In a move guaranteed to inflame Republicans and delight his political base, President Obama's proposed budget will drop planned cuts to Social Security. Slated for official release March 4, the Obama proposal will call for $56 billion in additional spending, split evenly between defense and domestic initiatives, among them early-childhood education programs. And hidden in the budget is Obama's message to the GOP: We won't pander to your whims anymore.
It's a departure from the plan Obama had proposed the year before, then suggesting the so-called chained CPI (Consumer Price Index) reform for Social Security — a change to how benefits are measured against inflation, which would have a cumulatively negative effect on benefits for senior citizens. And, surprise surprise, the Republican Party aren't pleased about the change in plans.
There's been much brouhaha as to why Obama now spurns the change, which he'd backed just last year as a bargaining chip to entice Republicans into that ever-elusive pipe dream — the "grand bargain." And in that background lies the single most compelling justification: Republicans consistently balked at what Obama demanded in return, all but refusing to considering relevant or balancing compromises.
For years, Obama had tentatively backed chained CPI, but not as some wild-eyed personal ideal. He was trying to use it as leverage, and by and large, the GOP refused to play ball.
Which all makes Friday's remarks from House Speaker John Boehner especially rankling:
This reaffirms what has become all too apparent: The president has no interest in doing anything, even modest, to address our looming debt crisis. With three years left in office, it seems the president is already throwing in the towel.
It's a deft political move, though it somewhat hides in plain sight — exact a negotiating posture from the administration; get the President on-record about some reforms he'd be willing to embrace; refuse stridently to give anything in return; then ham it up with the shoulder-shrugging when he backs off.
Specifically, Obama was game to trade chained CPI for tax increases on America's wealthy, which the GOP is loathe to consider.
It'd be wrong to deny that there are obvious political benefits to this move for the Democrats, however. Social Security is a broadly popular program, and happens to rank as one of America's foremost embraces of socialist policy (along with Medicare.) Despite what Republicans claim about a rapid slide into an Obama-fueled socialist state, there's little credible way to deny that the U.S. has been a blend of both socialism and capitalism for decades.
And, as such, these programs' significance to the American Left is considerable, representing not just an answer to the core problem of how to care for our old and sick, but what the ethical and moral responsibilities of a government are to its citizens.
In other words, both in the head and in the heart, this may prove a political winner for Democrats heading into a hazy midterm election season. In proposing a budget reflective of his own desires and ideals, and not being strung along by visions of a hyper-unrealistic, grand bipartisan collaboration, Obama seems to be hinting at a more strident posture in the face of Republican intractability for his final three years in office.