Posted on 19 December 2012
By Mark Miller
It’s been clear for some time now that President Obama might use Social Security as a bargaining chip to get a fiscal cliff deal.
Back in September, he told AARP’s national convention that Social Security and Medicare are “bedrock commitments that America makes to its seniors, and I consider those commitments unshakeable.” And Vice President Biden was just as emphatic on the campaign trail, issuing a “guarantee” during a Virginia campaign appearance that there would be no changes to Social Security in a second Obama term.
But Obama’s campaign positions on Social Security seemed vague to me. He promised not to “slash” benefits for future generations, or to reduce “basic benefits.” So I posed a series of specific questions to the Obama campaign about where the President would draw red lines. I didn’t get clear answers to any of the questions — and now it’s clear why.
The White House is offering to shift to a “chained CPI” formula to determine annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for Social Security and other federal benefits in order to get a fiscal cliff deal. If enacted, this deal truly will advance deficit reductions on the backs of vulnerable Americans — seniors on fixed income, the disabled and veterans.
So, that “unshakable” commitment is looking a bit shaky right now.
The President pushed back today on the notion that he’s breaking a campaign pledge:
Recalling his campaign, Mr. Obama countered, “What I said was that the ultimate package would involve a balance of spending cuts and tax increases. That’s exactly what I have put forward. What I have said is, in order to arrive at a compromise I am prepared to do some very tough things, some things that some Democrats don’t want to see — and probably there are a few Republicans who don’t want to see them, either.”
Yes, Mr. President — but you told a group of labor officials and Social Security advocates one week after the election that Social Security wouldn’t be part of a fiscal cliff deal. And then there are those pesky — if vague — campaign pledges I mentioned above.
Learn more about how a chained CPI would affect seniors at Reuters Money.