I know that the White House habitually reads Paul Krugman's blog, and I know that it periodically reads mine, just as it follows all serious, and seriously political, blogs. Hence for possible WH notice I join my horrified voice with Krugman's in bellowing: "If anyone in the White House is seriously thinking along [the lines as sketched by Ezra Klein], please stop it right now."
Klein merely relates--he's not proposing--and here's the scuttlebutt he's hearing: "[T]he headline Democratic concession is likely to be that the Medicare eligibility age rises from 65 to 67."
Krugman is right about not only the policy but the broader politics of this extraordinarily stupid idea. "All that effort to reelect Obama," he muses, "and the first thing he does is give away two years of Medicare? How’s that going to play in future attempts to get out the vote?" Aside from the devastating effects on 2014--and possibly beyond, for youthful confidence in political activism could be chronically damaged--Obama's second term would be irreparably self-sabotaged even before its inauguration. The president would lose the old-school liberal base, he'd lose the progressives, he'd lose labor, he'd lose minorities, and he'd lose massive swaths of caring women. (He would, however, make significant gains among old, dyspeptic, angry white guys.)
I spent a good part of President Obama's first two years criticizing Krugman's politically obtuse criticisms of those years, but these days, Krugman's assessments are sublimely accurate. Yet now Jonathan Chait--who comprehended those delicate politics when Kruman did not--has assumed the Nobel laureate's abandoned throne of political opacity. Writes Chait: "[R]aising the Medicare age seems like a sensible bone to throw the right. For one thing, it has weirdly disproportionate symbolic power, both among Republicans in Congress and establishmentarian fiscal scolds."
Precisely. That--its "weirdly disproportionate symbolic power"--is precisely why it's the worst possible bone for throwing. The right just lost, big time, a fundamentally philosophical election. To now hand the right a hugely symbolic victory (though of course it's more than that) that diminishes, degrades and demeans the electorate's decision would do gratuitous violence to the essential concept of the people's will--not to mention that the right's justified takeaways would be that no election really matters; that sufficient breath-holding indeed guarantees promiscuous concessions; and that Democrats' backbone remains stuck in an arrested development phase.
Of course, Klein's reporting could be wrong. It could be that even in Washington such an extraordinarily stupid idea will but languish forever in the Extraordinarily Stupid Idea suggestion box. On the other hand ...