Monday, December 03, 2012

Defending Social Security

Tim Geithner has had the chance to sound like an actual Democrat the last few days, defending a formal opening gambit in the Administration's "fiscal cliff" negotiations that consists of the positions that the President just got re-elected by advocating.

But through both Geithner and the liberal empty suit known as Sen. Dick Durbin, the White House has signaled their intention to give Social Security the Catfood Commission treatment, i.e., appoint a commission (bipartisan, of course!) to recommend cuts in benefits to Social Security recipients.

As I've said before, that would be a good outcome. If the Republicans play Obama as well as they did in the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations, cuts to Social Security benefits might be on the chopping block as early as this month. But talking up a commission is a time-honored politician's tactic to duck an unpleasant decision. And since cutting Social Security benefits is a difficult decision because it's bad policy that would hurt a lot of people and is therefore unpopular, it's a good thing that they don't want to touch it now.

At the same time, as Jon Walker reminds us in Geithner: Social Security Should be Dealt with using a Separate Process FDL Action 12/03/2012, during this first term Obama showed himself to be an opponent of Social Security:

President Obama has repeatedly made it clear that he is open to cutting Social Security benefits and even offered to do so as part of a possible 2011 debt ceiling deal with Speaker Boehner. Not including Social Security directly in the current talks is probably a result of the Obama administration accepting that the current negotiations already have far too many moving parts. Getting a deal is already very difficult and adding another big issue would make that task significantly more complex.

The idea of Social Security being dealt with in a "separate process" should make defenders of the program very nervous. As we have seen, House Republicans are extremely reluctant to increase any taxes even when faced with the pending expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Any deal Republicans are willing to agree to regarding Social Security would likely be pure cuts or, at most, contain only token revenue increases. [my emphasis]
Yes, it should make supporters of Social Security nervous. Because cutting benefits on Social Security is a really bad idea.

And, no, I don't think calling President Obama an opponent of Social Security is overstating the case.

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