Will the Left Ever Give an Inch on Entitlements?

Earlier this evening, Paul suggested that Republicans should be open to a “grand bargain” as long as it includes significant entitlement reform. In principle, I don’t disagree. But is there any realistic possibility that the Democrats will agree to entitlement reform? One might think so, since everyone acknowledges that the current regime is unsustainable, and if entitlements are not reformed they either will be repealed, or our economy and our government will collapse.

That is a pretty stark choice, but liberals refuse to accept it. If America’s contemporary left can be defined by any core belief, it is that there must be no changes whatsoever in any entitlement program. Ever. (A digression: it is revealing that the Left has no problem with drone strikes, regime change or pre-emption. Not too many years ago, one might have thought that such matters were important to liberals. Evidently not.) To get a sense of how adamantly liberals oppose any entitlement reform, check out this email that I received yesterday from MoveOn.org. I get emails like this roughly once a day:

From: Ilya Sheyman, MoveOn.org Civic Action [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Tuesday, March 05, 2013 4:37 PM
To: Hinderaker, John H.
Subject: Obama to cut Social Security?

Dear MoveOn member,

Last year, President Obama offered Republicans a heartbreaking deal that would have slashed Social Security benefits by $112 billion over a decade. MoveOn members overwhelmingly opposed it. And together with allies, we won.

Now, here’s the state of play. Over the weekend, faced with Republican obstructionism, the president once again—and more clearly than ever—offered to put our social safety net on the negotiating table.

We have a plan to launch an ambitious push, with allies inside and outside of Congress, to oppose any benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.

Can you chip in $5 to fund our emergency campaign to save the social safety net?

Yes, I can contribute $5.

This isn’t the first time there’s been talk of a “grand bargain,” and it won’t be the last.

We’ve won this fight before, and we can do it again. Obama’s latest offer to consider cuts just happened over the weekend. There’s still time to work with allies inside and outside of Congress.

We know this kind of campaign works. For several years now, progressives inside and outside of Congress have united behind a simple message: No cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits. Again and again, it’s worked.

But to keep winning, we have to keep our laser focus. We can’t afford to wait for a last-minute “grand bargain” to take us by surprise. We need to go big now.

John, can we count on you?

Yes, I can contribute $5 to help save the social safety net.

If we do this, here’s what we’re thinking:

We’ll make sure middle-class champions know we have their backs. Lawmakers fighting to preserve Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid need to know we have their backs, so we’ll publicly thank them and run ads in support of their leadership.

We’ll speak truth to power. Specifically, we’ll inform constituents of every member of Congress—including Democrats—how their representatives voted on slashing our social safety net.

We’ll change the national debate. We’ll be ready to run powerful TV ads featuring a MoveOn member who would be directly impacted by benefit cuts, and have organizers helping folks start and deliver petitions on MoveOn.org’s petition site, SignOn.org, opposing any cuts to the social safety net.

We’ll join with coalition partners in building big protests. This will include direct action at congressional offices and other community actions to oppose the Washington austerity agenda.

We’ll flood Congress and the White House. We’ll light up the phone lines, bury offices in stacks of petitions, and flood senators with faxes showing significant opposition to any deal that cuts Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits.

Now’s the time to dig deep. Our plan costs $250,000 just to get started—and we’ll need more to keep it going for the coming weeks. Can you chip in?

Yes, I’ll chip in $5.

Thanks for all you do.

There is a certain irony in the fact that today’s liberal movement is devoted more than anything else to ensuring a vast transfer of wealth from America’s poorest citizens, its young people, to America’s richest citizens, its seniors. I can’t explain why liberals think this way, but my inbox tells me that they do, pretty much without exception. So: is there any chance that the Democratic Party will agree to any meaningful entitlement reform, at any moment short of imminent collapse of federal finances? I don’t think so. Republicans should be open to a cosmic deal, but they shouldn’t chase chimeras. Realistically, it isn’t going to happen: the Democrats are hell-bent on bankruptcy.

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