When President Obama first openly put cuts the Medicare and Social Security benefits on the table during the debt ceiling negotiations many of his defenders went full 11th dimensional chess. The claimed Obama wasn’t so much putting these on the table because he wanted them cut right now, but to prove he was the more sensible adult in the room when Republican rejected this grand bargain. On this one point I agree with David Brooks and think we all just need to take Obama at his word. From David Brooks:
According to widespread reports, White House officials talked about raising the Medicare eligibility age, cutting Social Security by changing the inflation index, freezing domestic discretionary spending and offering to pre-empt the end of the Bush tax cuts in exchange for a broad tax-reform process.
The Democratic offers were slippery, and President Obama didn’t put them in writing. But John Boehner, the House speaker, thought they were serious. The liberal activists thought they were alarmingly serious. I can tell you from my reporting that White House officials took them seriously.
There is no super secret plan to trick Republicans or play the media. The administration has been totally honest when it has repeatedly state Obama wants the large austerity package possible.
Obama put cuts to these programs on the table because he wants to sign a package with cuts to these programs. His stated goal is a large deficit reduction package that is mostly spend cuts with very few tax increases. The only way he can get that without making major cuts to the Pentagon is by cutting the social safety net. If Obama actually wanted an equally large deficit reductions package that was mostly tax increases, he could easily already gotten that by vetoing any extension of the Bush tax cuts. He only wants to reduce the deficit if it is mostly through cuts.
The truly historic importance of what is happen right now can’t be repeated enough. It is a Democratic President who is the driving force now behind cutting Medicare and Social Security. It is a Democratic President who feels that deficit reduction during a recession and keeping tax rates near historic laws are both much more important policy goals than protecting Social Security and Medicare Benefits.