Yesterday I wrote about the carefully-couched offer of the major health insurance industry reps to cut 1.5% of their costs. I suggested that it was hooey. President Obama, however, got up in front of cameras at almost the same moment I was dismissing their
lies empty promises "proposal" and told the world their proposal was the key to health reform in the US, or words to that effect. Even for WaPo Beltway stenographer Ceci Connelly, this was a bit much.
In his quest to transform American health care, President Obama appeared yesterday to put his faith in pledges from some of the interest groups that helped scuttle reform 15 years ago, but the industry's promises fell well short of the White House's expansive claims.
Ther chance that anything these convicted liars say may actually happen are lower than the chance that your pet goldfish will write a best-selling novel but that hasn't stopped Obama from assuming it. He has "faith" - always a dangerous strategy with hungry sharks.
What this actually seems to be is a concerted effort to convince everyone that the usual Kabuki actually has some substance this time, but of course it doesn't so all they've managed to do is put a sizable chunk of their credibility on a horse and send it galloping into the sunset. Which could be a good thing.
On Tuesday, May 12, the trustees who oversee Social Security and Medicare will issue their annual report. I don't know what will be in the report. But I do know what the response will be. Conservatives, libertarians and center-right Democrats will take whatever the report says as evidence that there is an "entitlement crisis," which should require us not only to address spiraling healthcare costs (a genuine issue, affecting the private sector as well as Medicare and Medicaid) but also the alleged "crisis" of Social Security (an imaginary problem).
The coalition of libertarian zealots, Jeffersonian conservatives, center-right Democrats and bankers and brokers who would like to earn fees or commissions from the diversion of Social Security payroll taxes into IRAs recycles the same arguments against Social Security, rain or shine, boom or bust. They've been doing it for more than a quarter-century, ever since a couple of libertarians wrote up a guide for small-government conservatives on how to spread doubts about a popular, solvent and effective entitlement. These tried-and-true arguments will be dusted off and dragged through the media once again, after the latest Social Security Trustees' report is published.
Lind is of course correct. That is what's coming, and the arguments will be the same because they're the only arguments the other side has. Lind's destruction of them is must-reading because thanks to Obama's naivete/corporate collusion (take your pick) it would seem that single-payer isn't just off the table, it's out the door and in the dumpster. The for-high-profit health insurance industry will be the controlling factor in the "reform" of our health care. They aren't going to be at the table. They are the table.
The downside of Obama's open alliance with the Enemy is that alliance itself. One of the strongest arguments for cutting SocSec isn't covered by Lind. It's fairness. Obama has said repeatedly that when the economy is in freefall and the country is in trouble everybody has to sacrifice. Essentially this part of the Kabuki is to showcase the Great Sacrifice being made by the insurance industry. It's a set-up for the next sacrifice: ours. They're giving up so much, it's only "fair" that we give up something too. The appropriate answer for this comes from Lind even though he isn't framing it as a response to that particular argument. He's just pissed.
[T]he huge expansion of the deficit and debt in the last year has had nothing to do with Social Security (without which not only retirees but the economy as a whole would have been much worse off). Indeed, thanks to the modest stimulus and the much larger bailouts, the contribution of Social Security to long-term deficits -- always pretty small -- has just gotten a lot smaller in relative terms. Anyone who says that the costs of the bailout mean we must now cut Social Security is literally saying that in order to bail out the bankers who created this crisis we need to slash benefits for American retirees.
The ONLY way to get that past the victims of this scam is to convince them that it's playing fair for them to sacrifice, too, and both Obama and his minions have been lumping the two thing together for weeks now: "It's only fair if everybody has to make sacrifices. And by the way, Medicare and Social Security have to be brought under control."
If we buy this BS, Obama will be able to do what Bush couldn't: kill SocSec. With Obama's link to the insurance corpo's clear and unambiguous, it's going to be a lot harder for him to make that argument without appearing to be little more than a insurance corpo foil/puppet. Anything that weakens his credibility playing that role has to be a good thing.