Uh oh, are we seeing here the ground work for some Democrats to (again) decide to teach their party a lesson and stay home and ensure a nice, big Republican victory at the polls in 2014 (and then complain about the Republicans winning so big)? Why do I get a sense of deja vu starting to rear its ugly repetitive head?

Liberals are mounting strong criticisms of President Obama amid news that his budget will include a Social Security benefit cut — an official endorsement of a policy compromise he’s offered Republicans for years — and warning Democrats not to dare vote to cut the cherished retirement program.

A trio of progressive advocacy groups issued scathing statements Friday in response to reports that Obama’s proposal will include a policy called “Chained CPI,” which would re-index Social Security cost of living increases to a lower rate of inflation — a benefit cut the president has included in deficit offers to Republicans since 2011.

“President Obama’s plan to cut Social Security would harm seniors who worked hard all their lives,” said MoveOn.org’s executive director Anna Galland. “That’s unconscionable. It’s even more outrageous given that Republicans in Congress aren’t even asking for this Social Security cut. This time, the drive to cut Social Security is being led by President Obama and Democrats.”

Stephanie Taylor of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee accused Obama of “proposing to steal thousands of dollars from grandparents and veterans” and threatened to subject any Democrat who votes for a Social Security benefit cut to a primary challenge.

“You can’t call yourself a Democrat and support Social Security benefit cuts,” Taylor said in a statement. “The President has no mandate to cut these benefits, and progressives will do everything possible to stop him.”

Jim Dean, the chair of Democracy For America, called the reports a “profoundly disturbing shot across the bow for the progressives who called their neighbors, spent weekends knocking doors and donated millions to reelect [President Obama].”

Obama’s decision to include Chained CPI in his budget, which is expected to be unveiled April 10, reflects his latest effort to entice Republicans into a grand budget deal that stabilizes the national debt at a level where it’s growing more slowly than the economy.

Obama’s problems are:
–There are no signs as of yet that Republicans want a Grand Bargain, a Nice Bargain, an Awesome Bargain or a Swell (using WWII lingo) Bargain or any kind of a bargain with Obama. They are determined to say no and not compromise.
–Voters want to see parties compromise.
–The wing of each party is averse to compromise on key points that the other side demands.

But this could also be positioning: if Republicans walk away from Obama formally offering this it will be (yet more) proof that the GOP has no interest in anything but total victory in imposing a conservative agenda and voters will be reminded of that in 2014. Polls show that this perception already exists (even among Republicans) and in the long term it will may please Sean and Rush and Fox and Friends but won’t help Republicans pick up all but the votes of the existing choir in 2014.

And the Democrats? Some may never forgive Obama for proposing this and already some websites and talkers on left radio are say Obama doesn’t know how to negotiate but does thirst for compromise. If they stay home in 2014 then “mission accomplished” for the GOP which will then easily hold all of its House seats (already firm due to gerrymandering in many instances) and possibly bolster their hopes for taking the Senate.

JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief
Leave a replyComments (11)
  1. slamfu April 5, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    “It’s even more outrageous given that Republicans in Congress aren’t even asking for this Social Security cut. ”

    Um, haven’t they been asking for that every time they talk about “nanny state”, spending cuts and entitlements etc…? Every time they said that Obama hasn’t ever proposed any actual cuts to the budget? I may be missing something here, and I’m all for anyone correcting me, but weren’t these concessions the GOP demanded of Obama for any movement on tax increases and anything else he wanted to get through? These among other spending cuts are exactly what the GOP was asking for no?

  2. zephyr April 5, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    Chained CPI is a lousy idea. If Obama offers it to republcans it will prove he has learned nothing about them and nothing about the economic imbalance in our society. It will also prove he doesn’t understand the electorate – and not just his own base. If something is to be done to SS it should be means testing.

  3. The_Ohioan April 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    Just raising the cap on SS deductions will solve the SS problem. Chained CPI with a safety net for the truly poor isn’t necessary, but might bring the GOP along. If Obama can get a compromise, including really closing tax loopholes, he wins. If the GOP refuses to compromise, he wins. A small but noisy progressive group shouldn’t stop any reasonable reforms. If they don’t help out in 2014, they deserve any GOP gains.

  4. brcarthey April 5, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    @The_Ohioan, just raising the FICA limit at least 20% will also help. In case anybody is wondering, the FICA limit is only the first $250k in a person’s salary. That’s all that’s taxed for the social security benefits. Raise that and the SS problem is solved.

    Another issue that could be easily solved is to actually lower the Medicare eligibility age to ~60, even if only for preventative and proactive care for the first 5 years of eligibility. Many will not have seen a doctor for several years (or decades) before they qualify for Medicare would get people to the doctor sooner before catastrophic illnesses take hold. One of the main reasons medicare is having a rough time with payouts is that it is having to pay too much per person due to the nature of the illness and treatment. So we can either pay that way or we can pay through higher hospital and insurance costs when these people get sick and can’t afford the treatment. With Medicare claim filing costs ~90 cents, I’d rather pay towards that than to insurance companies which charge $18-25 per filing for the same treatment.

    As for chained-CPI, I’m not as against it as other liberals simply because SS was never meant to completely cover your cost of living expenses when you retire. It was meant to supplement it and make your savings go further. This whole notion that we need to completely cover everyone’s daily expenses is unmanageable and outside of the bounds of the original goals.

  5. zephyr April 6, 2013 at 8:32 am

    There are better ways to solve SS issues than with chained CPI. Any adjustments to be made with SS have to start with the understanding that the GOP doesn’t give a crap about older Americans who have worked all their lives and are living on fixed incomes. To imagine they do is incredibly naive.

  6. dduck April 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    What Ohio and Brc said on SS AND means testing. BTW: Heard Bernie Sanders on BM show yesterday claiming the SS system is not in trouble.

  7. zephyr April 6, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    Well dd, the SS system is certainly in less trouble than republicans would like people to think. (using the word, “think” loosely of course)

  8. brcarthey April 7, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Sen. Sanders is correct in saying SS is not in trouble, but that should be qualified with a “yet.” We’re also not even close to hitting the peak of the baby boomers (those born from 1945-1963) who will be collecting it. My own mother was born in 1949, but will not be eligible to collect until next year, to give you and idea of where we are with this population.

    With the declining birth rate of subsequent generations, those same FICA tax rates of the working will not cover the COLA needed for those over 65. However, some kind of reform is needed (not privatization!) now so that it can be gradually phased in and seniors not have some massive cut hit them all at once.

  9. KP April 7, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    brcarthey, The_Ohioan, dduck; thanks for offering ideas to be part of the solution.

  10. steadystate April 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    As someone who stands to potentially receive SS MANY years from now (not eligible for another 33+ years), I’m interested in the program’s longevity, so that if I were ever to need to rely on it, it’s there. Perhaps that’s selfish, but a lot can happen in 33+ years. Between that and SS not existing for many of the reasons outlined above and covered elsewhere, I’ll take the less-worse case. I’m of the mind-frame that SS was developed as a supplemental program, not a full-subsistence program. Chained CPI, means testing, raising the FICA limit. I’ll take all of these if it means keeping the program alive. I don’t see that as capitulation, but a reluctant acceptance of reality.

  11. dduck April 8, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Reality is not a river in Egypt, so thanks SS.