President Obama has been saying quite firmly that while he is not willing to negotiate over a clean continuing resolution to fund the government or over a clean resolution to raise the debt ceiling, that once those are passed, he is willing to negotiate over everything else.
Observers have suggested that he says this in order to negate the impression that he is the one being intransigent over the shut down, which is the case that the Republicans have been trying to make. But there is another disturbing possibility and Mike Whitney spells it out.
Whitney says that Obama has been very wobbly on protecting Social Security and Medicare, repeatedly suggesting that he is open to a ‘grand bargain’ that will result in cuts to these programs in either benefits payments or by raising the eligibility age, things that have been long sought after by the oligarchy but which they have been unable to get so far even under president George W. Bush. I too have warned before that Obama seems desperately eager to bargain away Social Security benefits.
But cuts to social welfare programs are paradoxically easier to obtain when Democrats are in power because their base then let down their guard. Whitney worries that if Obama gets the continuing resolution and debt ceiling results he wants, he may use the resulting relief felt by people to push for cuts in these programs.
Whitney seems to feel that this clearly Obama’s strategy. I am not so sure but as always, we have to be on our guard because it is a good rule of thumb that the real action is usually quietly taking place in the sidelines while all attention is focused on the big public conflicts. We need to develop political peripheral vision so as not to get blind-sided.