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Last week, Paul Krugman of the New York Times wrote a much-commented upon op-ed that criticized Barack Obama for claiming as of late that there’s a “crisis” in Social Security. “Progressives who fought hard and successfully against the Bush Administration’s attempt to panic America into privatizing the New Deal’s crown jewel are outraged, and rightly so,” he wrote.
Krugman put forth a persuasive defense of the viability of the Social Security system and blamed Obama’s “mistake” on his
promises to transcend partisanship in an age when that’s neither possible nor desirable…We all wish that American politics weren’t so bitter and partisan. But if you try to find common ground where none exists–which is the case for many issues today–you end up being played for a fool. And that’s what has just happened to Mr. Obama.
Krugman’s right about Social Security, but I doubt that Obama’s new crisis-mode on Social Security stems from a misguided desire to transcend partisanship. My guess is that Obama knows exactly what he’s doing–namely trying to reassure the Democratic leadership, big political donors, and the elite media that he’s one of them. (Krugman, note here, is among the rare voices in the media who doesn’t echo the “sky is falling” view of Social Security.)
Obama is African-American, runs slightly towards the liberal side, and engenders passion among his supporters. That’s a little scary for beltway insiders, even if Obama did go to Harvard. From his earliest days as a senator, Obama has periodically taken positions that seem designed to prove to that crowd that he’s “safe,” such as his 2005 support for a Republican bill to limit class action lawsuits.
That same year, Obama opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which Congress ended up approving by a narrow margin. But at the time, one of the senator’s staffers whined to a labor official I know that Obama had a very hard time voting against the Agreement because major newspaper editorial pages were strongly in favor of it.
As Krugman noted in his column, conventional wisdom in the beltway today is that Social Security as we know it is doomed. He printed the following exchange between Chris Matthews and Tim Russert, from Hardball:
Mr. Russert: Everyone knows Social Security, as it’s constructed, is not going to be in the same place it’s going to be for the next generation, Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives.
Mr. Matthews: It’s a bad Ponzi scheme, at this point.
Mr. Russert: Yes.
Hence, now that Obama is a serious candidate for the presidency, what better way to prove he’s reliable and mature than to endorse this tripe?
P.S. Check out Obama’s plan for education reform in South Carolina–turning over $18 billion to the boobs who have turned the state’s education system into a joke. Now, that’s inspired leadership. Or is it simply political pandering?
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”