One of Democrats' enduring, systemic political advantages a mainstream media whose levers are overwhelmingly controlled by people who agree with them on most issues. But sometimes Democrats push their luck, and many in the press cannot help but notice. In the midst of a deluge of Republicans showing flexibility on "revenues" -- for better or worse -- Democrats have thus far been unwilling to commit to, well, much of anything at all. Compromises require real, tangible concessions from both sides, and a number of MSM stalwarts are beginning to point out that Democrats aren't doing their, ahem, fair share. The Washington Post's editorial board is urging Congressional Democrats to get serious and calling on President Obama to fill the leadership vacuum, essentially echoing what the GOP has been saying for years:
Democrats, meanwhile, are sounding more and more maximalist in resisting spending cuts. Many insist that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and education — pretty much everything except the Pentagon — are untouchable. Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), who had been one of the more reasonable Democratic leaders, said Tuesday that, while he favors reform of entitlement programs, it shouldn’t be part of the negotiations on the fiscal cliff. The Post’s Greg Sargent reported that union leaders and other liberals came away from a White House meeting encouraged that administration officials agree. “They expect taxes to go up on the wealthy and to protect Medicare and Medicaid benefits,” one attendee said. “They feel confident that they don’t have to compromise.” Don’t have to compromise? Elections do have consequences, and Mr. Obama ran on a clear platform of increasing taxes on the wealthy. But he was clear on something else, too: Deficit reduction must be “balanced,” including spending cuts as well as tax increases. Since 60 percent of the federal budget goes to entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, there’s no way to achieve balance without slowing the rate of increase of those programs.
The Post praises Durbin for being "more reasonable" than many of his fellow partisans when it comes to entitlement reforms. One wonders if they'll ever notice how impossibly vague his statements have been on the subject. Still, some accountability here is better than none at all. Before you write the Post crew a thank-you note, however, read their humorous "fact check" of Republicans who correctly claim that Democrats' unserious tax-the-rich gambit would only fund a single week of federal spending. (Verdict: This talking point is mathematically correct, but the "context" makes it less than true. One Pinocchio. Groan). The Post also vastly understates the problem and the silliness of Obama's fanciful notion of "balance," but that sin isn't unique to them; not by a long shot. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that even if the GOP lines up and salutes on new revenues, Democrat infighting could very well sink the Good Ship Compromise:
Deep divisions among Senate Democrats over whether cuts to popular benefit programs like Medicare and Medicaid should be part of a plan to slow the government's mushrooming debt pose a big obstacle to a deal for avoiding a potentially economy-crushing "fiscal cliff," even if Republicans agree to raise taxes. Much of the focus during negotiations seeking an alternative to $671 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts beginning in January has centered on whether Republicans would agree to raising taxes on the wealthy. President Barack Obama has insisted repeatedly that tax increases on the wealthy must be part of any deal, even as White House officials concede that government benefit programs will have to be in the package too. "It is the president's position that when we're talking about a broad, balanced approach to dealing with our fiscal challenges, that that includes dealing with entitlements," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. But even if GOP lawmakers agree to raise taxes, there is no guarantee Democrats can come up with enough votes in the Senate to cut benefit programs — as Republicans are demanding.
Politico is picking up on the same dynamic. Let's close with a recommendation to peruse this USA Today editorial excoriating Democrats for using misdirection and false assertion to try to convince the public that Social Security is in fine shape, and has nothing to do with our debt troubles. An excerpt:
Do Democrats really believe Social Security doesn't contribute to federal deficits and the national debt? They're certainly saying it a lot: "Social Security does not add one penny to our debt, not a penny," Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, insisted Sunday on ABC's This Week. During Monday's briefing at the White House, press secretary Jay Carney repeated the theme: "We should address the drivers of the deficit, and Social Security is not currently a driver of the deficit — that's an economic fact." Well, saying it's a fact doesn't make it so. Durbin, Carney and others making that claim should take a look at the president's own budget to see what's really going on. On page 465 of the budget's "Analytical Perspectives," they'll find a chart showing that Social Security ran a deficit of $48 billion last year. This year, Social Security will come up $50.7 billion short. In 2015, as more Baby Boomers retire, the gap between cash in and cash out is expected to reach $86.6 billion. Need a second source? In a report released last month, the Congressional Budget Office said Social Security benefits began exceeding payroll tax revenue in 2010, and without changes, the program will never get back into balance.
For much more on this front, read (or re-read) this.
UPDATE - Republicans are turning to Erskine Bowles -- the Democratic co-chair of President Obama's debt commission and Bill Clinton's former Chief of Staff -- for leverage in this fight. Smart move:
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is turning to an unlikely ally — President Clinton’s former chief of staff — to try to get the White House to put big entitlement changes in a fiscal-cliff deal. Erskine Bowles, the former co-chairman of Obama’s debt commission, will meet on Wednesday with Boehner and other top Republicans. The GOP is using the occasion to call out liberal Democrats for working against benefit cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. “The problem is that congressional Democrats are drawing lines in the sand against the substantial spending cuts and reforms that are crucial to any agreement. We have to highlight the fact that the president’s own party is the roadblock here,” said a House GOP leadership aide.