One of our members asked us the other day…"Since when did cutting benefits for seniors living at or near the poverty level become the test of leadership in Washington?” Good question.   The truth is, this campaign to cut America’s safety net has been generations in the making and has far more to do with political ideology than our current economic mess.  As Paul Ryan says:
"This isn't a budget. This is a cause."
But will it be President Obama’s cause too?  Media reports say the President will now endorse the recommendations made by Fiscal Commission Co-Chairmen, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson in a speech tomorrow.  The Commission Chairmen’s recommendations (issued when it was the clear they couldn’t get the votes for a full Commission report) proposes deep benefit cuts in programs, like Social Security and Medicare. Under this proposal, middle class Americans and seniors will pay the price of Washington’s newfound zeal for deficit reduction.  We talked to the Associated Press about our concerns:
“But now that Obama plans to propose his own changes in health care entitlements or Social Security, some of his own supporters are wary. They argue that the president ceded too much ground when he cut a tax deal with Republicans last December and in yielding spending cuts last week. "I want to have confidence, but I've got to see something," said Barbara Kennelly, a former Democratic congresswoman and president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, an advocacy group. "They can't continue to give in." Many liberals say Obama has not been a strong bargainer. "Their weakness in getting the most out of negotiations is their strategic belief that they don't want to be seen as fighting, they want to appear above the fray and beyond partisanship," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the labor-leaning Economic Policy Institute. "They also believe that they shouldn't get out there on a position where they may not succeed. These are characteristics that make for a weak negotiator."
It’s important that everyone understands what the Bowles/Simpson plan proposes for millions of American Seniors. Here is our analysis of the Commission’s Social Security and Medicare provisions. It’s clear that too many in Washington see Social Security and Medicare primarily as numbers on a balance sheet because “that’s where they money is.”  Cut benefits, raise the retirement age, reduce or eliminate the COLA, means test…these are the tools these budget cutters will use to repair the economic damage caused by years of borrow and spend policies that have absolutely nothing to do with Social Security. Contrary to all this rhetoric…balancing the budget on the backs of seniors is not fiscal responsibility and it’s certainly not political leadership. We will be watching the President closely tomorrow to see if he agrees.