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.

A Reminder of What The Election Should Be About

From “Capitalism Version 2012,” Thomas L. Friedman, NYT:

“America’s success for over 200 years was largely due to its healthy, balanced publicprivate partnership — where government provided the institutions, rules, safety nets, education, research and infrastructure to empower the private sector to innovate, invest and take the risks that promote growth and jobs.

“When the private sector overwhelms the public, you get the 2008 subprime crisis.  When the public overwhelms the private, you get choking regulations.

“[T]he ideal 2012 election would be one that offered the public competing conservative and liberal versions of the key grand bargains, the key balances, that America needs to forge to adapt its capitalism to this century.

“The first is a grand bargain to fix our long-term structural deficit by phasing in $1 in tax increases, via tax reform, for every $3 to $4 in cuts to entitlements and defense over the next decade.  If the Republican Party continues to take the view that there must be no tax increases, we’re stuck.

“As part of this, we will need an intergenerational grand bargain…. We need a proper balance between government spending on nursing homes and nursery schools….

“Another grand bargain we need is between the environmental community and the oil and gas industry….

“Another grand bargain we need is on infrastructure.  We have more than a $2 trillion deficit in bridges, roads, airports, ports and bandwidth….

“Within both education and health care, we need grand bargains that better allocate resources between remediation and prevention. … We waste too much money treating people for preventable diseases and reteaching students in college what they should have learned in high school.

“Capitalism and political systems — like companies — must constantly evolve to stay vital.”

The problem is too much willfulness and not enough will.   We limp along on last-minute, short-term, lowest-common-denominator bargains, but can’t manage the “grand bargains” that will get this country soaring again.