Ezra Klein mentioned in his Friday column an interesting observation about how the Hill and the White House operate these days. He was perturbed that leading, and relatively honest, Republicans seemed to be genuinely unaware that the things their party says it wants in this negotiation are in fact on the table, as revealed in a secret and closely-guarded Obama strategy document (otherwise known as the White House website!). Jon Chait replied that it really wasn’t about informatoin flow but about continuing the obstructionism which has characterised everything the GOP does since a black guy won an election (a couple of times, now).
Ezra has now seen clear evidence that Chait was right:
So let’s back up. Murphy’s initial view was that to unlock GOP votes for a budget deal, Obama just needed to endorse chained CPI and more means-testing in Medicare. Then it was pointed out that Obama has endorsed means-testing in Medicare, so Murphy wondered why he didn’t endorse chained CPI as part of a deal. Then it was pointed out that Obama did endorse chained CPI, at which point Murphy called chained CPI “a gimmick,” and said Obama had to endorse raising the Medicare age, drop his demands for more revenue as part of a deal and earn back the GOP’s trust.
Recall what Chait said would happen if the Republican legislator in my column was forced to react to the fact that Obama has endorsed chained CPI: “He would come up with something – the cuts aren’t real, or the taxes are awful, or they can’t trust Obama to carry them out, or something.” Check, check, and check.
Which is all to say that there’s no deal here.
The second catch is that a UK politician recently tried an experiment and was quite appalled about her results. Having established that current austerity measures in the UK would force a number of her constituents to live on £18pcw for food, she spent the Parliamentary recess doing exactly that. In her own words, from Hansard:
I therefore took up the challenge of trying to live on £18, and I want to tell Members what it is like. It is extremely unpleasant. I had porridge for breakfast every morning, as I usually do, but I make my porridge with milk; now I was making it with water. I had to eat the same food over and over and over again. Single people are hit particularly hard, because cheap food comes in big packs. I made a stew at the beginning of the week, and I ate the same food four nights a week. I had pasta twice a week. I had baked potatoes. I had eggs on six occasions. It was completely impossible to have meat or fish; that was out of the question. It was also impossible to have five portions of fruit and vegetables a week.
I found myself waking up in the middle of the night absolutely ravenous, having to make cups of tea and eat biscuits. I had a headache for five days in that week, and I was completely lethargic and exhausted by 4 pm. Some people are on jobseeker’s allowance and are looking for a job. Looking for a job is a job in itself; it takes time and energy. The people whom DWP Ministers want to do workfare are being expected to work 30 hours a week, yet they are not going to have enough to eat properly.
Most shocking of all was the fact that come Sunday I ran out of food—there was literally nothing left to eat that night.
This struck very close to home: I’ve been unemployed since the business I worked for went bust before Christmas, and the food budget in my household is £12.50 per person per calendar week. We eat a lot of porridge, too, and a lot of egg fried rice (eggs cost less than meat, rice costs very little and frozen peas cost less than nearly anything).