Bill Clinton was the Democratic President who presided over the shredding of New Deal regulations of the banking and financial industry that, for a generation, protected America from the worst boom and bust cycles of an otherwise unfettered free market system that had led to the Great Depression. Clinton supported and signed legislation that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act which had previously placed a wall between federally insured commercial banking and risky investment banking, and legislation that banned the Federal government from regulating derivatives. This dismantling of financial regulation was one of the primary causes of the economic bubble which led to the Crash of 2008 and the ensuing great recession from which millions of unemployed Americans and underwater homeowners are still grievously suffering.
Now the question must be seriously asked: Will Barack Obama be the first Democratic President to preside over cutting the greatest remaining Democratic legacies: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the essential programs that provide a safety net to the American middle class?
Already, Obama has put cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the table. If Republicans aren't so crazy that they reject Obama's proposal of a grand bargain for cutting these and other key domestic programs in exchange for a few tens of billions of dollars worth of closing the most egregious tax loopholes for the richest special interest, then Obama will preside over the beginning of the end of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- not in one fell swoop as proposed by Paul Ryan and House Republicans -- but in death by a thousand cuts.
Keep in mind that there are numerous ways to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid other than privatizing Social Security, as George Bush proposed, or turning Medicare and Medicaid into underfunded voucher programs, as Paul Ryan and House Republicans propose.
You can change the formula for calculating Social Security cost of living increases so that by the simple mathematical laws of compounding, over a decade the average Social Security payment of $14,000 a year is reduced by $1,000, a huge cut for an 85 year old woman for whom Social Security is her primary source of income. You can change Medicaid formula so that Federal payments to the states are sharply reduced, forcing states to cut beneficiaries from the roles and increasing the numbers of doctors refusing to treat Medicaid patients. You can significantly increase the cost of Medicare to slightly more well-off Americans, essentially turning Medicare into a welfare program, or you can cut reimbursements to providers so sharply so that increasing numbers refuse to treat Medicare patients or go out of business and Seniors are unable to find doctors or face long waiting periods for treatment.
Once Democrats take their finger out of the dike of Social Security, and Medicare and Medicaid and allow cuts to begin, over time the flood waters will overwhelm them and these vital middle class safety net programs will be dismantled brick by brick.
Sometimes it's hard to know what the Democratic Party still stands for. Strong regulation of the banks? Bill Clinton killed that. Protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid? Not if Barack Obama has his way. The new Democratic Party slogan will become: "The Republicans Want to Kill Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid Fast. We'll be Sure They're Only Killed Slowly".
Sounds like Change we can really Believe In.
POSTSCRIPT: From reading the comments I see that many readers are disillusioned with Obama and generally discouraged about the future. If you don't like what's happening, don't just complain, but get off your butts and do something. The New Deal didn't come just because of FDR. It was pushed along by the actions of a massive labor movement. The Great Society didn't come just because of LBJ. It was pushed along by the Civil Rights Movement and other citizens' movements. The mass Tea Party Movement has pushed elected Republicans to the right with their no new tax pledge. If we want Change We Can Believe In, we can't just sit back and wait for Obama to bring it for us. We need to build our own progressive Tea Party-like movement.
Here's a couple of immediate things you can do. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee -- which has raised millions of dollars for real progressive candidates -- in the past few days has already garnered more than 150,000 signatures on a Petition to President Obama reading: "If you cut Social Security, or Medicaid benefits for me, my family, or families like mine, don't ask for a penny of my money or an hour of my time in 2012. I'm going to focus on electing bold progressive candidates". Sign it here. Obama was elected through the money and work of millions of Americans. The best way to stop him from cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is to let him know that doing so has electoral concequences.
A new movement called Rebuild The Dream is forming to become the progressive equivalent of the Tea Party. Go to their website to get involved.