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Our New Decider

By Al Schumann on Saturday January 17, 2009 09:31 AM

President-elect Barack Obama pledged yesterday to shape a new Social Security and Medicare "bargain" with the American people, saying that the nation's long-term economic recovery cannot be attained unless the government finally gets control over its most costly entitlement programs.

That discussion will begin next month, Obama said, when he convenes a "fiscal responsibility summit" before delivering his first budget to Congress. He said his administration will begin confronting the issues of entitlement reform and long-term budget deficits soon after it jump-starts job growth and the stock market.

"What we have done is kicked this can down the road. We are now at the end of the road and are not in a position to kick it any further," he said. "We have to signal seriousness in this by making sure some of the hard decisions are made under my watch, not someone else's."


"Signaling seriousness" is a dull, infantile euphemism for switching from the metaphorical kicking of cans to the much less metaphorical kicking of teeth. Old stuff, as is the grandiosity of preening over a firm resolve to do something vicious. But in one sense Barack Obama remains a transformative candidate. Even George Bush couldn't destroy Social Security. It takes a very special Decider, one who can follow through on the very worst and make it his own. One who really does believe, as IOZ put it so trenchantly, "that the act of deciding exists independently of the decision itself, that the outcome is an invalid rubric for judging the appropriateness and rightness of the initiatory act."

Comments (25)

Those Kids Today:


That means all you old geezers will spend less time junking up the discourse on the internet and more time standing on the street corner with a "stop" sign making sure the kids get to school safe.

I'm starting to like this "messiah" guy.

Al Schumann:

Don't crow too soon, kid. The first changes will come in the form of tax increases. You will be milked dry before any geezers are shoved back into the drudgery brigades. But go ahead and enjoy your schadenfreude. It's the appetizer for your cat food dinner.

Peter Ward:

For whom are these decisions "hard", though? Obama? Those who put pressure on Obama to make them? What the statement really amounts to is an expression of contempt for democracy.

Al Schumann:

Yes, it does exactly that. Peevish ingratitude and contempt for democracy find a secure home in the hearts of shysters who have just won elections.

I think he's going to make a lot of noise about balanced budgets, demographic crises and mushroom cloud fiscal emergencies, with a few careful references to the immorality of waging "generational warfare". The stalking horse liberal papers have settled on demographic crises as the best scare tactic.

Those Kids Today:

Hey gramps. Don't get your depends in a bunch.

I didn't vote for the Obamamessiah. I voted for the old geezer and the hockey mom.

But if the Messiah is in fact successful at eliminating social security it solves both our problems.

I get to see a massive statist welfare program eliminated and all because a lot of starry eyed kids wanted to prove they weren't racists.

And it's even better for you since the subtitle of your website says "the American Left may not be much, but it won't be anything at all until it ditches the Democrats."

Getting rid of social security, which is really the only thing that distinguishes the Republicans from the Democrats, effectively eliminates the Democratic Party as we know it.

That means WOO HOO that the Democratic party will no longer be an obstacle to your glorious proletarian revolution.

You and your grand kids get to tear up the streets and build barricades (HEY JUST LIKE THE 60S). And I get to watch the cops kick your asses.

Al Schumann:

No government anywhere, ever, willingly gives up a revenue stream. No beast has ever willingly starved itself. They turn to brute force and there's never been any shortage of brutes happy to serve that purpose. Social Security as it exists may go, but a pay-go revenue stream that three generations are accustomed to forking over is the "statists's" dream come true. Good old Uncle Milty. He wrought well. The only thing better than the revenue stream is finding a way to funnel it to their past, present and future sugar daddies, who will toss them back a few fractions of a penny on the dollar when they take up their post-officialdom lobbying jobs and start snorting after speaking fees.

Your dream is nothing new. The vulgar libertarians have been promoting it for decades. Everything they advocate makes the state larger and more predatory. Every time that happens, they congratulate themselves on the success of their 'worse the better' strategy. The next go 'round features a more firmly entrenched state and a more egalitarian distribution of immiseration.

Talk about delusions of revolution! It's hard to believe there's anything to that dream but callow misanthropy. And if that's the case, you've got a problem. The state subsidized think tanks are crowding out free enterprise.

Those Kids Today:

Gramps. Gramps. Gramps.

I never said revolution was going to be easy.

Of course there are going to be patriotic Americans (whom you uncharitably describe as "brutes") willing to keep order.

But remember in the 1960s, when you and your friend "stopped the war" and doomed millions of people in Southeast Asia to Communist tyranny? Of course you do. Unlike these pathetic kids cheering on the messiah, your generation actually had guts. You won.

And you know why? Because you grew up with your parents telling you how much life sucked. It didn't suck (for you) but you felt so guilty about it you just had to go out and start some trouble just to prove you were as good as those patriotic Americans who beat the Nazis.

So who cares if the government keeps taking social security taxes and doesn't deliver any social security. When life starts to suck enough, your grand kids will rebel just like you did. They'll give up their silly fantasies about Barack the Magic Negro and actually take some personal responsibility. If they want revolution, then they damn well will have to take it.

I of course will be on the side of the brutes kicking their asses, but, who knows, maybe they'll win.

Al Schumann:

The vulgar libertarian Leninist wannabes are way ahead of you when it comes to revolution. They even call their strategy Leninist. It's great reading, if you like court intellectual strategizing. Go ahead.

Whoa, Al my pal. Is it your genius that's suddenly bringing all the quality tummlers to our own little Catskill's resort of the mind ? Or is it just that they tried Berube's or Digby's lounges first and found 'em all boarded up in the pre-Inaugural Hope-Change-O-Fest-A-Rama frenzy ?

Either way, color me totally impressed.

Al Schumann:

Nah, he's just a bored kid. In my senility, I find that kind of charming. The youth of today, Ms. Xeno, can't normally be bothered to red-bait. It's all Facebook and glum, ineffectual efforts at sodomy for them. Things were different when I was young. Did I ever tell you about the time Owen and I drank a gallon of homemade absinthe? Anyway, I find his spirit invigorating. But he hasn't told me to move to Cuba yet, which is cruel considering my appetite for nostalgia.

I got a nice email once from a collagist in Cuba. You want I should go get it so we can cheer him up a little ? On my budget, I can't really afford to pass around weed like I used to on these solemn occasions. Though yesterday I did liberate a discarded frozen fruit torta thing from the Megalo-Mart dumpster. Next time I'll dig deep enough to get enough for everyone, I promise.

Al Schumann:

I'm afraid he's more interested in watching elderly reds get stomped on the evening news. I warned everyone about this back in the 60s, the lost days of my youth. They called me meshugge and told me to pay attention to the stomping we were facing right now. Live in the moment, Al. That's what they said. And now look at what a fine mess we're in.

Those Kids Today:

Yo. Gramps. Lighten up.

I'm actually age baiting you (and enjoying how you go further and further off into the realm of non-sequitur every time you post).

I'm not red baiting you. I actually admire Lenin, mass murderer though he was.

But let's put our cards on the table.

I want to privatize social security (as a prelude to eliminating it). You want to get rid of the Democratic Party. Getting rid of Social Security will in effect get rid of the Democratic Party.

Don't we have a common interest here?

I thought you were a revolutionary. I thought you wanted to smash the Democratic Party then take to the streets.

Sigh. Are you just another Democrat who doesn't think Obama is liberal enough? Are you still pining for the dwarf from Cleveland?

I'm afraid he's more interested in watching elderly reds get stomped on the evening news...

Let's hope he's smart enough to stay in his hotel during the demos. Cops on full-blown twinkie jags tend to have a really hard time telling the apolitical schmoe in the street from the political one. Spray 'em all, let God sort 'em out. Etc.

Al Schumann:

Everyone claims to admire Lenin, but when the time comes to liquidate the useful idiots, they get squeamish. Not me. Dzerzhinsky was my code name and it was my code name for a reason. I knew the forces of historical materialism needed a helping hand and when I didn't need this confounded walker, I was the man to do it.

Lighten up?! GET OFF THE LAWN! Goddammit.

Those Kids Today:

Why is it always assumed that every angry old man is a petty bourgeois with a lawn?

But you continue to dodge the question. Do you want to smash the Democratic Party or not?

And if you do, will you not admit that privatizing social security is the most effective way of doing it?

I'm afraid I've concluded that you lack to nerve. You're just another disaffected liberal. But that's OK. Maybe the dwarf from Cleveland has a chance in 2012.

Al Schumann:

My smashing days are gone, long gone. All I want is a nice warm cup of Geritol. Would the dwarf bring it to me? I can't really wait until 2012.

Ooo! Look! They're playing croquet and wearing boaters.

Those Kids Today:

Well old man, I guess you're just too used to writing checks you can't cash. And I guess it's going to get even worse now that Social Security is on the way out.

As I said, don't blame me. I voted for McCain.

But even I can recognize that if you're depending on the Republicans to save Social Security, you've reached a crisis you're not willing to face up to. Republicans won't save Social Security. We don't want to. It's a generational redistribution of wealth. We hate all redistribution of wealth.

And the Obamamessiah, what to say? If he wants to get rid of Social Security, roh oh. Must suck to be you. It means he's counting on votes from people who just assume it's not going to be around when they turn 63. The messiah wants to redistribute wealth, but not to your demographic.

So once again, I'm your friend, not your enemy. I'm against spreading the wealth on principle. But I'm not going to shed any tears when this one term loser hands the White House off to the Republicans in 2012 after having taken the first steps to get rid of this redistributive abomination.

And on that note, good night sir. Power to the people.

Al Schumann:

Wait! Don't go! I've had all manner of nuts try to recruit me based on what is pretty clearly an assumption that I shared their self-loathing. How could I not share it? It worked so well for them after all. But the only time a peevish right wing collectivist tried was back when Larouche was freshly off the deep end. This has been pretty novel, I must admit. I'm flattered, sort of, even though your mixture of playground taunts and clumsy pandering to a caricature of self-regard is dead awkward.

That said, your history is bogus. The New Left didn't stop the Vietnam war. The credit crisis, Nixon's desperate currency fiddles and the broken military did. Pursuing the war was untenable. Not even crackpot realists could deny it any longer. The stooge government of South Vietnam collapsed in a crisis of legitimacy. The elite couldn't decide between power and looting. They tried both and achieved neither.

Your theory of revolution from below is bogus. Immiseration from the top is an insufficient condition. Rising expectations and above all an organized, parallel economy and state are required. Without them, there's nothing but disaffected liberalism and riots.

Your psychology is bogus. Where on earth did you dig up such a confused muddle of oedipal junk and tormented self-loathing? The National Review? That would fit in with the clumsy attempt to pander to a caricature of left wing self-regard. It works on liberals, I'm sorry to say. Their encomiums to Dead Bill Buckley were sick-making.

Common interest? You must be joking. Your aim, again assuming a degree of seriousness, is classic entrenchment of the fundamentalist right wing state. It's beyond fatuous to talk of privatization. It's the height of useful idiocy. Every right wing state nationalizes corporate failures, secures favors, hands the temporarily healthy shell over to cronies and nationalizes again once their new scheme goes bust. What makes your aim silliest of all is the forum in which you attempt to put it over. It's the equivalent of grabbing people's sleeves in the lobby of the AEI and attempting to sell them copies of Bob Avakian's latest musings. You're a laughingstock and if you ever grow up you'll look back on this in embarrassment.


Oh Al, you wonderful guy. Just when I was going under in the Slough of Despond for the third time, you come along and not only write us some marvelous stuff -- you bring in Those Kids Today, who is a genuine treasure. I only hope s/he's not just a fictional character of your own creation.

Assuming TKT is a real person, s/he exemplifies an interesting phenomenon. This type of "libertarian" is the mirror image of a Pwog. Both the Randian/Friedmanite and the Pwog are people who have a certain ideal social vision, and yet find themselves year after year supporting a political party which does exactly the opposite of what they want.

Is this a great country, or what?

Al Schumann:

TKT is the real thing, MJS; a sailor of the honeypot seas in search of truth and justice.


I've always said those national review types who go on and on about the extreme left would be speechless if they ever met an actual leftist. There's just no common reality you can base a discussion around.

It would be nice at this point to believe that the death of Social Security would finally be enough to at last snap legions of progs from their ridiculous daydreams. However, I'm unconvinced at this point that even that would be enough. So long as somebody whose shtick they can jerk off to tells them it's not really death, they'll be just fine with it-- regardless of age group.

Al Schumann:

For whatever predictions are worth, I'm betting that the new Decider's plan will closely follow the court intellectual recommendations. They want to change budgetary rules, to make partial crippling of entitlements a passive, gradualist affair. A tax raise here, a benefit cut there, always accompanied by making the administrative aspects much more time consuming for the recipients. The experience of previous administrations is that the prospect of wholesale change sharpens the wits of even the kool-aid sippers. They'll want to allow room for hand-wringing, deep sighs of resignation and claims that the budget rules made them do it.

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