by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
Since January, 2009, Barack Obama has been Social Security’s relentless antagonist. He has succeeded in maneuvering the program into “the middle of the budget deficit debate, where it does not belong and from which it has been purposely shielded since its origins in President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.” When the president and his allies chant “Go Big” on deficit reduction, they are aiming at Social Security’s heart.
Obama Subverts Social Security
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“Obama has for the past two and a half years been in league with Republicans in falsely conflating Social Security and the federal debt.”
The Age of Obama has entered the Season of the Business-Dominated Committee, where the president maneuvered to trap us, in the first place. The Great Dissembler is urging the congressional deficit reduction “Super-Committee” to go beyond the $1.5 trillion budget cuts over ten years mandated during this summer’s debt ceiling fiasco. His allies and surrogates demand that the panel “go big” with reductions closer to the $4 billion called for by the committee’s accursed predecessor, the hand-picked budget deficit outfit imposed on the deliberative process by Obama during his second year to give “bi-partisan” sanction to the administration’s methodical subversion of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Back then, the Republicans were avoiding a frontal assault on Social Security, remembering George Bush’s first-term butt-whippin’ on the issue. It was up to Barack Obama to keep Social Security on the chopping block.
This time around, White House spokesman Jay Carney is encouraging the Super-Committee, made up of six House members and six Senators, to “overachieve” their mandate. The president says he favors at least $2 trillion in cuts by the late November deadline. Committee member Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), in synch with the White House, chants the “go big” mantra, while Republicans hang back, declining to call for larger cuts in fear that war spending might come under scrutiny. No problem; the top Democrat will carry the ball, for them.
“White House spokesman Jay Carney is encouraging the Super-Committee to ‘overachieve’ their mandate.”
The GOP can count on Obama to offer up Social Security on the alter of austerity, as he has done consistently since January, 2009, while still president-elect. Back in April, he proposed $4 trillion in cuts over 12 years – nearly as draconian as his hand-picked committee – with the focus on the safety net. “By 2025,” warned the apocalyptic and grossly misleading president, “the amount of taxes we currently pay will only be enough to finance our health care programs, Social Security, and the interest we owe on our debt.”
Obama promises that his grab-bag, mostly supply-side and wholly inadequate jobs scheme will largely be “paid for” by cuts that include “modest adjustments [hah!] to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid.”
Social Security stands to be mortally wounded at Obama’s hand. His second round of cuts in the payroll tax further undermine, not just the program’s trust fund, but its status as a free-standing entity outside of the usual congressional process. Congress will, theoretically, make up the temporary shortfall in payroll taxes through appropriations. But that puts Social Security in the middle of the budget deficit debate, where it does not belong and from which it has been purposely shielded since its origins in President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Through rhetoric and calculated action, Obama has for the past two and a half years been in league with Republicans in falsely conflating Social Security and the federal debt. He is now positioned to knock the program from its protective pedestal.
“The GOP can count on Obama to offer up Social Security on the alter of austerity.”
A group of 62 House Democrats, including more than half of the Congressional Black Caucus, smelled a rat. “We remain gravely concerned,” they wrote in a letter to the president back in July, “that yet another, unacceptable cut to Social Security’s revenue stream appears to be on the table. As alternative measures would have the same net effect on deficits and the economy, there is simply no need to negotiate cuts to Social Security taxes.”
No need, that is, unless one wants to dismantle Social Security as we know it by sucking the program into the maelstrom of the deficit debate. Obama undermines the program’s finances because he is determined that Social Security in its present form not survive his time in office. If Obama succeeds, Social Security will become just another “entitlement” to be mangled in a grand bargain with the GOP, like Medicare and Medicaid. Obama wants to be remembered as the president who brought the Republicans and the right wing of the Democratic Party into harmonious consensus – over the dead carcass of the New Deal. That’s what he means by “Go big!”
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].