Now that the White House and GOP budgets are out it?s time for both sides to start explaining them. The White House team has been on Capitol Hill testifying before Congress. This is our favorite bit of testimony so far, between Sen. Bernie Sanders and OMB Director, Jack Lew, on the role Social Security plays (or doesn?t as the case may be) in our national debt. Go Bernie?House Ways and Means Committee Democrats came out swinging against the GOP budget provisions for Social Security. Their news release said:
?The 2011 budget plan presented this week by the House Republican Majority strips $1.7 billion away from the Social Security Administration (SSA) for the remainder of the year, a cut so drastic that SSA would need to impose the equivalent of a month of furloughs. The entire agency would have to shut down all operations for 20 working days. The phones would not be answered, field offices would be closed, and claims processing would halt. Over half a million new retirees, disabled workers and survivors would be forced into a backlog before they could receive the benefits they earned.?
And then, just in case you missed the full White House News conference yesterday, here are a few of President Obama’s Social Security comments. We clearly have work ahead of us:
THE PRESIDENT: Now, you talked about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The truth is Social Security is not the huge contributor to the deficit that the other two entitlements are.I’m confident we can get Social Security done in the same way that Ronald Reagan and Tip O?Neill were able to get it done, by parties coming together, making some modest adjustments. I think we can avoid slashing benefits, and I think we can make it stable and stronger for not only this generation but for the next generation.Medicare and Medicaid are huge problems because health care costs are rising even as the population is getting older. And so what I’ve said is that I’m prepared to work with Democrats and Republicans to start dealing with that in a serious way. We made a down payment on that with health care reform last year. That’s part of what health care reform was about. The projected deficits are going to be about $250 billion lower over the next 10 years than they otherwise would have been because of health care reform, and they?ll be a trillion dollars lower than they otherwise would have been if we hadn?t done health care reform for the following decade.But we’re still going to have to do more. So what I’ve said is that if you look at the history of how these deals get done, typically it?s not because there?s an Obama plan out there; it?s because Democrats and Republicans are both committed to tackling this issue in a serious way.THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re going to be in discussions over the next several months. I mean this is going to be a negotiation process. And the key thing that I think the American people want to see is that all sides are serious about it and all sides are willing to give a little bit, and that there?s a genuine spirit of compromise as opposed to people being interested in scoring political points.Now, we did that in December during the lame duck on the tax cut issue. Both sides had to give. And there were folks in my party who were not happy, and there were folks in the Republican Party who were not happy. And my suspicion is, is that we?re going to be able to do the same thing if we have that same attitude with respect to entitlements.But the thing I want to emphasize is nobody is more mindful than me that entitlements are going to be a key part of this issue — as is tax reform. I want to simplify rates. And I want to, at the same time, make sure that we have the same amount of money coming in as going out.Those are big, tough negotiations, and I suspect that there?s going to be a lot of ups and downs in the months to come before we finally get to that solution. But just as a lot of people were skeptical about us being able to deal with the tax cuts that we did in December but we ended up getting it done, I?m confident that we can get this done as well.THE PRESIDENT:Well, the fiscal commission put out a framework. I agree with much of the framework; I disagree with some of the framework. It is true that it got 11 votes, and that was a positive sign. What’s also true is, for example, is, is that the chairman of the House Republican budgeteers didn?t sign on. He?s got a little bit of juice when it comes to trying to get an eventual budget done, so he?s got concerns. So I?m going to have to have a conversation with him, what would he like to see happen.I?m going to have to have a conversation with those Democrats who didn?t vote for it. There are some issues in there that as a matter of principle I don’t agree with, where I think they didn?t go far enough or they went too far. So this is going to be a process in which each side, both in — in both chambers of Congress go back and forth and start trying to whittle their differences down until we arrive at something that has an actual change of passage.And that’s my goal. I mean, my goal here is to actually solve the problem. It?s not to get a good headline on the first day. My goal is, is that a year from now or two years from now, people look back and say, you know what, we actually started making progress on this issue.THE PRESIDENT: This is a matter of everybody having a serious conversation about where we want to go, and then ultimately getting in that boat at the same time so it doesn?t tip over. And I think that can happen.THE PRESIDENT:And all of us agree that we have to cut spending, and all of us agree that we have to get our deficits under control and our debt under control. And all of us agree that part of it has to be entitlements.But, look, I was glad to see yesterday Republican leaders say, how come you didn?t talk about entitlements? I think that?s progress, because what we had been hearing made it sound as if we just slashed deeper on education or other provisions in domestic spending that somehow that alone was going to solve the problem. So I welcomed — I think it was significant progress that there is an interest on all sides on those issues.
Actually, most Americans don?t agree “entitlements” should be a part of this deficit conversation.