Gene Sperling, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, hinted at a budget deal that would trade near-term “investment” (the preferred euphemism for “stimulus") for long-term entitlement reform (the preferred euphemism for “cuts").
He also warned that "we’re not pushing off unbearable burdens to the next generation." (unlike the Republican's talking points, Gene Sperling didn't say "children and grandchildren."
Right now, the official Democratic position is that they’ll accept entitlement cuts only in exchange for new revenue. But that's like trading a $1 increase in taxes on billionaires for a $1 in cuts to seniors on Social Security.
Why are the most vulnerable (poor, elderly and disabled) always targeted for any government cuts during bad economic times? Already TANF is under-funded, food stamps are being cut next month (with more cuts proposed); some states have slashed unemployment benefits and the federal extended unemployment program comes to a halt in two months.
White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage:
"Gene was reiterating what our position has been all along, that any big budget deal is going to have to include significant revenues if Republicans insist on entitlement reforms. And any budget deal needs to have first and foremost the goal of creating good jobs for middle class families and growing the economy—that’s our north star in any budget deal, big or small."
Some Democrats, including Obama, are considering changing the way cost-of-living-adjustments (COLAS) for Social Security benefits are indexed for inflation, using chained-CPI. This is just one of many cuts that Gene Sperling and the White House spokesperson were probably alluding to.
A broad coalition of organizations is joining Senator Bernie Sanders in a petition drive to resist cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. (This is one of the most important and urgent issues facing Americans today.)
Republican leaders are pressing for these cuts, even though they're also opposed by an overwhelming 82 percent majority of Republican voters according to recent polling by Lake Research. The President's budget proposal includes some of these cuts already, despite the fact that Democrats and independents oppose them by similarly large majorities.
7 Reasons to --> Be Afraid...Be Very Afraid:
1.) Republicans are still demanding "entitlement cuts." -- Some elected officials are saying there will be no "Grand Bargain" this year. But when it comes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the difference is purely semantic. Representative Paul Ryan, the lead Republican negotiator, is saying that a "grand" deal is unlikely this year. Instead, says Ryan, we should focus on "achievable goals ... which are already in the President's budget." Ryan specifically cites "mandatory" cuts, which in government parlance means Medicare Medicaid and Social Security. As Dave Johnson notes, the press has failed to report just how determined Republicans are to cut these programs.
2.) Some of these cuts are in the President's budget. -- Unfortunately, Ryan's right. The president's latest budget does include cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security: the chained CPI benefit cuts; $57 billion in increased out-of-pocket contributions from Medicare enrollees; $306 billion in reduced Medicare provider reimbursements; and $19 billion in Medicaid cuts. No wonder Republicans like Paul Ryan see entitlement cuts as the "smarter spending cuts" which will help forge common ground between themselves and their Democratic negotiating partners.
3.) The "chained CPI" is a deep cut to Social Security benefits. -- The chained CPI is not a "modest tweak," as those promoting it like to claim. If it went into effect today, as both the President and leading Republicans have proposed, a person turning sixty-five this year would receive $658 less per year in benefits by the time he or she were 75, and more than $1,000 a year less by age 85. For someone who retires at 65, the chained CPI is would be:
-- a 3.7 percent cut at age 75;
-- a 6.5 percent cut at age 85;
-- and a 9.2 percent cut at 95.
Cumulative benefits would be cut by $4,631 -- more than three months of benefits -- by age 75; $13,910 -- nearly a year of benefits - by age 85; and $28,004 -- more than a year and a half of benefits -- by age 95. And the average disabled veteran would lose tens of thousands of dollars.
4.) The chained CPI isn't fair, either. -- While its adherents claim that it's a "more accurate" measurement of the cost of living, it is actually less fair than the current calculations -- and even they understate the cost-of-living increases which these populations face every year. (Also, items such as health care and transportation, which the disabled and seniors rely upon more than that average American, are rising in cost at a faster rate.)
5.) The cuts to Medicaid and Medicare are both inhumane and cumbersome. -- As Robert Reich notes, both the President and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have proposed means-testing Medicare. That would add a cumbersome new layer of enrollment processing, not unlike that which has made www.Healthcare.gov rollout so difficult. What's more, this mechanism could quickly be used to deny coverage to millions of middle-class Americans.
The Concord Coalition, a billionaire-backed lobbying organization, was one of the first groups to propose means-testing. They recommended that means-tested benefit cuts begin at a lifetime average earning level of only $20,000 per year. Even if these reductions are modest at first, they're unlikely to stay that way. Means-testing Medicare doesn't even make much sense. The program's costs are driven by the cost of medical care. But addressing that cost means confronting the large corporations who are increasingly dominating our country's medical delivery system, warping decisions about fees and treatment to maximize profits. Apparently it's easier just to take the money from the middle class.
Meanwhile, indiscriminate cuts to Medicare and Medicaid are likely to make it even more difficult for enrollees in these programs to find doctors and hospitals who will treat them. Yes, these program have long-term cost concerns. But they've done a much better job of managing both costs and medical inflation than private health insurance does. It makes no sense to impose draconian cuts in programs which are more efficient than their private-sector counterparts.
6.) Millennials are already getting a raw deal. This would make it worse. -- Today's high levels of Millennial unemployment isn't just hurting them today. Studies show that people who start their working-age careers with a period of unemployment will earn less throughout their entire working lifetimes. And lower lifetime earnings, in turn, lead to lower Social Security benefits.
What's more, many Millennials are saddled with excessive college debts. The financial website Nerdwallet estimates that these debts will force Millennials to work until they are 73 years old on average. We don't know whether that's true or not, although the methodology looks good, but we do know that they don't need to experience a Social Security benefit cut when they finally do reach retirement. The miserly policies of their elders have already damaged them enough.
7.) In a democracy, the people -- not corporations are billionaires -- are supposed to decide. -- Billionaires like Pete Peterson and Stanley Druckenmiller, on the other hand, have not paid their fair share in taxes. Nor have corporations like the ones whose CEOs are publicly supporting the Peterson-created Fix the Debt lobbying campaign. And yet Peterson, Druckenmiller and Wall Street CEOs like Jamie Dimon and Lloyd blank fine are insisting that Americans on Medicaid, along with our seniors and disabled people, bear the brunt of budget cuts so that they don't have to pay more in taxes.
Lobbyists and billionaires have all the political access they want. The only way the rest of us can be heard is through emails and calls to our representatives, and through petitions (like this one). These gestures are heard. Politicians want to be re-elected, and an massive show of opposition always gets their attention.
The American people overwhelmingly want these programs protected. These wealthy influence peddlers want them cut. The outcome of these negotiations will be an excellent test of our democratic processes: Do they respond to the people, or the privileged?
The Campaign for America's Future and Social Security Works are cosponsoring a campaign with Senator Bernie Sanders' Defending Social Security Caucus, the AFL-CIO, the Alliance for Retired Americans, the Center for Community Change, Credo Action, Daily Kos, DFA, MoveOn.Org, the National Organization for Women, the Other 98%, Progressives United and USAction.
The risk is real. The time is short. Both the Republicans and the Democrats are attacking Social Security and Medicare. The petition is here