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December 31, 2012

Top Headline Comments 12-31-12

Happy Monday.

Over the weekend you may have heard something about "chained CPI" and social security benefits. Chained CPI (consumer price index) is an inflation index, one that many folks on both the right and the left have advocated for, both because it is more accurate and because it would reduce the growth in Social Security payments a bit.

Chained CPI came up over the weekend because Democrats lost their leverage. Until this weekend, the Democrats, with the help of their media allies, had portrayed the major stumbling block to a fiscal cliff deal as Republican intransigence on tax hikes for the wealthy. That ended this weekend because Senate negotiators were openly shooting for about a $400,000 threshold for the Bush tax cuts to expire.

In other words, the so-called major stumbling block to a deal was gone and Democrats were worried that the Republicans were starting to look a little "reasonable" to the American public. They hurriedly turned to the old Democratic playbook and came up with a new plan: tell the media that the Republicans were trying to take away Grandma's Social Security.

Here's the thing: although many Senate Republicans would vote for a switch to chained CPI, it wasn't a dealbreaker for their fiscal cliff offer. It wasn't a stumbling block at all. Democrats merely claimed that Republicans were refusing to budge on this "controversial" proposal (which in the past had been supported by many Democrats, including President Obama) and the lapdogs in the media faithfully reported that.

And that's how the Democrats kept their leverage over the weekend. Instead of reporting that a deal was in sight, the media reported that the big bad Republicans were holding middle class tax cuts hostage to cutting Grandma's Social Security.

So the media got played, the American people got rolled. Nothing new there. The only reason it got my attention at all was because it wasn't just the media that took this bait. So too did many conservative commentators.

Aghast that the Senate Republicans would fold on chained CPI (even though it hadn't been part of their program), conservatives had harsh words for Republicans and Republican leadership in the Senate. How dare these Senators, the conservative commentators said, not consider the rejected House plan of Speaker Boehner to be a baseline for any Republican fiscal cliff offer?

Well, obviously the Senators dared because Speaker Boehner's plan was rejected by the House. It, and the things it contained like a switch to chained CPI, cannot serve as a baseline for the Senate Republican negotiation because not even Republicans could pass it. If conservatives had wanted Speaker Boehner's plan, with its $1 million tax cut expiration threshold and its permanent AMT and death tax fixes and its chained CPI to serve as the foundation for Republican negotiations, they probably should have voted for it.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 06:58 AM

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