This morning I watched +Meet The Press host David Gregory and his panel not only agree Social Security and Medicare must be cut, but to brainstorm aloud strategy for making it happen. This very same panel had just gotten done unanimously agreeing that objective journalists are not allowed to say that Republicans are the problem in Washington. But they were now designing their very own political campaign.
Despite massive public opposition to social safety net cuts, why did these champions of objectivity assume gutting the social safety net is as American as apple pie? Because people in the insular, wealthy world of Beltway politics will never need to put off a trip to the grocery store until their Social Security check arrives. The threat of going hungry could never compare to the alleged threat of the budget deficit.
Except the same people who push deficit hysteria in public tip their hand at the negotiating table. They don't care about deficits - what they're really after is tax cuts for the wealthy:
In a tremendous irony, Republican requests for lower tax rates, a high estate tax threshold, and a permanent AMT fix; combined with Democratic requests to delay the sequester, include a “doc fix” for Medicare physicians, and extend emergency unemployment benefits; have left the parties negotiating toward a plan that would result in no net deficit reduction over 10 years, according to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin.Republicans know it's all a charade - Social Security is solvent through 2038 and Medicare is solvent through 2024. And even then - at least a decade from now - the programs face not crippling bankruptcy but the need for a bit more funding. Considering effective federal tax rates have never been lower, this is not an insurmountable problem.
Meanwhile, James Hansen warned of looming climate insolvency in 1988 and the crisis went full-blown ten years later when we shattered the record for Earth's hottest year. Congress did nothing. After 14 more years of unlimited carbon pollution, 2012 has seen what will likely be America's hottest year on record, record drought and wildfires, and a climate-fueled Superstorm Sandy.
Less than two months later, global warming is once again off the radar in DC - even though just as many Americans recognize global warming is a serious problem as oppose social safety net cuts. This actual crisis, battering America right now, is rarely mentioned on television news and wasn't mentioned in any of this year's presidential debates.
Instead, pundits focus on imaginary social safety net problems and addressing the fiscal cliff austerity crisis that Congress voluntarily created, while ignoring the climate cliff we're already tumbling down. When The Onion gets it and Meet the Press doesn't, we're in big trouble.