Fired for Her Gray Hair
The Elder Court

When a President Plays Chicken with Congress

category_bug_politics.gif Even people who don't follow politics closely must know that for many weeks, Republicans have been playing a game of chicken with the debt ceiling vote.

They have been trying to extort various trillions in budget cuts, all from the people who will be most harmed while leaving the richest individuals and corporations untouched by their sham “shared sacrifice” austerity.

Throughout this charade, President Obama mostly caved to Republican demands, repeating Republican talking points verbatim, so much so that it was becoming difficult to tell the difference between him and Republican House Speaker John Boehner. Nevertheless, every time he caved, the Republicans said, wait, wait, that's not enough. We want more.

As deeply disappointing as Obama's actions were, he had not stooped to the chicken game the Republicans had been playing. Until this week.

On Monday, at a news conference, he went further than even the Republicans had dared, all but giving away Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid:

” is possible for us to construct a package that would be balanced," he said, "would share sacrifice, would involve both parties taking on their sacred cows, would involve some meaningful changes to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid...”

Then, in that same news conference, he went the full monty - he would refuse to sign a stop-gap debt ceiling bill of 30, 60 or 90 days, an act that would plunge the country into default and economic chaos.

On Tuesday, President Obama doubled down, telling CBS News anchor, Scott Pelley, that if the debt ceiling is not raised by the deadline, August Social Security checks were at risk. (This video requires a Flash plugin. If you cannot view it, the text is below the video.)


"This is not just a matter of Social Security checks. These are veterans checks, these are folks on disability and their checks. There are about 70 million checks that go out...I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3 if we haven't resolved this issue, because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.”

With that statement, the president told Americans that if the game of chicken didn't end immediately and the debt ceiling be raised, there would be no August checks and that would be on the Republicans' heads.

By the end of the day, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) had capitulated offering a plan to transfer the power to raise the debt ceiling from Congress to the president until the end of his term, thus avoiding a possible failed vote due to tea party extremists. (One has to suspect too, that part of the capitulation was a result of Wall Street telling Congressional Republicans, "Enough!")

To not give away the game, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said only that he would give McConnell's plan a close look. Bottom line: The debt ceiling will be raised and the budget can be addressed separately without any more threats to blow up the economy.

We probably won't know until President Obama writes his memoir, but I'm torn between two thoughts on what he did Monday and Tuesday: One: fed up with the protracted talks going nowhere, he took a long shot and happened to win.

Or two: he planned this. He let the argument go on for weeks and weeks until the Republicans had dug themselves such a deep hole that the threat of a potential political catastrophe - no Social Security and veterans' checks - could be used to bury them on this issue.

Given how Washington operates these days, I suppose this agreement could fall apart, but I doubt it; we're too close to the debt ceiling deadline to fool around anymore. But don't think cuts to Social Security and Medicare die with this standoff. I suspect Republicans will be even more fierce in those efforts now.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: P.E. Classes


The problem progressives face on this issue is how many Republicans are clueless about what their own party intends. I still get email forwards showing how the 'evil' Democrats are trying to put our country into bankruptcy while the 'noble' Republicans are trying to save it. I get these from nice people who buy the garbage being sent out without bothering to check.

The last person sent out a defense of Republican earnestness; so I wrote a reply (why I bother, I don't know) and told him that 'other' who is getting all the money and who the Republicans are trying to shaft, is him. He's someone on both SS and Medicare. Just plain clueless because they listen only to media being supported by those like Murdock. They will vote in 2012 for more of the same and never realize they really are the 'other' until it's too late.

The selfishness of people like him is unbounded because if it really is someone else, they don't care. The only possible way to get them to care is what Obama said and even then on a site like Drudge, it'll say something like President won't send out SS checks. That's where it's at for their headlines. It makes me so mad that it's hard to be rational in a response.

Thanks for this summary. I do not understand why so many people continue to support the Republicans when it is not in their best interest. Yes, cannot wait to read Obama's memoir.

I hope I live long enough to read that memoir, but I doubt it. I would be well into my nineties!

I'm guessing Obama knew Republicans would never cave on their "no tax increase" stand. He put everything on the table and they didn't take it. Of course, we don't know what was actually on the table as far as Medicare and Social Security.

One would think that Democrats now have a great message for 2012. And one would think there might be a good chance to take back the House and hold onto the Senate and White House. I sure hope so

On Face the Nation, last Sunday, Bob Scheiffer said that no matter how this unfolds, the next administration will no doubt change things anyway. So once we somehow get thru this crisis, others will follow to further muck things up. It's very discouraging. Dee

One can only hope awareness will blossom with constant exposure. Witness the M. Bachmann revelations. Who would even want to live near these selfish, oaf-headed Neanderthals!? Keep up the pressure on their idiocy!!

I keep hoping that Obama is helping the Republicans dig their grave with their obstructionism. Democrats just won in Wisconsin. A Democrat just won in California. I hope this is a sign that they will oust those ideological Republicans in the 2012.

'Livid' is the adjective that defines my state of mind these days. And my blood pressure is not good.

I wish I could give the Prez the benefit of the doubt here -- but I can't entirely. He's a very attractive figure, but he has shown a willingness to do things that are simply wrong, especially about continuing the Bush policies of allowing torture and rendition (tho talking a good game) and failing to fight for the laws he is sworn to uphold.

So when he starts using our anxiety about Social Security and Medicare as poker chips, I cannot trust him. Our security should be off the table, period.

He may win re-election as a lesser evil, but his impact on the nation's trajectory is mostly disappointing.

If we can keep the far right wingnuts talking, maybe some of those nice people who think the Repubs are on their side will have an epiphany and realize that this is NOT the case. It's always made me laugh--which is probably better than some other things I can think of--when I hear 65+ tea partyers railing against Big Government. I don't see them lining up to return their own government handouts (S/S checks) or Medicare enrollment cards!

The GOP offer is a trap for Obama, of course. None of the Repubs in the negotiating room wants to put his signature to a deal that would remove tax exemptions for billionaires. So they give Obama extraordinary power, and then anything that goes wrong afterwards is his fault. Obama is right to push them to the wall, and he shouldn't accept this latest move. He must get Republicans to sign on. They are on the ropes and he just can't let them get away with their tactics.

Yes, Wall Street is freaking out. If the country defaults, Wall Street goes poof. If that happens, the sharks won't be able to keep eating us and would die. Hmmmm.

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