President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue. . . . As part of his pitch, Obama is proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to people in both parties with knowledge of the proposal. The move marks a major shift for the White House and could present a direct challenge to Democratic lawmakers who have vowed to protect health and retirement benefits from the assault on government spending.Quoted from Glenn Greenwald, who writes about those Democratic lawmakers:
Of course enough Democrats will get in line behind Obama's proposal to pass it once they're told they must. Similarly, those progressive commentators who are first and foremost Democratic loyalists -- who rose up in angry and effective unison (along with actual progressives) to prevent George Bush from privatizing Social Security in 2005 -- will mount no meaningful opposition out of fear of weakening the President's political prospects. White House aides will just utter Michele Bachmann enough times like some magical spell and snap more than enough people into fear-induced compliance. The last thing the White House is worried about -- the last thing -- is its "base."
This was the primary lesson from the health care fight. Obama loyalists who maligned anyone who resisted that bill always misunderstood the point. It was never about the substantive belief in what became the very weak "public option" provision: at least not primarily. Instead, it was about political power.
Congressional Democrats began the health care debate by categorically vowing -- in writing, by the dozens -- never to support any health care bill that did not contain a public option (on the ground that it would be little more than a boon to -- an entrenchment of -- the private health insurance industry). But once they all abandoned that pledge when told that doing so was necessary to be good, loyal Democrats, it was clear from that point forward that they could be ignored. They had no willingness to exercise political power; their partisan loyalty trumped any alleged convictions; their negotiation positions were silly bluffs; and they could always be counted on to snap dutifully into line at the end no matter how much their values were stomped on (and that debate followed the same template as the deficit battle: the White House publicly pretending to advocate for a public option while leading the way in private to ensure it never happened).
Obama knows full well that he can slash Medicare, Medicaid and even Social Security -- just like he could sign an extension of Bush tax cuts, escalate multiple wars, and embrace the Bush/Cheney Terrorism template recently known in Democratic circles as "shredding the Constitution" -- and have most Democrats and progressives continue to support him anyway. Unconditional support ensures political impotence, and rightly so. He's attending to the constituencies that matter: mostly, Wall Street tycoons who funded his 2008 campaign and whom he hopes will fund his re-election bid, and independents whose support is in question. And he's doing that both because it's in his perceived interest and because, to the extent he believes in anything, those are the constituencies with which he feels most comfortable.