'Jedi' Comments Obscure Obama's Willingness to Cut Medicare, Social Security
In a press conference at the White House today, President Barack Obama took questions on the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester, which took effect today. (Video of the press conference appears at the end of this post.)
While acknowledging that not everybody would feel the pain of those cuts, and that most would not feel it immediately, the president made the case that the automatic pay cuts for federal employees -- including janitors and low-wage workers -- as well as cuts to research and defense spending would slow economic growth and job creation.
But what grabbed the media's attention was Obama's assertion that he is incapable of an extraterrestrial-style mind trick that would convince Republican leaders to change their minds to accept the closing of tax loopholes in exchange for the "reforms" to Medicare and Social Security that they claim to want. Said the president:
I understand that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that has been floating around Washington that, somehow -- even though most people agree that I’m being reasonable, that most people agree that I’m presenting a fair deal -- the fact that they don’t take it means that I should somehow do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right.
Obama's pop-culture scramble -- the mind-meld is a Vulcan move from Star Trek, not a Jedi trick from Star Wars -- captured the imaginations of sequester-weary reporters far more than the means by which the president sought to prove his reasonableness: that he was willing to piss off Democrats by making unspecified changes to Medicare. He explained:
I mean, there are members of my party who violently disagree with the notion that we should do anything on Medicare. And I’m willing to say to them, ‘I disagree with you,’ because I want to preserve Medicare for the long haul. And we’re going to have some tough politics within my party to get this done. This is not a situation where I’m only asking for concessions from Republicans and asking nothing from Democrats. I’m saying, everybody’s going to have to do something.
As for those violently disagreeable types, the president is likely referring to signatories to a letter penned by Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., and Mark Takano, D-Calif., and endorsed by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, that reads: "We will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need."
At last count, the letter was signed by 22 Democratic members of Congress, the latest being Ed Markey, who is running for the Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by John Kerry, who has replaced Hillary Clinton as secretary of State.
Other groups behind the letter include CREDO Action; Democracy For America; MoveOn.org Civic Action; Social Security Works; Working Families Party; National Nurses Union; United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America; Strengthen Social Security Coalition; Progressives United; Rebuild the Dream; National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Color of Change.
Now, onto those tough politics....