At a town hall meeting in Illinois, President Obama reaffirmed that he will personally push for Congress to make Medicare and Social Security cuts part of any talk about deficit reduction or job creation. From the White House Transcripts:
When folks tell you that we’ve got a choice between jobs now or dealing with our debt crisis, they’re wrong. They’re wrong. We can’t afford to just do one or the other. We’ve got to do both. And the way to do it is to make some — reform the tax code, close loopholes, make some modest modifications in programs like Medicare and Social Security so they’re there for the next generation, stabilize those systems. And you could actually save so much money that you could actually pay for some of the things like additional infrastructure right now.
We can close the deficit and put people to work, but what’s required is that folks work together. That’s the big challenge. That’s the big challenge. (Applause.)
So the main thing is I’m here to enlist you in this fight for America’s future. I need you to send a message to your members of Congress, to your representatives that we’re tired of the games. We’re tired of the posturing. We don’t want more press releases. We want action.
“Modest modification” is classic political newspeak code for cuts. The “modest”change Obama indicates he would support, like raising the Medicare retirement age to 67, would cause very real hardship for some older Americans and make every seniors’ Medicare premiums go up.
The new Super Committee doesn’t need to cut our social safety net to reach its deficit reduction targets, but President Obama publicly says he wants to make cuts to Medicare and Social Security part of any deal. The reason Medicare and Social Security are on the table right now is because Obama has chosen to put them on the table. He has the power to take them off the table with a simple veto threat. If Medicare or Social Security get cut in the near future it will because Obama actively worked to make sure the programs are cut.
The much promised “pivot to jobs” after the debt ceiling deal seems to be disappointingly focused on keeping the issue of deficit reduction on the front burner.