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Obama Frustrated He Doesn’t Get Credit For Wanting to Cut Social Security and Medicare

Kevin Gosztola already went over the New York Times article on the President’s media diet and opinions of the press. He focused on a good deal of important issues. But I want to highlight what Obama uses as the signature example of his argument about the false equivalence of the press:

The news media have played a crucial role in Mr. Obama’s career, helping to make him a national star not long after he had been an anonymous state legislator. As president, however, he has come to believe the news media have had a role in frustrating his ambitions to change the terms of the country’s political discussion. He particularly believes that Democrats do not receive enough credit for their willingness to accept cuts in Medicare and Social Security, while Republicans oppose almost any tax increase to reduce the deficit.

So Obama blames the media because he wasn’t given enough credit for wanting to cut the social safety net.

Let the record show that I, as a journalist or whatever it is I am, gave Obama plenty of credit for wanting to cut Medicare and Social Security. I wrote about it over and over and over and over again. I said repeatedly that Obama was – and continues to be – willing to accept cuts to those bedrock New Deal and Great Society programs. I never attempted to play him as rigidly supportive of those policies in the way that Republicans are rigidly supportive of lowering tax rates and avoiding any tax hikes.

So I guess that makes me one of the good reporters out there.

The difference is that, while accurately portraying Obama’s interest in a grand bargain – which has spanned his entire Presidency – that would include safety net cuts, I don’t agree with it. And I make that opinion known in my writing. So maybe the President doesn’t like that too much. But if he wants the credit for being a Democrat willing to betray popular Democratic initiatives, he can get it right here.

This isn’t going away. The President is running a re-election, and so talk of cuts to Medicare and Social Security have been downplayed. But he still runs ads about a $4 trillion deficit reduction deal. He’s still interested in getting that done. Medicare and Social Security don’t come up now, but it’s not all that far from the surface. And we have a fiscal cliff to negotiate in the lame duck session, which deficit scolds are trying to use to implement their desired deal.

Conservatives are more reliable in thwarting this kind of deal, based on their resistance to giving the kind of cover on taxes that Democrats like Obama would need to cut the safety net programs. There isn’t a balance here. Obama’s right. He deserves more credit for that policy choice. It’s just that I wouldn’t describe it as “credit.”

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David Dayen

David Dayen