CURRY: Obama's Showdown with 'Teapublicans' is Just Beginning
George E. Curry | 10/23/2013, 3 p.m.
Believe it or not, President Obama’s decision to finally stand up to Teapublicans – a Republican Party hijacked by Right-wing Tea Party zealots – in the latest standoff over the Affordable Care Act and the debt ceiling was the easy part.
As Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, said: “The war isn’t over. It’s only a cease-fire.”
Next comes the real fireworks over the budget. And, judging from the past, there is no reason to think Democrats will prevail.
Although Obama campaigned on the promise to extend the Bush tax cuts only for individuals earning less than $200,000 and couples making less than $250,000, which would cover 98 percent of all taxpayers, Obama eventually relented under Republican pressure, extending the Bush-era rates on incomes below $450,000 for families and $400,000 for individuals.
And in his unsuccessful effort to reach a grand bargain with House Speaker John Boehner in 2011, according to leaked confidential documents, Obama expressed a willingness to support cuts to TRICARE, the health insurance program for the military and military retirees; Social Security, Medicare, housing, nutritional assistance and other social programs.
Former Labor Secretary Reich explained why he, too, feels Obama will cave in to Republican demands.
“He’s already put on the table a way to reduce future Social Security payments by altering the way cost-of-living adjustments are made – using the so-called ‘chained’ consumer price index, which assumes that when prices rise people economize by switching to cheaper alternatives. This makes no sense for seniors, who already spend a disproportionate share of their income on prescription drugs, home healthcare, and medical devices – the prices of which have been rising faster than inflation. Besides, Social Security isn’t responsible for our budget deficits. Quite the opposite: For years its surpluses have been used to fund everything else the government does.
“The President has also suggested “means-testing” Medicare – that is, providing less of it to higher-income seniors. This might be sensible. The danger is it becomes the start of a slippery slope that eventually turns Medicare into another type of Medicaid, a program perceived to be for the poor and therefore vulnerable to budget cuts.
“But why even suggest cutting Medicare at all, when the program isn’t responsible for the large budget deficits projected a decade or more from now? Medicare itself is enormously efficient; its administrative costs are far lower than commercial health insurance.”
Equally troubling are the signals the president is already sending on the budget.
“Keep in mind that the budget that we are going to pass under any deal is going to be the Republican budget. It will have cuts that are much more substantial than Democrats would prefer,” Obama said in an interview with New York’s WABC-TV two days before the government reopened. “The Democrats have not asked for anything to reopen the government. The Democrats haven’t asked for anything for paying our bills on time.”
The last time I checked, the Senate and the executive branch were controlled by Democrats. Republicans control only the House. Given that reality, why does President Obama feel that the nation will be stuck with a “Republican budget”?