Posted on 04 October 2012
By Mark Miller
I asked last week whether President Obama would cut Social Security if re-elected. We got the answer from him in last night’s Presidential debate: “yes.”
The question from moderator Jim Lehrer: “Mr. President, do you see a major difference between the two of you on Social Security?”
You know, I suspect that on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position. Social Security is structurally sound. It’s going to have to be tweaked the way it was by Ronald Reagan and Speaker — Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill. But it is — the basic structure is sound. But — but I want to talk about the values behind Social Security and Medicare and then talk about Medicare, because that’s the big driver. . .
Mr. Obama’s refusal to distance himself from Romney on Social Security is important. Romney supports a higher retirement age, means-testing and (of course) has not endorsed lifting the cap on payroll taxes. Also note the reference to the 1983 Social Security reform package: the biggest component was a gradual increase in retirement ages from 65 to 67.
Romney and running-mate Paul Ryan both have supported Social Security privatization. Ryan included it in the 2010 version of his “Roadmap for America,” and Romney embraced it in his book “No Apology.”
Obama has specifically rejected privatization. But the President really doesn’t want to discuss Social Security at all during this campaign. Notice how he pivoted as quickly as possible in the debate to Medicare –he wants to keep his options open to cut Social Security as part of a grand bargain on deficit reduction after the election.
Here’s what Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said late last month when Mark Halperin of Time Magazine asked him for the President’s plan on Social Security on MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
“Mark, I’ll tell you what,” Axelrod said. “When you get elected to the United States Senate, and sit at that table — this is not the time. We’re not going to have that discussion right now unless the Congress wants to sit at a table and move on a balanced approach to this. The reality of Social Security is that this is a much less imminent problem than Medicare. … Social Security is a much more distant problem.”
Halperin was asking the question on behalf of voters, not for his personal edification. But Axelrod told him Social Security reform will get done “at the table” — that is, behind closed doors, with Social Security as a bargaining chip in broader negotiations.
Where would the President draw the line on benefit cuts? Would he insist on new revenues for the program? No further explanation of the President’s position is owed to voters at this time, Axelrod seems to think.
Check out the video of Axelrod’s testy, arrogant response here: