Republican Hypocrisy, Chapter 4,397

[ Posted Thursday, April 11th, 2013 – 16:44 UTC ]

OK, I'll admit right up front that that title is a bit of hyperbole. I really haven't documented 4,396 other instances of Republican hypocrisy. It just feels like it, that's all. Today's installment even crosses over from garden-variety hypocrisy to full-blown Orwellian doublethink, in fact.

Congressman Greg Walden, who is the leader of the Republican group whose mandate it is to get more Republicans elected to the House of Representatives, just attacked President Barack Obama's budget proposal -- from the left. Stunning, isn't it? Walden decried Obama's offer to use "chained CPI" to gradually reduce Social Security payments to seniors -- which, coincidentally enough, is exactly what progressives are slamming Obama for right now. The progressive response was to be expected, since protecting Social Security is (or used to be, at any rate) a core value of the Democratic Party. But it sure is mighty strange to see Walden over there on the left with the progressives.

To understand exactly how strange this phenomenon is, a little history is required. Here is the Republican storyline on Social Security and Medicare, starting roughly 75 years ago.

"Social Security is communism! It is evil! It must never be enacted!"

"Social Security must not be expanded! It is a communist plot!"

"Medicare is communism! It is evil! It will destroy the freedom of America! It must never be enacted!"

"Social Security and Medicare are socialism! Socialism is evil!"

"Social Security and Medicare are entitlements! Entitlements are evil! They must be killed!"

"Hey, here's a great idea -- let's privatize Social Security! That'll fix the problem!"

"Entitlements are going to kill the economic future of America! We're all doomed unless we severely cut back on entitlements!"

"Obamacare is socialism! It is evil! It must never be enacted!"

OK, we have to take a pause here, as we get into much more recent history. Those statements may sound laughable and over-the-top -- just some liberal hype, to put it another way -- but they are actually fairly accurate. Look into how Ronald Reagan got into politics, if you don't believe me (scroll down to the Talking Points section).

A pause is necessary because this was the point that Republicans stopped even making a pretense of being intellectually consistent. From F.D.R. to George W. Bush, Republicans were at least singing the same tune: Social Security bad, Medicare bad, must kill them both. But once Obamacare passed and the 2012 election hove into sight, Republicans started bizarrely trying to convince the public that they would be the saviors of entitlements, from those dastardly Democrats who were out to slash them. This head-scratcher didn't notably work, but that doesn't mean Greg Walden doesn't think it's worth another try. Here is the sequence of Republican thinking, from Obamacare forward:

"Obama cut seven hundred billion dollars from Medicare! He hates seniors!"

"We support the Paul Ryan budget which cuts $700 billion from Medicare, and turns it all into a voucher program."

"We supported it last year, and we again support the Paul Ryan budget which cuts $700 billion from Medicare, and only turns part of it into a voucher program."

"President Obama has never even attempted to cut entitlements."

"President Obama hates seniors, because he cut $700 billion from Medicare."

"If we are elected into power, we will restore that $700 billion to Medicare -- even though Paul Ryan is our vice presidential candidate."

"We lost the election, but we still support Paul Ryan's budget which cuts $700 billion from Medicare, and only has a voluntary program to turn Medicare into vouchers."

"The Paul Ryan budget refuses to lay out other cuts to entitlements, but President Obama should be the one to offer up specifics on this Republican plan to cut entitlements, and then we'll go along with his leadership on the issue. After which, we'll attack him on the campaign trail for doing so, of course."

"We are not offering any specifics on how Republicans want to cut entitlements, sorry."

"President Obama's offer to move to chained CPI is a good first step, but doesn't go nearly far enough in terms of cutting entitlements."

That's the history, roughly, up until yesterday. From F.D.R. to Dubya, Republicans mercilessly attacked Social Security and Medicare. Once Obama got into office, they've been simply incoherent on the issue. They want big cuts. They campaign on how Obama is evil because he is making big cuts. They want big cuts, again, after the election is over. Obama is evil for his big cuts to Medicare, although we've now voted for exactly the same cuts three times in the House. Obama's chained CPI offer should be seen as a first step toward the Republican goal of cutting entitlements, but not nearly enough.

This is the stage Greg Walden stepped upon. Here's what he had to say about Obama's budget and the chained CPI offer:

I thought it's very intriguing in that his budget really lays out kind of a shocking attack on seniors, if you will. We haven't seen all the detail yet, so we'll look at it. But I'll tell you, when you're going after seniors the way he's already done on Obamacare, taking $700 billion out of Medicare to put into Obamacare, and now coming back at seniors again -- I think you're crossing that line very quickly here in terms of denying access to seniors for health care. I think he's going to have a lot of pushback from some of the major senior organizations and Republicans as well.

In actual fact, what Walden got was his own pushback from Republicans. John Boehner immediately disavowed Walden's remarks, but as of this writing Walden hasn't backed down.

Greg Walden is, once again, the guy who's going to run the campaign efforts for Republicans in the House. He's the guy who will be expected to lay out the grand campaign strategy to get more House Republicans elected. He's not some powerless backbencher, in other words, he'll be instrumental in the 2014 Republican election effort.

Walden's real problem here is one of timing. He wasn't supposed to actually say this stuff before a deal had been struck. It has been the Republican game plan all along to blame Obama for entitlement cuts, in fact. But in politics, timing is everything.

Here is the basic Republican playbook on entitlement cuts. Entitlements are actually very popular with the American public. Social Security and Medicare are wildly popular with those who receive benefits. Cuts to these benefits are politically dangerous for politicians to support. In fact, it used to be called the "third rail of American politics" -- touch it, and you die. Republicans have been trying to convince the American public for a very long time to slash entitlements, and the public has recoiled in horror. So now, their plan is to get Obama to be the author of such cuts, whereby they can have their cake and eat it too. They can slash entitlements and blame it on someone else. See: that $700 billion, and the 2012 election.

For the past two years, Republicans have voted over and over to cut $700 billion from Medicare. Then they turn around and campaign on how Obama is bad because he cut $700 billion from Medicare. Too bad for them the public was smart enough to see through this political manure.

Obama, in good faith, offered up the framework for a "grand bargain" deal on the federal budget to Republicans. In it, he included the chained CPI change, even though he knew he was going to get a lot of blowback from his own party on it. It was an olive branch to the Republicans.

The way it was supposed to work (as far as Republican strategists were concerned) was once a grand bargain was passed and signed into law, then they could go out on the campaign trail and bash Obama for cutting Social Security, in another laughable attempt to convince the public that they cared much more for seniors than those dastardly Democrats.

Walden jumped the gun. That's his real sin, among Republicans. He wasn't supposed to say this sort of thing until after the deal was struck. It was one of those things that (for the time being) Republicans were allowed to think, but weren't allowed to say out loud.

Because, by doing so he exposed the doublethink for the rancid hypocrisy it truly is.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


8 Comments on “Republican Hypocrisy, Chapter 4,397”

  1. [1] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Just a quick note -

    I've gone back and answered comments for the whole week, so check out the previous columns (back to Monday) if you're interested. Sorry for the delay...


  2. [2] 
    dsws wrote:

    I'm in favor of the chained CPI.

    If Social Security needs to be increased, I don't see any reason to increase it only for distant-future beneficiaries. If we do want to increase it for distant-future beneficiaries, I don't see any reason to do it via an inaccurate measure of inflation.

  3. [3] 
    michty6 wrote:

    Good article. From a Democratic perspective any cuts to social security or Medicare SHOULD come from and be attributed to Obama because he doesn't have to face another election.

    It's all a moot point anyway since Republicans are too crazy to compromise on anything budgetary. This is another reason why they are trashing Obama's proposal because it is actually quite reasonable. When both parties are unhappy with a budget, like Obamas, then you know you are close to an actual compromise. I could be wrong but I'd guess there is probably a <1% chance Republicans are ready to compromise towards a reasonable budget.

  4. [4] 
    michty6 wrote:

    Slight derail. In UK news, the American Ted Rail, as he usually does, absolutely nails the big story of this week:

  5. [5] 
    akadjian wrote:

    In UK news, the American Ted Rail, as he usually does, absolutely nails the big story of this week:

    Fantastic ... Glenn Greenwald also completely nailed it for the Guardian.

    Good to see that not everyone in the British press is dripping sentimentality over Thatchers decisions.

    Yes, it was sad to hear she died. No, this does not excuse her record as Prime Minister of England and elevate her to some holy pedestal.


  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    . I could be wrong but I'd guess there is probably a <1% chance Republicans are ready to compromise towards a reasonable budget.

    I submit that the problem here is not Republicans, but rather your skewed definition of "reasonable"... :D


  7. [7] 
    michty6 wrote:

    ^ I don't think Obama's budget is reasonable. I think cutting SS is completely retarded.

    But I do recognise that if a compromise it to be made on a budget the result will not be something both sides are happy with. This is what tends to happen when you are trying to reach a compromise with 2 parties who are so far apart.

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    ^ I don't think Obama's budget is reasonable. I think cutting SS is completely retarded.

    Of course you do...

    I think that eliminating defense spending is retarded...

    But guess what..

    Reality and common sense are closer to my perspective than to yours.. :D

    As is often... :D


Comments for this article are closed.