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Progressive Notes: Tea Nuttery, Democrats and Social Security Cuts

Texan4Hillary offers his perspective as a movement progressive activist.

The cold-hearted austerity Tea Party freshmen in Congress have grand ideas on Social Security. The latest fool to come forward with his views will be a top target for the Dems and he should be in 2012 for this doozy.

The guy is Rep. Huzeinga. His comments on raising the retirement age on Social Security:

..Rep. Bill Huzeinga (R-MI) championed these regressive cuts to Social Security during an appearance on Fox News last week. During a discussion about the federal budget deficit, Huzeinga said that we “certainly” should be having a “conversation” about raising the retirement age for Social Security. He explained that at a recent town hall meeting, a constituent complained about these cuts, and that Huzeinga responded by telling him, “Look, I’m 42. I’ll be 106 When these recommendations, if we adopted them right now, would actually come into place. I’m gonna be okay”:

Oy vay. Did he just say that? Americans deserve better leaders. Way better. Selfish to the very core. What kind of a public servant is this creep? The video:

On the Hill there is trouble for the deficit nitwits like Senators Durbin and Warner. Senator Schumer has taken Reid’s lead and has come out firmly against any cuts in Social Security. Pelosi came out as well opposing any kind of deal on Social Security as did Rep. Van Hollen.
The Hill has more.

Meanwhile today key Democratic senators announced they want to put Social Security off the table in a lockbox. Senators Schumer, Sanders and Budget Chair Conrad spoke out to do this. Senator Conrad is critical as he is chair of the budget writing process and he says he wants Social Security not to be part of deficit negotiations- a sharp turnaround for him. Progressive today breathed a sigh of relief- for now. The lockbox of Gore returns?

Something is also going on at the White House as well. O.M.B. Director Jacob Lew and Economic advisor Furman this week have made public remarks and op-eds distancing the White House from the deficit commission’s recommendations on Social Security

HuffPo talks to White House economic advisor Furman and Axe. This is a very different tone here:

Furman . . . insisted that talk of Social Security reform “is not one you care about” if “you are worried about our long-run fiscal future.”
“The reason you care about it is because you want to strengthen Social Security,” Furman added in a speech at the progressive nonprofit group NDN. “It is such a critical part of our social insurance, the bedrock of retirement security for senior citizens, one of the leading anti-poverty programs for children, critical support for people with disabilities. And for all those reasons and the fact that its solvency … is another 26 years, till 2037, the real motivation is strengthening the program.”

Those remarks are a strong reflection of growing defensiveness on the White House’s part in response to calls to reform the longstanding entitlement program. During this year’s State of the Union address, Obama said he would “speak out against” plans to “target” Social Security should they materialize in Congress. Top adviser David Plouffe likewise said the president would neither slash nor reduce benefits While in office.

Furman’s comments are more assertive in their framing. Rather than merely ruling out drastic changes to the entitlement program, he is arguing that Social Security has no place in a debate over the deficit — a position directly at odds with the conclusions reached by the chair’s of president’s own deficit commission.

Lew, Obama’s O.M.B. director, writes in USA Today words we and the nation need to hear:

The budget put forward by President Obama last week is a blueprint for how we can live within our means and win the future. As this begins the budgeting process in Washington, we need to be clear about the causes of the pressing fiscal problems we face. Specifically, looking to the next two decades, Social Security does not cause our deficits….

Lew separates Social Security from the budget deficit as well. This is opposite of the deficit commission recommendation:

For years, the surpluses in the Social Security trust fund have helped to mask our deficits elsewhere. Now that we are paying Social Security back, the problem is not with Social Security, but with the rest of the budget. In 2001 and 2003, Washington cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and later expanded Medicare without paying for it.

Blaming Social Security for our fiscal woes is like blaming you for not saving enough in your checking account because the bank lost all depositors’ money.

The problem is not Social Security; the problem is the mismatch between outlays and revenues in the rest of the budget. Closing that gap and paying down our debt will take tough choices, and the president’s budget makes them. Strengthening Social Security is an important, but parallel, issue that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. But let’s not confuse it as either the cause of or a solution to our short-term fiscal problems.

Hmm… Something is going on here. The White House has changed its tune this week in a concerted, very public effort. Let’s hope this means a course change here on the issue from the Obama administration.

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