Is Mark Warner the Designated Social Security Killer?

The propaganda the Administration has put out to spin the debt capitulation as a win–“victory!” “bipartisan!” “compromise!”–would be amusing if the deal weren’t so dangerous. In addition to all the language claiming that cutting expenditures during a Depression–described here as “remov[ing] the cloud of uncertainty– will help the economy, there are these two bullets:

  • Establishes a bipartisan process to seek a balanced approach to larger deficit reduction through entitlement and tax reform;
  • Deploys an enforcement mechanism that gives all sides an incentive to reach bipartisan compromise on historic deficit reduction, while protecting Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries and low-income programs;

Bulllet 3 says this deal establishes a process to bring about entitlement reform. Bullet 4 claims the deal protected Social Security and Medicare. Both of these bullets can’t be true.

Which has set off a discussion about whether SuperCongress is only possibly going to cut Medicare and Social Security, or will almost certainly do so.

I wanted to look at how the membership of the predecessor committees to SuperCongress–the Catfood Commission and the Gang of Six–to suggest which is more likely.

As you recall, the Catfood Commission members voted 11-7 in favor of passing the Commission’s recommendations, which included raising the retirement age. The members of Congress on the Commission voted this way:

  • Tom Coburn: Yes
  • Judd Gregg: Yes*
  • Mike Crapo: Yes
  • Kent Conrad: Yes
  • Dick Durbin: Yes
  • Max Baucus: No
  • Paul Ryan: No
  • Jeb Hensarling: No
  • Dave Camp: No
  • Jan Schakowsky: No
  • Xavier Becerra: No
  • John Spratt: Yes*

Assuming for the sake of argument that the members who are still in Congress would be part of SuperCongress, that would make for a stalemate–though Republican opposition focused on Obama’s healthcare reform, not on the package of entitlement cuts and tax breaks for the rich that the commission recommended.

Both Judd Gregg and John Spratt are gone. Rather than replace Judd Gregg, the former Ranking Member of the Budget Committee with his functional equivalent, Jeff Sessions, Mitch McConnell will likely put Saxby Chambliss on SuperCongress, as Chambliss has been involved in the Gang of Six discussing a deficit reduction plan. John Spratt’s functional equivalent would be Chris Van Hollen, a not horrible addition for liberals. (Update: Or maybe he’s just like Durbin, a so-called liberal who will support this crap.)

But it’s not safe to assume Harry Reid will just pick the Senators who served on the Catfood Commission for SuperCongress. After Max Baucus voted no on the Catfood Commission, saying, “we cannot cut the deficit at the expense of veterans, seniors, ranchers, farmers and hard-working families,” he was replaced on the Gang of Six. Joe Biden and Harry Reid replaced him with Mark Warner, a man worth more than $200 million who has spent much of the tenure of the Gang of Six insisting that working Americans with whom he shares little in common won’t mind so much if they have to work another two years before they can retire.

In other words, one change we’ve already seen happen between the Catfood Commission and the Gang of Six is the replacement of Max Baucus, who proved unwilling to push through the $4 trillion deficit plan Obama has been chasing, with Mark Warner, who is all too willing to champion entitlement cuts for poor people.

If his newly central role in these discussions stands, we can be pretty sure we’ll see cuts to Social Security. And heck, if he won’t do the deed, then alleged liberal, Dick Durbin, and Kent Conrad seem prepared to do the work themselves.

Jane Rebuts Mrs. Greenspan’s CW with Mr. Bayh’s Conflict

Jane’s appearance on MSNBC today was pitch perfect punditry.

Not only was Jane beautiful, in control of the facts, and poised, but I especially love the way Jane smacked down Andrea Mitchell’s beltway Conventional Wisdom. When Mitchell started suggesting that the co-ops were the middle ground, Jane turned this onto supporters of the co-ops.

Mitchell: Kent Conrad and other more conservative Democrats who have been negotiating these compromises in Senate Finance say that there will be no bill if there’s a public option.

Hamsher: Well, with 76% of the country in favor of it, you’ve got Democrats like Joe Crowley, like Charlie Rangel, like Ed Markey who are going to have trouble going back to their districts that have 22% Democratic advantage and saying "I gave the farm away to the insurance companies."

Mitchell: So you’ve got the House that’s committed to this, that say they won’t do anything if it doesn’t have a public option, and you’ve got the Senate saying they won’t do it if there is a public option. Is there a compromise there that does involve those co-ops, or is it better to have nothing?

Hamsher: Well, the compromise is the public plan–that’s the compromise down from single payer. So that is the middle ground. And frankly I would like to see Democrats like Evan Bayh and like Max Baucus stand on the floor of the Senate and filibuster the Democratic program that 76% of the country …

Mitchell: But Jane that’s not gonna happen. It’s not where they are.

Hamsher: Uh, why not?

Mitchell: Because that’s not where they see their constituency. That’s not where Evan Bayh sees more conservative Democrats in his state of Indiana.

Hamsher: Evan Bayh’s wife is on the Board of Wellpoint. So I think that he’s going to have a problem doing something that tanks the Democratic plan that strongly favors something that he has a financial interest in. There’s a whole lot of insurance money going to these Senators and that’s going to be something that people are going to be looking into if that’s how this winds up.

Mitchell: Civil war?

Hamsher: I think that there’s going to be a problem. Read more