Don't get fooled again
One corporate-funded think-tank, Third Way, has gone so far as to release polling where they whispered the answers they sought from participants. Funny then, that their results don't line up with numerous surveys nationally and in swing states that show roughly nine in 10 respondents don't want their Social Security or Medicare cut in any way. Alex Lawson, Executive Director of Social Security Works, recently tried to explain this to Third Way spokes-babbler Jim Kessler, during something meant to be a "debate".
ABC News (NAT)
Roundtable I: Fiscal Cliff Fallout
Rep. Tom Cole, Rep. Keith Ellison, Dan Senor, Steven Rattner, Cokie Robert
New York Times (NAT)
The Big Budget Mumble
Start with raising the Medicare age. This is, as I’ve argued in the past, a terrible policy idea. But even aside from that, it’s just not a big money saver, largely because 65- and 66-year-olds have much lower health costs than the average Medicare recipient. When the Congressional Budget Office analyzed the likely fiscal effects of a rise in the eligibility age, it found that it would save only $113 billion over the next decade and have little effect on the longer-run trajectory of Medicare costs.
LA Times (NAT)
Cut Medicare and Social Security? What's the rush?
Consider the prevailing assumptions about the future of Social Security and Medicare. One is that Social Security's trust fund will run dry in 2033, at which point the money coming in from payroll taxes will be enough to cover only about 75% of currently scheduled benefits. Will this happen? It might, but it might not: The program's trustees, who are the source of the projection, don't bet the farm on it. They also project that under certain conditions of economic and employment growth — all of them perfectly plausible — it might never run dry. You don't hear much about that projection because it doesn't fit into the narrative that Social Security is "going broke."
Social security’s most media-friendly foe
That latter goal is particularly important to these folks because they rightly see a privatized Social Security as a profit machine for the financial industry. That’s almost certainly why, as CNN reports, Wall Street–coddling Republicans are “insisting that Social Security reforms be part of” the “fiscal cliff” negotiations. This, despite the indisputable facts (acknowledged even by Ronald Reagan) that Social Security has almost nothing to do with the national deficit or debt. That’s where MacGuineas comes in. With burn-the-village-to-save-it talking points, she and her paymasters are pretending that they want Social Security to be part of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations in order to strengthen the program for the long haul. But a look at MacGuineas’ long record shows a wily operative primarily devoted to one goal: severely cutting benefits.
Social Security Is Contributing to the Budget Deficit In the Same Way as Peter Peterson
For some reason media fact checkers get especially irate by political figures when they make the entirely true claim that Social Security does not contribute to the budget deficit (e.g. here and here). The Post's Glenn Kessler gives a comparatively thoughtful comment in his Post column, but still comes down on the side of the adds to the deficit folks. The bottom line for Kessler is that Social Security is using interest on the government bonds it holds to pay for benefits. This is true, but lots of people use interest on government bonds to pay for things. For example, if Peter Peterson used $5 million in interest on government bonds he held to finance the start up of his Campaign to Fix the Debt would it be accurate to say that he had contributed to the deficit? I suspect that most of the facto checkers would say that it is not.
New York Magazine (NAT)
McConnell Makes Obama a Very Strange Offer
Let’s go through McConnell’s list. The biggest item, changing the cost-of-living index for Social Security, is already in Obama’s plan. Cutting Medicare for the affluent would save a trivial sum — like $20 billion over a decade, a pure rounding error. I’m sure Obama would be happy to give the Republicans that one. Raising the Medicare retirement age from 65 to 67 is mildly tricky. Many liberals oppose it — ideally, we’d like everybody to be on Medicare. But remember, those 65- and 66-year-olds who won’t be able to get Medicare will either keep getting insurance through their job or through Obamacare. That actually makes the higher retirement age a nice insurance policy against repeal — repealing Obamacare would then leave those 65- and 66-year-olds without any insurance at all. So I think that’s a doable request as well.
But add all this up, and you’ve got around $300 billion in savings over a decade. That’s less than Obama is offering.
Baltimore Sun (NAT)
Fiscal cliff deal must protect Medicare, Social Security
The way some people talk in Washington, you could get the idea that Social Security and Medicare are little more than numbers in a budget. Yet for families in Maryland and all over America, Social Security and Medicare have a deeper meaning: They are the very foundation of security in retirement. Social Security and Medicare enable millions of older Americans to survive financially each month, after years of working hard and paying taxes to earn these protections. One day, younger people will count on these same pillars of security for their own independence and dignity in old age.
Wall Street Journal (NAT)
An Entitlement Reform Guide
Social Security. The consensus in Washington is that the retirement program ought to be decoupled from the fiscal negotiation and fixed so that it is sustainable by itself for the next 75 years. Fine, but this still means slowing the growth of benefits and making Social Security a supplement to private saving, not a substitute.
Progressive Change Committee
The Daily Change: ‘Fix The Debt’ Campaign Has ‘No Position’ On Ending Bush Tax Cuts For The Wealthy
The “Fix The Debt” campaign, backed by tens of millions of dollars from corporate CEOs, is pushing an aggressive campaign to cut Social Security benefits while lowering the corporate tax rate. It claims that it is bipartisan and that it represents all Americans, not just the wealthy elite. But Fix The Debt’s carefully crafted messaging fell apart over the weekend, as it quietly conceded that it won’t even take a position on one of the most popular ideas for deficit reduction: ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. In a statement to The National Journal, the organization wrote, “The Campaign to Fix the Debt does not have a position on raising tax rates.”
Washington Post (NAT)
Why sane bargaining looks strange
E.J. Dionne Jr
This has several implications. First, why was anyone surprised that Obama’s initial offer to the Republicans was a compendium of what he’d actually prefer? We became so accustomed to Obama’s earlier habit of making preemptive concessions that the very idea he’d negotiate in a perfectly normal way amazed much of Washington. Rule No. 1 is that you shouldn’t start bargaining by giving stuff away when the other side has not even made concrete demands.
New York Times (NAT)
Republicans Would Rather Laugh Than Bargain
Republicans reportedly laughed when they saw the Obama administration’s initial offer in the fiscal negotiations yesterday. The idea that President Obama might actually want to enact his campaign promises – tax hikes on the rich, modest Medicare cuts, investments in infrastructure – is apparently considered a joke to the party that has shown virtually no flexibility in the last four years. But some of that laughter may contain nervousness, because there is more going on here than just a pathway to splitting the difference. The White House made clear yesterday that it is approaching these talks from a position of responsibility, and that it actually takes seriously the notion of old-fashioned bargaining. That’s something Republicans have refused to do — and now they realize they’ve been called out.
Washington Post (NAT)
No, Dems don't need to compromise up front
The basic problem for Republicans here is that Democrats don't have to offer big concessions up front. This is true because of basic common sense -- if Republicans say no deal is possible without "serious" spending cuts, they need to tell us what spending cuts they consider "serious," or the talks can't go anywhere. (It's striking that some pundits are ignoring this basic reality and playing along with GOP claims.) But it's also true because of the uniqueness of this set of negotiations -- specifically, if we do nothing, Democrats will get their way. All the tax cuts will expire, and Dems can come back and push a new tax cut just for the middle class -- a circumstance that will only increase the Dems' leverage further.
UPDATE 3-US's Geithner predicts Republicans will yield on taxes
Aruna Viswanatha and Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner pushed Republicans on Sunday to offer specific ideas to cut the deficit, and predicted that they would agree to raise tax rates on the rich to obtain a year-end deal and avoid possible economic doom. But the top U.S. Republican, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner, stood firm and renewed his stand against increased tax rates, leaving talks at a stalemate.
Talking Points Memo (NAT)
Rep. Cole: Republicans Don’t Need To Put Forward A Plan
"I don't think we need to put a formal proposal out on the table," Cole said on ABC's "This Week." "Speaker [John Boehner] has already said revenue is on the table. He has got an idea about how to get there in terms of not raises rates, but finding it in other ways through tax code reform. I think that makes a lot of sense, and that's a doable thing, but beyond that, you know, we'll wait and see how the negotiations go."
Huffington Post (NAT)
The Big Debt Driver: Rising Health Care Costs, Not Medicare
As both our national debt and health care costs continue to swell, America's CEOs and other "influentials" have targeted Medicare as a key culprit and insist that Congress cut Medicare spending in the current deficit discussions. In truth, we do not have a "Medicare problem" in this country; we have a big problem with rising health care costs. To rein in escalating deficits over the long-term, Congress must address the lack of competition in the health care marketplace, which is driving up overall health care costs, including Medicare's. If we are to control health care spending, we need to restructure the private health care market to bring down prices. Cutting Medicare spending, without addressing this systemic issue, will simply shift the burden of rising health care costs to vulnerable older adults and people with disabilities. It is not a long-term solution for either Medicare or the deficit.