US budget deal sets stage for intensified assault on social programs
By Andrei Damon and Barry GreyThe bill passed by Congress late Wednesday reopening the federal government and temporarily lifting the debt ceiling establishes the modus operandi for a bipartisan deal to deepen cuts in social spending and initiate an historic attack on the core social programs dating from the New Deal and Great Society periods—Social Security and Medicare.
17 October 2013
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The outcome of the 16-day government shutdown and threat of a US default was entirely predictable, following the pattern set in previous artificially created budget and debt crises in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Once again, the most right-wing elements in the Republican Party took the initiative and set the tone for a shift further to the right by the entire political establishment.
Behind the appearance of partisan gridlock and mutual recrimination, the crisis provided the means for the Obama administration and the Democratic Party to move ahead with their own agenda of savage cuts in social programs upon which tens of millions of working people depend. To the extent there was a conflict, it was over means and tactics, not goals. At issue was how best to escalate the onslaught against the working class.
The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 81 to 18 to accept a deal that raises the debt ceiling through February 7, 2014 and funds the operations of the federal government until January 15. The bill mandates the formation of a conference committee headed by the chairs of the budget committees in the Senate and House to forge a bipartisan budget agreement by mid-December that will reduce the deficit and the national debt. This is to be achieved by implementing long-term “reforms” in basic entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and extending cuts in “discretionary” social programs such as education, housing, nutrition, the environment, health and safety and infrastructure maintenance.
At the same time, both the White House and congressional Republicans are insisting that any budget agreement include sweeping cuts in corporate tax rates.
Later Wednesday evening, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 285 to 144, with 87 Republicans joining all 198 Democrats in voting to approve. President Obama signed the bill into law early Thursday morning.
Significantly, the bill extends the automatic across-the-board “sequester” cuts that began last March into the new year. This means the $85 billion in cuts enacted in 2013 will not be restored and the budget negotiations in the coming weeks will take as their starting point the $1 trillion in cuts over the next eight years mandated by the sequestration process. It is to be expected that the Democrats will, in the name of “ending” or “reforming” sequestration, seek to continue the cuts in discretionary social programs while restoring funding for the military, the intelligence agencies and the Homeland Security Department.
Obama has already made it clear that he favors unprecedented cuts in Medicare and Social Security, including raising the eligibility age and introducing means testing for Medicare and slashing cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries.
More at the link.
And so it goes. No matter what, We the Rabble get screwed.