friedman and Robert Samuelson.

It's five years on and I have no idea what so-called Democratic President Obama stands for or would fight tooth and nail for. I know it's not the working class.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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