Representative Greg Walden. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The most misread—perhaps the proper word is “miscovered”—story of the current budget wrangling in Washington is that of Republican Congressman Greg Walden’s savage condemnation of President Obama’s proposal of the “chained-CPI” Social Security cut.
“When you’re going after seniors the way he’s already done on Obamacare, taken $700 billion out of Medicare to put into Obamacare and now coming back at seniors again,” declared the congressman from Oregon, “I think you’re crossing that line very quickly here in terms of denying access to seniors for health care in districts like mine certainly and around the country.”
That stirred a fair measure of criticism from the regular readers of talking points distributed by the “Fix the Debt” coalition of Wall Street billionaires who want to cut benefits for the vulnerable in able to fund tax cuts for, um, Wall Street billionaires. MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Scarborough ripped Walden: “[He] attacked the president from the left. He was harsher than I think Bernie Sanders was. He was harder on the president than I’ve seen Robert Reich be.”
True believers in the austerity fantasy were upset that a Republican was objecting to balancing the budget on the backs of seniors, orphans and people with disabilities. The Club for Growth complained that “the last thing Republicans should attack the Democrats for is for making the most minor reforms to our entitlement programs.” Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin proposed that Republicans “muzzle” Walden. Scarborough, a former Republican congressman who knows Walden, was so upset about anti-cuts talk coming from his side of the aisle that he declared that “for Republicans to do this is beyond shameless.”
So the headlines announce that Republicans were squabbling. As if that is news.
The real news, the story that is not getting anywhere near the attention it merits from Sunday talk-show pundits and Sunday talk-show politicians, is the story of why Walden is saying what he is saying. And why the austerity caucus is so upset.
If Walden were merely a Republican backbencher representing a retirement community, or if he were a freshman congressman from a swing district, his remarks would be dismissed as a predictable exercise in political self-service.