New York Times (NAT)
Efforts to Curb Social Spending Face Resistance
In failed deficit reduction talks last year, Mr. Obama signaled a willingness to consider substantial changes in the social safety net, including a gradual increase in the eligibility age for Medicare and limits in the growth rate of future Social Security benefits. An urgent question hanging over the new round of deficit talks is which of those changes Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats would accept today.
While a potential change in calculating Social Security increases was part of the talks with Speaker John A. Boehner last year, the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, made clear on Monday that the administration was not considering changes to the retirement program as part of the deficit talks. “We should address the drivers of the deficit, and Social Security is not currently a driver of the deficit,” Mr. Carney said.
Dick Durbin: Fiscal cliff now, entitlements later
“Progressives should be willing to talk about ways to ensure the long-term viability of Medicare and Medicaid but those conversations should not be part of a plan to avert the fiscal cliff,” Durbin says, according to excerpts provided by his office. The speech is taking place at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. The Illinois Democrat reiterates the view of many in his party that Social Security isn’t a driver of the nation’s deficit. And he insisted that current beneficiaries be protected from changes to any program. “Small changes in the short-term will pay dividends in the long-term as long as current beneficiaries are protected,” he says. “Meaningful reforms can protect the vulnerable and improve care and efficiency, leaving the programs stronger for future generations.”
Huffington Post (NAT)
AFL-CIO Pressures Lawmakers On Fiscal Cliff, Calls GOP 'Hostage Takers'
WASHINGTON -- The AFL-CIO federation of labor unions is ramping up its opposition to any budget deal that includes cuts to Social Security or Medicare by sending state delegations to Washington on Tuesday to lobby lawmakers on the issue. In the "fly-in lobby day," as it's been billed, the AFL-CIO's local leaders from 33 states will pressure their representatives to let the Bush tax cuts expire and to keep Social Security out of the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations. The delegations will meet with House and Senate members from both sides of the aisle, including Democrats who may be willing to cut a deal with Republicans over "entitlement" reforms.
Wall Street Journal (NAT)
'Cliff' Wranglers Weigh Medicare Age
The fiscal cliff has revived an old idea that long seemed unfeasible: gradually raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 from 65. Proponents of the idea point out that the health-overhaul law makes it easier, beginning in 2014, for seniors to buy private insurance, by banning insurance denials based on pre-existing conditions. Opponents caution that the change could raise premiums for younger people who buy private plans alongside these seniors in the law's new marketplaces, and on large employers who would be required to cover seniors in company plans.
Defense Spendings Cuts Are More Popular Than "Entitlement" Cuts
Defense spending reductions, meanwhile, are much less popular. There's a non-trivial bloc of congressional Democrats who favors major reductions, but that's not a stance embraced by party leadership or recent presidential candidates. But as a recent Economist/YouGov poll confirms—key result replicated above—public opinion is pretty different. An overwhelming 71 percent of the population says it favors spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit, but cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are all unpopular. Defense cuts, by contrast, poll pretty well. The modern-day version of the guns or butter choice is guns or grandma's hospital bills, and the public clearly prefers grandma's hospital bills.
Taylor Marsh (blog)
Goldman Sachs Bailout King Blankfein to Powwow with House Republicans, While Obama Rules Out Social Security For Now
What Blankfein and his 1% club really also want to avert is the lifting of the Social Security income cap, which would cost him and his friends millions of dollars, while extending the already financially viable federal entitlement program decades. This is another effort by the same Wall Street fat cats who sunk our economy in the first place to try and push the grand bargain, while sticking it to the working class. It’s up to you to contact Congress to make sure they listen to you, not the elite 1% class who don’t rely on the social safety net like the middle class do. The American right, proving yet again they don’t understand the working class, agrees with Blankfien on raising the age for Social Security, because of “the longer lifespans Americans are enjoying,” even though this doesn’t apply to the working poor.
Herald Net (WA)
How to kill Social Security with a smile
So here's the work-around: It makes no sense, writes conservative Ross Douthat, "to finance our retirement system with a tax that ... imposes particular burdens on small business and the working class." How liberal sounding. How sneaky. Start paying for Social Security out of general revenues and reduce benefits for the wealthy, and what do you have? You have welfare. You know what happens to welfare. Douthat breaks from liberal sweet-talk and gets down to basics. He urges Republicans to regard the payroll tax as "an obstacle -- originally created by their political enemies! -- to any restraint in what the program spends." Actually, the law forbids Social Security to take a single penny from general revenues. I can't think of a better spending restraint than that. But the payroll tax is definitely a political restraint on plans to steal the trust fund.
How some CEOs are trying to make a killing off the fiscal cliff
An analysis from the Institute for Policy Studies' (IPS) released earlier this month shows that CEOs will reap huge personal moolah if a fiscal cliff campaign some of them are undertaking is successful. According to the report, the Fix the Debt campaign "has raised $60 million and recruited more than 80 CEOs." The paper highlights three elements of the campaign's agenda: repatriation of foreign profits tax free, maintenance of the Bush tax cuts, and offsets through reductions to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits.
The IPS report explains why CEOs could be personally interested in the campaign's proposal to rob citizen Peter to pay CEO Paul. Jon Romano, a spokesperson for Fix the Debt, did not respond to requests for comment.
Kaiser Family Foundation
The News Media and “Entitlement Reform”
In the coming debate about the deficit, policymakers will struggle to craft a package of spending reductions and new revenues that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on, totaling as much as four trillion dollars over ten years. Medicare, Medicaid and potentially the Affordable Care Act will have their turn on the operating table as policymakers look for savings. It is unclear what reductions in Medicare and Medicaid spending policymakers will be able to agree on but whatever they do they will call it “entitlement reform”. Like calling a new tax a revenue enhancement, calling spending cuts and program changes “reforms”, and even better “entitlement reforms”, makes them sound more palatable and forward thinking. News organizations should resist mimicking labels like “entitlement reform” although understandably, policymakers and advocates will use them. …
The Fiscal Times (NAT)
Will Safety Nets Entangle a Cliff Deal?
President Obama showed a willingness to consider changes to Social Security in failed deficit talks last year with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, but the White House said the retirement program should be off the table this time around.
“We should address the drivers of the deficit, and Social Security is not currently a driver of the deficit,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
Republicans have repeatedly insisted that—in exchange for accepting tax hikes—Democrats must curb spending on entitlements. White House officials and some Democrats say they are willing to make cuts from Medicare by trimming payments to drug companies, hospitals and other health care providers, ruling out structural changes that would increase costs for typical beneficiaries. - Read more at The New York
The Fiscal Cliff is a Lie
Only the rich win in a grand bargain on taxes and entitlements. We can afford Social Security, and should expand it
Top Obama Aide On Fiscal Cliff: “This Is Going To Get Hairy”
“What we also want to do is engage in a process of tax reform that would ultimately produce lower rates, even potentially for the wealthiest," he said, referring to benefits from corporate tax reform.
Plouffe added that while the White House wants to engage in comprehensive tax reform, they know they must also "carefully" address the "chief drivers of our deficit": Medicare and Medicaid.
LA Times (NAT)
White House not yet ready to declare a 'fiscal cliff' impasse
WASHINGTON -- Aides to President Obama say it's way too early to declare an "impasse" in the talks to avert the fiscal cliff, a word that cropped up Monday on Capitol Hill. “We remain confident we can achieve an agreement,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. “We remain hopeful and optimistic we can reach a deal.” Despite that insistent optimism, administration officials began to roll out a backup strategy – a public campaign that could pressure Republicans to deal and paint them as the villains if they don't. Early in the day, the White House Council of Economic Advisors released a report projecting that, if Congress fails to act and middle-income taxes rise, consumer spending growth could decline by 1.7 percentage points.
Christian Post (NAT)
Democrats Won't Consider Social Security Changes in Fiscal Cliff Deal
Congressional Democrats are saying that they are not willing to consider changes in Social Security in a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff," even though the Simpson-Bowles commission charged with coming up with a plan insists that Social Security can't be ignored. Sen. Dick Durbin (R-Ill.) argued on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that Social Security needs only a few small tweaks and no major reforms to ensure the long-term solvency of the program. "Social Security does not add one penny to the deficit," he said. "Not a penny. It's a separate funded operation, and we can do things that I believe we should now, smaller things, played out over the long term that gives it solvency."
Wall Street Journal (NAT)
Republicans and the Tax Pledge
If Republicans in Congress want to repudiate the pledge, they are free to do so at any time. They could even quote Edmund Burke's line that a democratic representative owes his electors his best judgment, not a slavish fealty to majority opinion. But that would mean saying they didn't mean it when they signed the pledge. So they are now busy pretending that Mr. Norquist is a modern Merlin who conned them into signing the pledge and must be eliminated before they can do the "right thing" and raise taxes. The fact is that Republicans and Mr. Norquist both face a new political reality on taxes. President Obama's re-election means that taxes for upper-income earners are going up one way or another. The Bush rates expire on December 31 unless Mr. Obama signs an extension, and he shows no inclination to do so except for anyone earning less than $250,000 a year ($200,000 if you're single). The question is how Republicans should handle this reality while staying true to their principles and doing the least harm to the economy.
Washington Post (NAT)
Will the fiscal cliff break Grover Norquist’s hold on Republicans?
Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge has been a sacred and unchallenged keystone of the Republican platform for more than two decades, playing a central role in almost every budget battle in Congress since 1986. But Norquist and his pledge, signed by 95 percent of congressional Republicans, are now in danger of becoming Washington relics as more and more defectors inch toward accepting tax increases to avert the “fiscal cliff.” On Monday, Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) became the latest in a handful of prominent Republican lawmakers to take to the airwaves in recent days and say they are willing to break their pledge to oppose all tax increases. “I’m not obligated on the pledge,” Corker told CBS’s Charlie Rose. “I made Tennesseans aware, I was just elected, the only thing I’m honoring is the oath I take when I serve when I’m sworn in this January.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also suggested Monday that Norquist’s anti-tax pledge would not dictate the GOP’s strategy on the fiscal cliff, raising questions across Washington about whether Norquist’s ironclad hold on the Republican Party has loosened.
Bloomberg BusinessWeek (NAT)
White House Opens Door to Chamber on Fiscal Cliff Talks
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce shouts “JOBS” with two-story-tall block letters strung on its building facing the White House. Until today, that was the closest the business trade association got to President Barack Obama’s talks on skirting the fiscal cliff, a $607 billion combination of automatic spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to take effect in January. Thomas J. Donohue, president of the chamber, met this afternoon with White House aides, said Sally-Shannon Birkel, a spokeswoman for the chamber.
The invitation to talk came after Donohue said his organization had been shut out of Obama’s fiscal cliff discussions. “We have not been contacted by the White House,” Donohue told reporters at a press conference Nov. 13. Birkel said in an e-mail that today’s meeting, which included Jack Lew, Obama’s chief of staff, “is part of the ongoing dialogue on the fiscal cliff.” In addition to Donohue, White House aides are meeting today with Business Roundtable president John Engler, said William C. Miller Jr., the Washington-based group’s senior vice president. The chamber, having pledged to spend at least $50 million on political advertising backing Republican candidates who opposed Obama, has largely been a bystander in the debate over Washington’s most critical post-election issue. It is being supplanted by other business groups such as Fix the Debt and the Partnership for New York City.