As discussed in previous posts, President Obama has established a so-called bipartisan deficit reduction commission.
This 18 person commission is bipartisan in that it includes both Republicans and Democrats. However, far from representing different position on key social issues, these Republicans and Democrats are generally united in the belief that the budget needs to be balanced and that cutting social programs is the best way to achieve this goal. Social Security and Medicare appear to be their primary targets.
The Commission, which meets in secret and is supported by staff previously employed by foundations funded by Peter Peterson who has long campaigned for cuts in social security, is to make its recommendations to Congress after the upcoming mid-term elections. This is a dangerous situation. As the Nieman Watchdog, a Harvard University journalism publication notes:
If [the commission reaches] agreement, their proposal will be voted on in December by a lame duck Congress, without the benefit of open hearings and deliberations in the pertinent committees and without the opportunity for open debate and amendment on the floors of the House and Senate.
On June 30, the economist James K. Galbraith made a presentation to the commission. His remarks, although long, are well-worth reading. They can be found here.
Quite frankly, we are in real danger of having our key social programs gutted. For more on the political dynamics pushing this outcome, read this Talking Points Memo post, which describes how both republicans and democrats are lining up to endorse the attack on social security.
Even more seriously, the success of this push for austerity (which frames the attack on social security) also means that we are in real danger of losing the battle to rebuild our economy in ways responsive to the needs of the great majority of working people. For example, read this In These Times article, “Labor Losing to DC Elites Over Job Creation.”
It is strange, isnt it–our collective work over the last decades has produced tremendous wealth–and yet, living and working conditions for the great majority keep getting worse. I think we need to form our own commission, one that is prepared to examine the structural roots of class power and the social consequences of its operation.