After a year of defending progressive liberal principles, I’m jumping ship. Liberals, it’s time to grow up.
It’s time for Democrats to ignore the liberal “don’t cut” chorus and put a serious budget cutting plan on the table. It’s time to put our money where our mouths were for the entire election campaign and show our cards on spending cuts.
For a year, President Obama ran on a platform of shared sacrifice in dealing with the debt crisis. Progressives and liberals happily carried that flag. Raise taxes on the rich and cut spending as part of a comprehensive “grand bargain,” they argued. Let everyone have skin in the game.
But now, weeks after winning on that platform, Sen. Bernie Sanders and other liberals want to back off the deal on the spending side. Don’t touch the social safety net, they cry. No cuts to Medicare, no adjustments to Social Security COLAs, no changes to entitlements of any kind. We paid for our entitlements, we’re entitled to them, they protest.
Well guess what, it doesn’t work that way. Medicare does not support itself. The same is true for Social Security. Yes, we pay into them and are “entitled” to our benefits. But the amount we pay in is a fraction of what most people get back over the course of a lifetime. Are we “entitled” to more than we pay in? It’s simply not sustainable, and we can’t wish away the problem solely by making the rich pay more.
And much as I admire and respect him, Sanders is as far off base on this issue as is Grover Norquist.
Instead, liberals should be offering constructive ways to deal with the very real Medicare and Social Security problems. It’s true, Social Security does not impact the federal deficit. But Republicans are not wrong for saying it’s still a fiscal time-bomb that must be dealt with sooner rather than later.
Here’s the irony: if Democrats would put a credible, words-on-paper offer on the table today that includes real spending cuts across the board – including reasonable and responsible adjustments to Medicare and Medicaid now, and an agreement to look at Social Security next – the public pressure on Republicans to accept it in return for higher tax rates on the wealthy would be irresistible.
Democrats are hurting their bargaining power by being coy about spending cuts, and liberals are damaging our chances by making sweeping warnings that not a dime can be cut out of any entitlement program, lest the social safety net rip apart at the seams.
We won the election. Now let’s win the war. Liberals have to give up this Quixotesque battle to keep all entitlements off the table. Let’s negotiate in good faith and cut a deal that can address our long-term fiscal problems with as little long-term pain as possible. It would be a win for the Obama administration, a win for Democrats, and a win for the country.
If we don’t grab this golden opportunity to reform these programs now in a smart and responsible way, it won’t be long before a Republican president and a Republican congress does it their way.
And that will be a disaster for the social safety net for generations to come.