Prez “Chaining” Himself for Nothing?

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo on the President’s coming out for chained CPI to calculate Social Security benefits:

“[O]n the politics, President Obama and his advisors have made clear this isn’t what President Obama is actually for. He doesn’t think it’s a good idea. It’s rather what he’s willing to do if Republicans are willing to make a big move on revenues. So he’s anticipating claims that he’s not serious about long term cuts and making clear that he’s willing to put real cuts, painful cuts that most of his supporters will hate, on the table. There’s an internal logic there. But the problem is that there doesn’t seem to be much of any evidence that Republicans are going to make that any kind of move like that. So really this is just the President negotiating with himself, validating the wisdom of big Social Security cuts while Republicans are still saying — and show no signs of not saying — that no more taxes should ever go up ever.

“Now, the counter to this is that the optics of going the extra length helps the President with swing voters who want to see he’s trying to compromise. I’m uncertain about that. But that’s certainly part of the calculus.

“But there’s the third point that I think is most important to understanding what’s going on here. This isn’t only about President Obama’s negotiating acumen. In conversations with the president’s key advisors and the President himself over the last three years one point that has always come out to me very clearly is that the President really believes in the importance of the Grand Bargain. He thinks it’s an important goal purely on its own terms. That’s something I don’t think a lot of his diehard supporters fully grasp. He thinks it’s important in long-range fiscal terms (and there’s some reality to that). But he always believes it’s important for the country and even for the Democratic party to have a big global agreement that settles the big fiscal policy for a generation and let’s the country get on to other issues — social and cultural issues, the environment, building the economy etc.

This has always struck me as a very questionable analysis of the where the country is politically and what it needs. But I put it forward because I don’t think these moves can really be understood outside of this context.”  Emphasis added.

My personal feeling is that the President can’t do a Grand Bargain with the group that’s in Congress now, especially the House, and that we don’t need one anyway.  As the economy comes back, deficits are declining to reasonable levels in the short and medium-term.  A Grand Bargain can wait, but jobs and growth can’t.  The more growth we can fuel now, the less painful that Grand Bargain will ultimately have to be.  Now is the time to pave the way for a future Grand Bargain rather than for doing that Bargain itself.

Progressives are freaking out today about chained CPI, but it ain’t gonna happen without revenues, which means it ain’t gonna happen.  So the President is making an offer that the GOP can — and will — refuse.

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