A Peek into Some Current Democratic Discussion of “Chained CPI”


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[This is taken (with permission and some editing) from a post in Daily Kos by a fellow who goes by the name of "lefthandedman."  He describes himself (in my paraphrase) as a strong supporter of the President who, like many of us on the Democratic team, has something to get off of his chest at the moment about our party's -- well, I have no better word for it than this -- "strategery" in the talks regarding a "Grand Bargain."  Republican readers, you will probably enjoy this quite a bit -- unfortunately.  In any event, I hope that you'll be able to read this before the Sunday morning elite media talk shows, because it might make Democrats out there sick if you read it afterwards.  -- GAD] 

Leia Strangles Jabba figures

“Chains, my baby’s got me locked up in chains!”  Diorama taken from this site — http://www.yodasnews.net/YNreview_SSCleiajabbadio_strangle.jpg — so if this jpg somehow destroys your computer, blame them, not us. (Oh — and it’s a metaphor.)

This is Really the Best Defense of Democrats Embracing Chained CPI?

From the moment that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid both joined with President Obama, and all openly began sticking all of their necks way out on a Chained CPI being on the table, I have been waiting for the pushback to the blowback: what’s the best defense of this move?

Well, there has now been some pushback to the blowback.  ”Some.”  Kind of what I expected, too.

Let me get this straight:

The best defense of the Democrats putting themselves in the position of being seen as the “Chained CPI Party” is … well, basically, it’s not to even try.  It’s to make it all about loyalty. Purity. Unseriousness.  It’s to paint the objections as a matter of grandstanding, or of “Obama Derangement Syndrome.”  In other words, as being part of the usual “Obama Rox” vs. “Obama Sux” business.

Here’s my “irrational and unserious” Unicorn Herding and Fairy Dust Harvester’s Union jouneyman’s concern about the direction we are headed — presented in a simple and very easy to understand form:

The TV clicks on.  CNN.  Discovery Channel.  History Channel.  Local Stations.  Channels 4. 8. 12.  Ominous music plays then we hear a dark voice-over. The pay-off line:

“We must stop the Obama/Democrat Party Social Security Cuts!

(The RNC is solely responsible for the content and funding of this advertising.)”

This is why you don’t push for a Chained CPI.  It’s a benefits cut, for current retirees, and it is easily framed to low-information voters as such. Worse, it allows the GOP to do nothing for now, and later to brand themselves, perversely, as defending Social Security from the Democrats.

You have to fuck up so royally to create an opportunity to do that on that grand a scale its hard to imagine anyone with two brain cells to rub together doing that to themselves on purpose.  The party that wants to destroy the safety net … getting to cast the party that created that social safety net as it’s enemy!   It will damage Democrats in individual races, House and Senate, and the whole Democratic brand as well.  2014 is an off-year election with the Democrats very much on the defensive from the get-go — and that’s without this headache, without handing the GOP a gift that keeps on giving.  It’s an own-goal epic fail for the ages.

How do you, as somebody who has not been living in a cave since 1993-4, not see this coming in the run-up to November 2014 — after what happened in 2010 on Medicare? What will the GOP do?  It’s obvious. What will the “Village” of elite media commentators do? Obvious.

What will the Democrats say to defuse this? Good luck.

Each and every time this situation comes up, it comes up as a Democratic Party policy — one that will evolve into the simple but deadly low-information-voter friendly kiss of death message that “the Democrats want to cut your Social Security”

I’ve voted for Democrats for my entire adult life.  I’ve done GOTV for Democrats, given money to them, raised money for them, held signs for them, taken people to the polls for them.  When I’ve been fortunate enough to have sick days as a benefit, I’ve worked sick to use my limited sick days for my party in the past.

I’ve never championed Rand Paul, or a third party, or called for people to stay home in protest on election day. I have never not voted; it’s too important.  I’ve been here, for years, saying that we can “make Obama do things,” as he asked us to do, and we can do it in a way that doesn’t rely on right-wing talking points, memes, and frames.  I’ve argued that it is in our best interests to walk the line of both doing what is right and not going out of our way to do it in a way that unnecessarily harms the President or the Party.

I’m not a better Democrat than any one else around, and I would never claim to be, but one thing I am not is a bad Democrat. Nor am I an unrealistic Pollyanna — somebody who hasn’t had to live with his share of bad compromises and distasteful nose-holding moments at the polls and in policy fights because,  like a fool, he opted out of making hard choices.

I’m somebody who cannot be scapegoated as a Naderite, a Paulite, a glibertarian, or a purity troll chasing a magic pony — because anybody who has followed my writing over the past almost ten years knows that would be pure bullshit.

But: how does it help Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi — any Democrat at all, actually — to put yourself forth as the party favoring social safety net cuts, especially in these still hard times?  Especially given the slow recovery. Especially with the nightmarish 2014 slog staring us all right in the face.  With Citizen’s United millions just simmering in the pot to fund a massive rat-fucking campaign if we foolishly hand them a devastating issue on a silver platter.

What is the hidden upside to being seen — by millions of people who have previously had complete faith that you were the party that walked a line for Social Security, because you created the program and you understand how valuable it is more than anyone does — as being willing to cut these benefits?

There is none. It’s bad policy, and bad politics, in a likely bad Democratic off-year cycle.  I’m baffled as to how anybody can see this as anything but profoundly self-injurious.

I’m betting that the GOP probably cannot believe their good fortune at the moment. They just need to let the Democrats talk.  Talk about cutting Social Security, talk about their “Social Security benefit cut” policy over and over and over again — until everybody sees it as their policy, their deeply desired outcome.

Republicans don’t even have to produce a bill to fight this fight. No vote is necessary. The Democrats are volunteering to make themselves the face of cutting the most popular and most effective social safety net program in American history. When you opponent is hanging himself, step back and watch him parse out the rope and fling it over the hanging branch.

We don’t have a Chained CPI agreed to already for one reason and one reason only: because the GOP won’t take ‘yes’ for an answer, not because one isn’t on the table — or because it is an incredibly stupid thing for Democrats to frame themselves as being the primary force seeking such a change in Social Safety Net policy right before a difficult off-year election where Democratic control of the US Senate is very much in doubt even without the debacle of Social Security cuts as their desired policy outcome on their hands.

But I’m supposed to give the Democratic leadership creditas if they are doing something smart or savvy, because the GOP’s extremism has not allowed the Democrats to fuck themselves.  I’m suppose to act as if a bad outcome, thwarted only by the opposition party being nuts, is the same thing as the Democrats never having stupidly stumbled into this fucking tar pit in the first place.  I’m supposed to pretend that this is all good politics, simply being misunderstood, and that it’s wrong to want to pointedly speak out about this debacle, and excoriate the people who are doing the very stupid thing, or I’m hurting Obama, Reid, and Pelosi unfairly — because somehow it’s a bigger sin, blatantly unfair, to recognize that there is no upside to Democrats pushing the meme that they are the party of Social Security cuts, even if a deal never goes down.  There is no good outcome for the Democrats to go where they are going on the policy.

But don’t worry, I’m told. There won’t be a deal! So, it’s no harm no foul.  Nobody will ever remember in November that Democrats ever put Social Security on the table.

Right : no one other than the millions of dollars of ads from the Right, framing the Republicans as defending Social Security and casting the Democrats as the villains trying to cut it.  Spin by the Village, say, PolitiFact and company as “Mostly True”!

The TV clicked on. CNN. Discovery Channel. History Channel. Local Stations. Channels 4. 8. 12. Ominous music. Dark voice-over(s).

“I opposed the Obama/Democrat Party/Pelosi/Reid Social Security Cuts”.                   -American CrossRoads is responsible for the content of this ad.

“We have to stop the Democrat Party Social Security Cuts….”                -TeaPartyVictoryFund is responsible for the funding of this advertising.

“I fought the Obama Social Security Cuts, because what Obama and his Democrat Party cronies are doing is the wrong thing to do to America’s seniors….”
-FreedomWorks is responsible for the funding of this advertising.

“I opposed the Democrat Party on cruel and unnecessary Social Security Cuts….”
-Citizen’s United is responsible for the funding of this advertising.

I want you to imagine what it is going to be like to turn on your television and see and hear this, constantly, before a vital national off-year election where the Democratic Party, my party, is already facing an uphill climb because it is on the defensive in terms of defending Senate seats as it is — even without the Chained CPI debate or Social Security cuts being seen as Democratic policy by a sea of low-information voters who hear this each and every day that you do too.

This is an obvious a turn of events, as obvious as what happened with Reid’s handshake deal with McConnell on the filibuster.

If Democrats can’t be against the policy because they are fine with benefits cuts to Seniors, they should be against the policy because we are going to go into an already bad election cycle for Democrats having handed the GOP a simple easy meme with which to carpet bomb all Democrats.

There was no reason for Social Security to be on the table at all!

So. Let’s say there is no chance of a “Grand Bargain”.  Fine. Okay.

That makes it even stupider to put your fingerprints on Chained CPI, not less stupid. It’s worse.

The logical tactical pivot for the GOP now become: to lie.  Say that the threat that Democrats pose to Social Security is ongoing, they didn’t get to cut your benefits this time, but they will try again — so you’d better put us in to fight them!

If anyone is under the impression that this is too fanciful to be bought by the public?  ”Keep Your Big Government Hands Off My Medicare!”  Seniors turn out.  Scared and angry seniors turn out by the score.  That should erase any fantasy that the GOP can’t pull this off.  The GOP is going to sit back, let the Democrats talk about Chained CPI until its in the public’s mind that it’s pure Democratic policy, and then, whether it’s passed into law or left in limbo because no “Grand Bargain” emerges — they are going to run on the Democrats having put Chained CPI on the table in 2014.

They will run as if they are the party of protecting Social Security benefits, and they are going to frame the issue as the Democrats need to be turned out of office because the GOP is fighting their Social Security benefits cuts and their desire to cut the program.

This is why this nonsense has to stop – or we are in for a world of serious hurt.

I’m not an Obama hater.  I’m worried about what actually happens to Barack Obama, a man I voted for twice, if this ill-conceived push helps to create an election cycle that goes from a “Republican-favored” to a “Republican wave” election cycle.  I worry about a cycle where Senator Ted Cruz ends up having a very real and very dangerous US Senate Committee Chair, a gavel, an army of lawyers and investigators, and a stack of subpoenas for the administration.  Listen to the man, and tell me you doubt he wouldn’t be starting out with “Obama needs to be impeached, we just have to pick which reason why and go with it.”

There is no “Obama Derangement Syndrome,” or “irrational purity-driven Democratic Party hatred,” in not wanting to wake up one day to see a Republican Senate Majority handed to the GOP on a platter. Followed by Senator Ted Cruz pull a Tailgunner Joe act on live tv, gavel in hand, hammering away, while CNN gears up to cover Paul Ryan being selected as a House Impeachment Manager. If we lose the US Senate, we can expect the worst, and we can also expect the Village to grab its popcorn and play their part. This would be the most entertaining time of their lives since Clinton term two.

And worst, it would be an entirely “own-goal” epic fail that didn’t have to happen — unless we can stop it now.


About Greg Diamond

Worker's rights attorney now moving into "good governance" litigation. North Vice Chair of Democratic Party of Orange County and occasional candidate. Proud to be prolix. Unless otherwise specifically stated, his writings never speak for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Brea but generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and without compensation, although in 2014 he may receive some compensation for campaign consulting and fundraising for the campaign of Jorge Lopez for Orange County Assessor.