In my post about Democratic pushback to expose GOP deficit frauds, and broaden the conversation to include revenues and military spending, many in the comments were (rightly) concerned about what this meant for mandatory spending programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And that’s a valid concern. But it was addressed specifically by Chuck Schumer, the messaging guru of the Senate Democrats, today.
Eric Cantor had a press conference yesterday, and during part of it he said “It is very difficult to balance the budget in the next 10 years without cutting seniors’ benefits now.” He apparently said this in the context of something that Republicans were not prepared to do at least for current and near-term retirees. What Cantor said was, “We have said that those 55 and older will not see any change in their benefits. But for the rest of us, 54 and younger, we are going to have to come to grips with the reality that if we’re going to have these programs around and save them, they’re going to have to look a lot different for the younger people in this country.”
Schumer pounced. This was the statement he sent around:
Rep. Cantor’s claim that we need to cut seniors’ Social Security checks today to balance the budget is flat-out wrong. Blaming Social Security for our deficit is nothing but an ideological attempt to slash benefits and privatize the program.
In fact, over the past several weeks we have seen a decision made, a shift, to switch away from cutting Social Security as a training-wheels version of cutting overall deficits. On the same day that Schumer calls for a broader discussion of the budget overall, he hammers Cantor for scapegoating Social Security. That’s a clear indication that Social Security is not as up for discussion among the party leadership as it may have been just a few months ago.
This shows that some Democrats, at least, know how to read a poll. [cont’d.]
Schumer did talk in his Center for American Progress speech about reforming Medicare, but that could just be the implementation of the payment reforms already available in the Affordable Care Act. It would be nice if he added to that conversation the ability to bulk purchase prescription drugs in Medicare and other government programs at a negotiated discount, or adding a money-saving public option. But Schumer is going after Big Ag subsidies and oil and gas subsidies in this gambit, as well as wanting to cut defense and add a millionaire’s surtax. And at CAP he reassured on Social Security again:
Schumer said he does not want to see Social Security changes in upcoming talks over the budget, calling the program “a separate concern.”
“Obviously Social Security doesn’t play much of a role in the short-term budget, and frankly it doesn’t play that much of a role if you’re looking at deficit reduction in the longer-term budget, either,” he said.
I’m not going to go so far as to declare Social Security safe. But I’d say it’s in a much better position now than it has been, regardless of this gambit to broaden the budget conversation.