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No, I'm Not Going to Talk You Down
Author: Raine    Date: 07/07/2011 12:30:35

***PLEASE NOTE: There are Updates added to the end of the blog, as the situation evolves. As suspected, the situation has evolved. ***

For myself and myself alone, I am going to take a deep breath and absorb things before I jump to conclusions and judgement. By now you may have heard the news especially from the front page of the Washington Post titled: In debt talks, Obama offers Social Security cuts As soon as I read the title, my gut had a sinking feeling. I continued on and read the article.
At a meeting with top House and Senate leaders set for Thursday morning, Obama plans to argue that a rare consensus has emerged about the size and scope of the nation’s budget problems and that policymakers should seize the moment to take dramatic action.

As part of his pitch, Obama is proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to people in both parties with knowledge of the proposal. The move marks a major shift for the White House and could present a direct challenge to Democratic lawmakers who have vowed to protect health and retirement benefits from the assault on government spending.

“Obviously, there will be some Democrats who don’t believe we need to do entitlement reform. But there seems to be some hunger to do something of some significance,” said a Democratic official familiar with the administration’s thinking. “These moments come along at most once a decade. And it would be a real mistake if we let it pass us by.”
I kept reading and slowly I noticed that no one is actually quoted or on record with regard to this horrible idea that someone seems floated. I would like to make this clear: If this is true, as it was presented in this article, Obama will find himself in a lot of trouble, politically. The question I must ask, is it it true or is it speculation? At this point, full disclosure, I have the actual print copy of this article, the headline is somewhat different than the online version. The article itself, however, is the same. I made sure to check. But, I digress...

You will recall, in his 2011 SOTU address President Obama stated:
The bipartisan fiscal commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I don’t agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress. And their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it –- in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes. (Applause.)

This means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit. The health insurance law we passed last year will slow these rising costs, which is part of the reason that nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit. Still, I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year -- medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)

To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. (Applause.) We must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market. (Applause.)

And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply can’t afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. (Applause.) Before we take money away from our schools or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break. It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success. (Applause.)
Basically, The President has said-- and said it many times, that it would be about cutting the excess costs with these programs -- NOT the programs itself. Just yesterday, in the twitter town hall he stated:
I think the American people are on my side on this. What we need to do is to have a balanced approach where everything is on the table. We need to reduce corporate loopholes. We need to reduce discretionary spending on programs that aren't working. We need to reduce defense spending. Everything has -- we need to look at entitlements, and we have to say, how do we protect and preserve Medicare and Social Security for not just this generation but also future generations. And that's going to require some modifications, even as we maintain its basic structure.
He mentioned in a Speech on the Deficit back in April at George Washington Universtity My point is, he has said things must be adjusted, but he has not proposed what this article is suggesting. I will personally put myself out there and say that I would not be against raising the retirement age by one year. I understand that it isn't popular, but we do have a baby boomer issue loominig. But that isn't my point today,although I do believe it will be the subject of a blog in the near future. It is worth a discussion, at least. Today, my point is this: I will wait to hear what actually is set to be presented before I.expend energy being concerned and absorbed in debate. As another example, please note that the article states:
Meanwhile, another senior Republican on Wednesday signaled a new openness to raising taxes— at least for selected special interests. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) told reporters that he is now willing to consider Democratic demands to end tax breaks for corporations, hedge-fund managers and owners of corporate jets, so long as the final deal does not raise tax rates or overall federal tax collections.

This went completely unchallenged by the authors of the article. You will note, as I posted yesterday, from Think Progress:
Ryan is arguing that raising taxes on corporate jet owners and others is only acceptable if the money raised is plowed back into new tax cuts, not to paying down the deficit. He is clearly more interested in cutting taxes than dealing with the deficit, and is willing to let these egregious loopholes stay in the tax code until he can best exploit their removal to lower taxes sometime in the future.
This makes me all the more skeptical of the article. I have long held the opinion that one should remain skeptical of media in general. Always try to find another source. In other words: Trust but verify; that is what I try to do. And yes,in case you were wondering, I know who coined that phrase. It was the same person who worked with Daniel Patrick Moynahan in 1983
the 1983 Social Security amendments that followed the Greenspan Commission's recommendations. It was the Commission's recommendations that provided political cover for both political parties to act. The changes approved by President Reagan in 1983 were phased in over time and included raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, taxation of benefits, cost of living adjustment (COLA) delays, and inclusion of new federal hires in the program. There was a key point during the debate when House members were forced to choose between raising the retirement age or raising future taxes; they chose the former. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan indicated the compromises involved showed that lawmakers could still govern. Koitz cautions against the concept of a free lunch; retirement security cannot be provided without benefit cuts or tax increases.
The world didn't end back in 1983. Social Security remained in place. No one appears to be trying to privatize it, as the former president did (and failed).

Do I like this premise of cuts? No, but it is worth noting that the only time the words *cuts* is used in the article is in the title. It even appears that no proposal has been made, at least none at the writing of this blog. There will be a meeting this morning at the White house, and yes, I admit that things could change. For now, I will wait and see. The possible ramifications could be enormous for anything in the world -- but nothing matters until you know what the ramifications are. Until we are given real information, we are still uninformed. I know about as much about what is going to happen as the Washington Post seems at this point -- and that isn't much.


UPDATE:(Once again, I want to stress that this is not sourced, but I find it just as interesting as the blog topic.) From MSNBC First Read:
The White House pushes back: But a top White House official pushes back that it won’t be making a “grand offer” on Social Security. The official explains that the president has always been open to “reasonable changes” to the entitlement programs as a way to strengthen them. Indeed, as Obama said in his fiscal-policy speech back in April, “..Both parties should work together now to strengthen Social Security for future generations. But we have to do it without putting at risk current retirees, or the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.” Do Republicans want Social Security as part of the deal? Yes, the White House official responds. Is the White House taking it off the table? No, but it wouldn’t consider changes that are unbalanced and include slashing benefits.
I want to make something clear, the speech they mention is the VERY same speech I linked in the blog. It was the deficit speech given back in April at George Washington University.

UPDATE II: From Sam Stein at HuffPo:
The Obama administration is pushing back against a Wednesday night report that the president is prepared to offer cuts to Social Security as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

"The story overshoots the runway," said a senior administration official. "The President said in the State of the Union that he wanted a bipartisan process to strengthen Social Security in a balanced way that preserves the promise of the program and doesn't slash benefits."

"While it is definitely not a driver of the deficit," the official added, "it does need to be strengthened."

UPDATE 10:38 a.m: White House spokesman Jay Carney commented on the reports concerning Social Security cuts Thursday morning.

"There is no news here," Carney said. "The President has always said that while social security is not a major driver of the deficit, we do need to strengthen the program and the President said in the State of the Union Address that he wanted to work with both parties to do so in a balanced way that preserves the promise of the program and doesn't slash benefits."
At least in update #2 we have someone on record. It goes back - once again - to what the President has remained on record with.

UPDATE III From the Hill:
"First, any cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid should be taken off the table. The individuals depending on these three programs deserve well-conceived improvements, not deep, ideologically driven cuts with harmful consequences."

As a second condition, the lawmakers added, "revenue increases must be a meaningful part of any agreement."

"Tax breaks benefiting the very richest Americans should be eliminated as part of this deal," the lawmakers wrote. "The middle class has experienced enough pain during the last three years, Republicans are willing to inflict even more. We will not join them."

Grijalva said there's room for "restructuring" in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But if the final debt-ceiling package cuts benefits under those programs, he warned, "then I couldn't support it."

AARP delivered a similar message on Thursday, issuing a statement warning that the powerful lobbying group "will not accept any cuts to Social Security as part of a deal to pay the nation’s bills."
Do you all see what is happening yet? Grijalva is actually in agreement with everything the Administration has said on record. No one is proposing cuts. Grijalva has a point regarding paying bills. But to my knowledge, no one is proposing that. There is a lot of conflation with debt ceiling and budget talks and so far the President does not seem to be proposing cuts.

I added the AARP part because there are those out there that still believe they are lobbying against Social Security. BobR called them out on this on June 29, 2011. It appears that AARP is against this alleged idea. FDL has been floating the very opposite,without any proof -- and in the face of denials from AARP for a few weeks.

63 comments (Latest Comment: 07/08/2011 00:00:03 by Will in Chicago)
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