Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Threat, Challenge, Or Something

In a speech to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans on Monday, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka issued a challenge for individuals who try, as it's called, to "reform entitlements." The Huffington Post reports

"No politician … I don’t care the political party … will get away with cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits. Don’t try it...

"This warning goes double for Democrats," he said. "We will never forget. We will never forgive. And we will never stop working to end your career."

As House and Senate negotiators work over the next couple of months to reconcile the budgets the two chambers  have proposed, we may find out whether the labor organization is bluffing.  If not, it may well be taking on major figures in the Democratic Party.

Based on pessimistic economic projections, the Congressional Budget office and the Social Security Trustees expect Social Security benefits to be reduced in 20-25 years to 78% of current levels.  But that didn't stop Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin from repeating on Fox News Sunday the lie fast becoming a classic: "because Social Security is going to run out of money in 20 years. I want to fix it now, before we reach that cliff."

Only slightly less dishonestly, he continued

Medicare may run out of money in 10 years, let's fix it now. And that means addressing the skyrocketing cost of health care. That's what ObamaCare is focused on, and yet, the Republicans want nothing to do with it.

If we don't focus on the health care and dealing with the entitlements, the baby boom generation is going to blow away our future. We don't want to see that happen. We want to make sure that Social Security and Medicare are solid.

Earned benefits, maligned as "entitlements" (which people interpret as  "things others believe they have a right to just because they're breathing") by conservatives, neo-liberals, and the media establishment, is the politically correct way of referring to Social Security, Medicare, and (sometimes) Medicaid.  Though Social Security is distinct and separate from the budget and Medicare is not "going to blow away our future," Dick Durbin is one of only many claiming he wants to cut Social Security benefits so Social Security benefits don't end.

One of the GOP's Senate's conferees, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, has

said he hopes both sides set "sensible and realistic" goals. He laid out three of his aims Tuesday:

Preserving the savings included in a 2011 deal and carried out in the automatic spending cuts known as the "sequester;" allowing new flexibility for those cuts, which have worried both Republicans (because of the impact on defense) and Democrats (because of the impact on domestic programs) (and) shifting some of the cuts to the Government's big "mandatory spending" programs, such as social security, medicare, and medicaid.

"That's something that we absolutely ought to be able to find some common ground on," he said, saying President Obama has proposed changes to those programs in the past.

And so he has, most recently claiming "The challenges we have right now are not short-term deficits; it’s the long-term obligations that we have around things like Medicare and Social Security.  We want to make sure those are there for future generations."

Curbing Medicare and Social Security benefits are critical to debt reduction, the President suggested, immediately after he noted "remember, the deficit is getting smaller, not bigger.  It’s going down faster than it has in the last 50 years." And so with the deficit heading downward, incomes flat, much of the elderly dependent on Medicare for their health and Social Security for their survival, earned benefits must be cut so that the deficit is reduced.  Makes sense in ObamaWorld, apparently.

The President and his allies, including Dick Durbin, really do want to cut entitlements in because of the deficit, though it is cruel to the poor and the elderly, and is an inefficient way to reduce the debt burden.  But Republicans, masters at exploding the deficit when a Repub holds the White House, seek to undermine Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in order to undermine the programs. With the GOP's goal, and the leader of the Free World and allies anxious to alter the debt curve in ways which won't offend Republicans, Richard Trumka has his work cut out for him.

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