INTERESTING STUFF – 9 November 2010
More Happy Talk

Social Security and President Obama

category_bug_politics.gif UPDATE: 11AM PST - The co-chairs of the deficit commission have just released a draft report of recommendations. A number of the other 18 members of the commission have already indicated they will not vote for it. Talking Points Memo has posted the draft. Scroll down for Social Security and Medicare.

Did you see Steve Kroft's interview with President Barack Obama on 60 Minutes last Sunday? Here's what the president said about the budget and Social Security:

”[Y]ou're still confronted with a fact that the vast majority of the federal budget are things that people really think are important. Like Social Security and Medicare and defense.

“And so, you then have to start making some tough decisions about how do we pay for those things that we think are important. And you know, we're not gonna be able to balance the budget just by slashing the National Parks budget... “I mean, we're gonna have to, you know, tackle some big issues like entitlements that, you know, when you listen to the Tea Party or you listen to Republican candidates they promise we're not gonna touch.”

People think are important??? Tackle big issues like entitlements??? I was so stunned at this statement, I missed the next ten minutes of the interview. Richard Eskow, writing at Campaign for America's Future on Monday, confirmed that I had not overreacted:

“That doesn't just sound as if he's preparing to cut the Medicare and Social Security 'entitlement' programs,” wrote Eskow. “It almost seems as if he's taunting the Tea Party and the GOP for not being tough enough to cut them.

“When a Democratic President sounds like he wants to outflank the Tea Party by running to its right, we're in deep trouble.”

No kidding.

In exactly three weeks on 1 December, President Obama's deficit commission will issue its report. Thanks to commission co-chair Alan Simpson who, in August, compared Social Security to a “milk cow with 310 million tits” we already know what it's going to say.

Together with the president's 60 Minutes statement, that undoubtedly means we are in for an even tougher battle to preserve Social Security than during President George W. Bush's 2005 campaign to privatize it.

To be clear – for about the zillionth time – Social Security does not contribute a single penny to the deficit. It is self-funded by you and me and every other worker (with extremely few exceptions). Due to the rate of unemployment, for only the second time in history this year, Social Security paid out more than it took in, but there are funds to cover the shortfall.

According to the August 2010 Social Security Trustee's annual report, as reported in the Los Angeles Times,

“The old age and disability trust funds, which hold the system's surplus, grew in 2009 by $122 billion, to $2.5 trillion. The program paid out $675 billion to 53 million beneficiaries — men, women and children — with administrative costs of 0.9% of expenditures.

“For all you privatization advocates out there, you'd be lucky to find a retirement and insurance plan of this complexity with an administrative fee less than five or 10 times that ratio.”

Social Security still faces a long-term shortfall and the American public seems to understand better than Washington politicians how to fix it.

Across the political spectrum, Americans are opposed, in gigantic numbers, to privatizing or cutting Social Security benefits.

According to a 2010 Gallup poll, 67 percent would preserve Social Security by requiring all high-income workers to pay the payroll tax on all their wages – that is, remove the salary cap that is currently at $106,800.

Only 39 percent believe reducing benefits for people younger than 55 is a good idea and just 35 percent would increase the age of eligibility. And in opposition to their Washington leaders, a majority of the Republican rank-and-file agree: 60 percent like the idea of removing the salary cap; 39 percent in favor of reducing benefits for those under 55; and even fewer than the general population, 34 percent like increasing the age of eligibility.

In another poll [pdf], a whopping 81 percent of voters (71 percent “strongly”) reject cutting Social Security to reduce the deficit. Whatever the exact number, it's obvious that the deficit hawks out to gut Social Security are completely out of step with the public.

It's relatively easy to fix Social Security's long-term shortfall if you ignore the howling from the richest people in the country.

President Obama campaigned on raising the salary cap. It is the fairest way to secure the future of Social Security rather than further impoverishing the middle and working classes, and it is what the American public wants. The president should pay heed rather than caving to the Republicans. As Richard Eskow wrote:

“If the President and his party can be brought around again this year, Social Security can be a success story for them. More importantly, it can be a success story for the middle class, lower income, female, and minority Americans who would be hurt by benefit cuts.

"It's not too late for progressives to change hearts and minds in the White House and on Capitol Hill - but time is growing short.”

This is our job in the coming weeks and months.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: A Strange Sensation


For the first time in my life, I'm speechless! Dee

Yes -- the President and his party make themselves the target here. And should they cut Social Security, they will carry the burden of the anger of the people would otherwise have been their friends.

"Will the real Barrack Obama stand up please"
You loved him when he gave his convention speech and followed his campaign with cries of "no more fear" "Yes we can" "Hope" and all the rest of the empty platitudes he recited with charm and grace. Now we are starting to see behind the curtain and the real Obama isn't half the man we thought he was and probably will never be. We thought we were electing someone to lead us out of the mess but that's not what we got.

A LOT of what he's saying right now is worrying me

Who is Obama listening to? I just don't get it. He is very intelligent so he knows that S. S. is not adding to the deficit. I am amazed that he eems to be so frightened of the Tea Party gang that he is lurching to the right. God help us.

I am stumped, too. I am not one for conspiracy theories but am shocked by what's been going on. This latest threat is over the top and thanks for reporting on it, Ronni. Loved Mythster's comment. Yes, what happened to the Barack Obama we elected? Who got to him? Why doesn't he fight the way we though he would to provide CHANGE (we can believe in)?

What the h--l is he thinking? I don't get it either and I'm really disappointed.

Washington Post story on deficit commission proposal.

Obama sold out early on, no surprise. The "health care reform" is a joke, really. And I hate to say this, but the corporations are running things buckle up, a lot of us won't survive.

so, ronni, do we write obama? who do we write to protest proposals of fiscal commission?

give us some email addresses please.


It's amazing and depressing how President Obama is caving in to the right. Who is going to fight for ordinary people? And how would the economy get better by impoverishing seniors?

Obama is one of THEM and always was.
Why doesn't he get a commission to track down the billions and billions of government funds that have just disappeared?
Before the election he had his people going around telling Capitalists and political leaders not to worry about what he said to get elected, that he would not endanger the rich and powerful.
If you enjoy rumors, go look at what Wayne Madsen says about Obama and his family.

When I saw the 60 Min interview, I wanted to say "Get up off your knees!" Talk about a cave-in. Remember that Hillary said "he has one good speech" and I think that said more than we thought. I was so anxious to get someone who could make a complete sentence and not embarrass himself or us, but I'm having second thoughts. I expected him to know the plight of those on SS due to his grandmother's and uncle's age but now know that is not true. I don't know what to expect next.

it seems to me, if the presiden doesn't find a way to get more jobs for people, they then pay into social security and so be it.

it baffles me that I see many help wanted, in stores. Some people won't take a 20.00 an hour job, they would rather stay on the dole and eat at the soup kitchens.

I do believe we are all going to have to make sacrifices to get our country's fiscal health back in shape.

First, there was no actual "report," just a leak of some possible recommendations that won't fly, according to every news story I've read on this thing in the past coupla days.

Second, as you point out, Social Security is fine (and would be better if Obama grew a spine [highly unlikely] and worked to end the Bush tax cuts for the rich, which would be enough to keep the ship afloat.

Second, the real problem is health care, specifically Medicare if we're talking about elders.

I recommend that everyone read Ted C. Fishman's "Shock of Gray: The aging of the world's population and how it pits young against old, child against parent, worker against boss, company against rival and nation against nation." (Whew, what a subtitle.)

One of Fishman's most startling conclusions: Global power will rest on nations' willingness to kick elders to the curb.

So, you can run but you can't hide.

Haven't the big corporations always been in charge except, perhaps, for about 15-20 years when big labor gave them a run for their money? Either way, Big Money talks and our representatives in Washington, D.C. all too often listen! I've defended President Obama because he did not cause the Great Recession (Bush/Cheney, Inc. did that). I still do. However, I am beginning to feel less certain than I once was. Still, if we consider abandoning Obama in 2012, we must consider the alternative! I don't see any likely-looking Democrat contenders on the horizon, and what could be much worse for all of us than 4-8 years of leadership(?) by the tea baggers and their fellow travelers?

So true am 87 and watched the republicans undu every thing we democrats have done for the people even high interest rats,are we always going to be their surfs for same.

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