Obama “wasn’t talking about what was on or off the table” and didn’t discuss specifics in terms of Social Security, one participant said. [The Hill]
THE REPORTS out of the meeting with progressive leaders and unions revealed a couple of things. President Obama told the group at the White House that he won’t budge on rescinding the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest. How he’s going to get that done is unknown. What Obama plans to do with entitlements, specifically Social Security, is unknown.
However, the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein and Jennifer Bendery offered a different take from The Hill, getting one unnamed source in the meeting to give a hint on Social Security, which was not confirmed as of this post.
The first source said that the president “seemed to agree that Social Security” should not be part of any grand bargain because it “didn’t add to the deficit.” [Huffington Post]
This is exactly correct. There is no reason to make Social Security part of any “fiscal cliff” push for a grand bargain. “Seemed to agree” means absolutely nothing.
From the sounds of what’s being reported from the Huffington Post and The Hill, everyone attending the meeting with President Obama on Tuesday was in an all hands on deck mode.
In the process of putting together a far-reaching piece of legislation, the president will have the help of the progressive community’s political arms. All of the meeting’s attendees pledged to keep their election-season campaign apparatuses intact for purposes of drumming up support for the president’s budget priorities.
The President is right, the “campaign isn’t over” and that goes both ways for the coalition willing to take on the White House where Social Security is concerned, led by people like Senators Sherrod Brown, who won a tough race in Ohio, and the stalwart fighter Bernie Sanders. A specific concern is COLA, cost of living adjustments, which add up to significant money for fixed income elderly, especially women.
I’ve quoted “feminist economist” Susan F. Feiner before, but here she is again:
Listen up, sisters! Deficit hawks will eat your lunch, your kids, your jobs and your retirement. [...] Today’s deficit hawks (and way too many Democrats are flying with this flock), fundamentally and deliberately misinform by insisting on a fictional symmetry between private sector (household and corporate) bookkeeping and the U.S. federal debt.
… Here are the facts: U.S. government borrowing creates interest-bearing assets. The bonds are bought with dollars, the interest on them is paid in dollars and, at maturity, the bonds are paid off in dollars. Since the U.S. government is both sovereign in its own currency and the sole issuer of dollars, it can never run out of them. How could it?
Don’t think printing presses here: Federal debts are paid off by Treasury clerks making a few clicks on computer keyboards–keyboards identical to the one I’m typing on now.
In contrast, families and businesses have to earn income or sell assets to get dollars to pay off debts. The federal government does not face any such constraint. It can spend as much as it likes and borrow as much as it likes. With so many people out of work–nearly 30 million and counting—and so many firms operating well below capacity, there is no danger of inflation. So, right now, government borrowing and government spending will do one thing and one thing only: It will pump up aggregate demand, call jobs into being and reduce economic pain. Our children will be better off.
Meanwhile, the ceiling limiting the federal debt is an arbitrary constraint.
[...] Fiscal austerity–aka, reducing the deficit–endangers our lives. Deficit spending lies behind virtually all the social services, public amenities, and consumer safety standards that distinguish the U.S. from Rwanda, Bangladesh or Guyana. The Chicago Tribune recently reported that Congress is “moving to eliminate the only national program that regularly screens U.S. fruits and vegetables for the type of E. coli that recently caused a deadly outbreak in Germany.” Clearly, this $4.5 million program is too expensive. (Note to reader: $4.5 million is just over half the median pay for top executives at the nation’s 200 largest firms, according to The New York Times. Executive pay is up 23 percent over 2009. What if each of these guys chipped in a measly $22,500 so the rest of us could eat untainted food?)
The possible COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) cuts impact women more than anyone.
Research from IWPR has shown the current Social Security program is a mainstay for women, and these findings have been supported by research from other organizations. Adult women are 51 percent (27 million) of all beneficiaries, including retirees, the disabled, and the survivors of deceased workers (52.5 million). Women are more likely to rely on Social Security because they have fewer alternative sources of income, often outlive their husbands, and are more likely to be left to rear children when their husbands die or become permanently disabled. Moreover, due to the recession many women have lost home equity and savings to failing markets. Older women–and older low income populations in general–have become more economically vulnerable and dependent on Social Security benefits. — IWPR