“House of Cards” vs. Real D.C.

NEW YORK (CNN) – The Netflix hit “House of Cards” has Washington a buzz as fans, including president Obama, devour the new season.

A spoiler alert first here, the second season premiered last Friday, and it contains some interesting congressional scenarios. How real are those scenarios?

Here are two stories about reforming social safety-net, or “entitlement”, spending in Washington. One from real life and one from Netflix’s “House of Cards.” amazingly the more cynical version is not the bloody, sleazy, amoral Hollywood version.

If you can get past the show’s almost criminal errors in senate procedure, the plot lines, believe it or not, are kind of similar.

Start with the proposition that both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, in both real life and the TV show, believe these programs, such as Medicare, need to be reformed, that not enough money is going in and too much is going out.

Now let me give you a minor spoiler alert. In the first few episodes of the new season of the Netflix show, lawmakers actually pass a controversial reform: they raise the retirement age to 68.

In the show, Democrats have to do it on their own, after Republicans walk away, right before a key vote. Here’s the point here. The Democrats do it on their own.

Now, this would be a good time for a Frank Underwood-like aside to the camera. Please understand, I’m not taking a position on raising the retirement age or Medicare reforms, but, regardless of the merits, it would be a significant and very politically risky thing to do.

You don’t see President Obama or Vice President Biden making such a big policy move, despite their claim that they lack a political dancing partner.

In fact, this week, in real life Washington, the Obama administration dropped “chained CPI,” or consumer price index, from their 2015 budget proposal.

What is chained CPI? It’s a change in the inflation formula used to determine cost-of-living increases in social security checks.

That proposal, once on the table, now off the table, would not slow the growth in social security spending as much as the “house of cards” idea of raising the retirement age. It would slow growth.

President Obama recently expressed envy at Frank Underwood’s abilities to get things done in Washington.

Fans of “House of Cards” know that many of Underwood’s ways of achieving things are downright illegal, not just immoral, but it also turns out, news flash, the real-life politicians aren’t as courageous as their TV counterparts.

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