Not your friends
A common trope among lefty bloggers is the complaint regarding how stupid and mentally lazy ordinary Americans are supposed to be. I don't read conservo blogs terribly much, but I wouldn't be surprised if you occasionally see it there too, although I imagine it would be coming from a different angle, maybe invoking rich liberals who have illegals tending their kids while they text their brokers, spending their money on the Bejing stock market destroying American jobs and so forth.
My impression, however, is that the US media works incessantly to misinform and confuse regular people, who still depend on television to get most of their news, with vagueness and "optics" and regurgitated spin. The major US news portals aren't particularly liberal so much as they are corporatist, although upon occasion they tilt a little this way, then a little the other way for apparent balance. (Fox News tilts to the left by periodically inviting Dennis Kucinich on the air and not yelling at him.) The cumulative effect is an endorsement of the two-party system and the star politicos, even if this is done obliquely, with puffery, extolling smart, hard-working officials who know what they're doing even if they don't always agree.
For example, if you watched Thursday night's CBS broadcast you might be forgiven if you didn't realize that Obama had signaled his cave-in on cutting social security.
Anchor Scott Pelley and Chip Reid had this exchange towards the end of the segment[4:20-4:40]
Pelley: Is the White House insisting on cuts in social security?
Reid: No they are not, Scott. The White House is saying that social security is on the table for discussion, simply because everything has to be on the table for discussion, but they are not pushing hard for cuts...
Oh well, at least they're not pushing hard. Don't you feel better? Maybe Cantor and Boehner and the rest of the Republican leadership aren't pushing to cut social security, and Obama is just agreeing to talk about it. Who's pushing? Nobody! Maybe regular people are in fact stupid, or at least awfully impressionable, if they buy this. Do they? You can't tell by watching the TV what other viewers might think, although it seems pretty clear that the TV people do regard the viewers as stupid. And if you're not stupid, they'd really like you to be.
Maybe most people don't follow the news that closely, and just rely on general impressions, and certainly the CBS report [video link] seems designed to soothe and reassure the viewer that the professionals are in charge and there's nothing to worry about.
For some reason I'm reminded of the scene in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life in which Eric Idle comes out of a refrigerator and sings a song to persuade a poor old lady to give up her liver, in the "live organ transplants" bit.
[NOTE: video may not be 'work-safe' due to Monty Pythonish naughty images.]
Pelley didn't ask Chip Reid if tax hikes for the wealthy were "on the table"(surprising, huh?) but then he didn't have to, because the administration has been calling closing a few small loop-holes "tax increases" which suggests a tax rate increase, and CBS and the rest of the corporate media has been going along with that. Presumably the "grand deal" being hinted at will be designed to offset any revenue from those loop-holes being closed with lower tax rates, negating the effect of any increased revenue that might otherwise go towards lowering the deficit. Why? Because it's not about paring the budget deficit, but looting the government while it's still solvent, on behalf of their benefactors.
Obama wants to capitulate to the GOP. He's made vague noises about raising taxes on wealthier people back to where they were in the 1990s during the Clinton administration, but he folded in December of 2010 so there's no reason for the Republicans to be scared of him. And most democratic commentators, at least the ones who get any significant face time on television, will insist that democrat voters have to support Obama, otherwise, those horrible republicans, etc...
But it's not just television reporting that does this. Here's Jamelle Bouie, The Nation:
With Entitlements on the Table, Obama Plans to Go Big on a Budget Deal
What does this mean for liberals? Well, they can complain and attack Obama—they’ve already begun—but criticism from the left has yet to budge the president, and it’s doubtful that this time will be any different. Demonstrations sound great, but they don’t actually carry a high chance for success; if your only option for changing the political calculations of a president is protest, then you’re probably too late to the game. Likewise, a primary campaign against Obama sounds like it might work, but outside of activist circles, there is little appetite for a challenge. The Democratic establishment is satisfied with President Obama, and will work to ensure his reelection.
Indeed, given the importance of presidential elections, Obama will be able to count on organization and support from every member of the Democratic coalition. Moreover, if a deal comes through, it will probably help him with independents, who support modest reductions in entitlement spending.
Simply put, liberals don’t have much leverage over the Obama administration, which, unfortunately, makes our concerns—and our anger—a second-order consideration at best.
(Or, behave yourselves and don't cause trouble for Obama, or Michele Bachmann will get you.)
And there's Andrew Leonard at Salon,
"Social Security is not on Obama's hit list":
The president knows that Republicans won't agree to the revenue increases necessary for a "grand bargain"
(the original title, per the url, was apparently "Reasons not to panic on Obama and Social Security")
Glenn Greenwald's discussion is more useful. And, as Ian Welsh points out, the warnings that Obama would do something like this have been telegraphed for quite some time.
For my part I imagine Barry is hoping that people are more likely to remember early July 2011 as the time when the Casey Anthony verdict came out rather than the time when he agreed to cut social security. He's getting help with that. Whether it's the reporters or the politicians, they are reading from the same memo. They extol bipartisanship, or at least reasonableness, and they seem like such nice people. But they are not your friends.
See also, Ian Welsh, "Obama's Personality"(including 'dandelion's' comment)