When the American people reelected Barack Obama, they had two things on their mind: sequestration and capitulation. (I’m currently working on history’s worst rewrite of the Temptations “Ball of Confusion.”) We’ve gotten the first, and with his new budget, President Obama gives us the second.
Having defeated the Republicans in the court of public opinion, but at an impasse in direct negotiations, Obama has gone back to what he does best: negotiating with imaginary Republicans, as if that caucus has reasonable members. This is making one person in America happy, and his name is David Brooks. David Brooks has been hanging out with imaginary reasonable Republicans for years, and he thinks they’re wonderful. When the actual Republicans do anything, David Brooks gets sad and writes a column about the nature of virtue for his next book.
What will the imaginary Republicans trade taxes on the wealthy for? Medicare cuts! Social Security cuts!
Social Security doesn’t even impact the deficit, but we’re just throwing it in there because it’s too complicated a difference to explain to the American people. The way Obama wants to shave this safety net for the old is to adjust the inflation index. This means he’s cutting the benefits but doing it through a nifty process by which no one should mind. The inflation index is mismeasured, economists say, because people can adjust for higher prices by switching brands. So just as people can switch to a generic cereal for breakfast over a name brand, seniors can avoid getting a costly hip replacement by substituting a doorknob strapped to a broomstick.
Another way to raise money for Social Security would be to raise the cap on the payroll tax. Right now, if you’re rich enough, you don’t have to pay any more into the safety net than the guy two rungs below you on the ladder because . . . free enterprise? We could raise that cap, but some cryptic process of estimating consumer prices seems to be easier to explain. Unfathomable explanations are the easiest to understand.
Raising the age for Medicare will help the economy because private insurers will buy houses. When the old guy who’s still working construction on that house gets hurt he’ll have a wide option of private insurers to take his money, and he won’t make as big a mess because old people have less blood.
Many of the positive aspects of this budget (i.e., fixing roads and implementing all the job programs we should have had all along) will be paid for by taxes on cigarettes. What if more people quit? I recommend that the government start giving cigarettes to children so we have a reliable revenue stream. We’re trying to get them to eat less, right?
Obama’s imaginary Republicans love this budget. The actual Republicans want to keep the cuts to Medicaid and Social Security and jettison the good parts. Presto: compromise! Which is why Obama should have led with some full-on communist stuff and let the Republicans whittle it down to something he really wants. They’re going to call him a communist anyway.
Likewise, or perhaps contrary-wise (is there a difference? BOOM! That’s your skull exploding!), if he wants to invest in the country and create jobs instead of all this suddenly urgent deficit business, he should just switch parties. The Republicans will hail the victory and stop giving a flying damn about debt. Obama might as well do it; his policies have already made the jump.