President Obama will call for the U.S. to reduce its record budget deficits during tonight's State of the Union, The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery reports, but he won't endorse his deficit commission's recommendation to raise the retirement age and reduce Social Security benefits to combat the rising national debt.
explains that Democratic lawmakers support Obama's reticence because of
Social Security's popularity and because they don't want the President
to propose "painful" and politically risky policies until it's clear
that Democrats can work with Republicans on raising taxes and cutting
spending. Republican Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan--who's
proposed substantial cuts to, and partial privatization of, Social Security and Medicare to help balance the federal budget--will deliver the GOP response to Obama's speech tonight, but it's
unclear whether he'll address the hot-button issue of entitlements.
How are others responding?
- Obama's Putting Politics Over Good Policy, says Allahpundit at Hot Air: "Remember, this is the guy who once famously said that he'd rather be a really good one-term president
than a mediocre two-termer. Putting the country back on a fiscal
footing that's even remotely sustainable would abundantly qualify as
'really good,' but hey--his approval rating is trending upwards
and there's a campaign right around the corner and, darn it, why should
he be expected to lead on this issue when it's the Republicans who want
to cut cut cut?"
- President Should Lead, states
A.B. Stoddard at The Hill. "Nonpartisan budget analysts who believe the
president must lead on deficit reduction are growing doubtful that a
grand bargain is possible, she says. Instead of reacting to House Republicans, Obama
"should signal tonight that he has his own tough and detailed plan."
- We Shouldn't Attack Social Security, argues
Bob Herbert at The New York Times. Social Security has substantially
reduced poverty among the elderly, Herbert says, but "in a period of
deficit hysteria ... this crucial retirement program is being
dishonestly lumped together with Medicare as an entitlement program
that is driving federal deficits." The real deficit drivers, he adds, are
"the obscene Bush tax cuts for the rich, the wars in Afghanistan and
Iraq that have never been paid for and the Great Recession." We need to reform Social Security's long-term financing, Herbert
concedes, but "mugging the nation’s grandparents by depriving them of
some of their modest, hard-earned Social Security retirement benefits
is hardly an answer to the nation's ills."
- Obama Should Defend It, agrees
Nancy Altman at The Huffington Post: "The very ideals that President
Obama expressed so eloquently during the campaign are the values that
underlie Social Security--that we each have individual but also
shared responsibility, that we are all subject to life's vicissitudes,
that we are all part of one national community. He should once again
proudly say so Tuesday night."
- How Will the Government Operate by 2020? asks
CNN's Jeanne Sahadi. The U.S., she explains, currently spend about 76
cents of every federal tax dollar on Medicare, Medicaid, Social
Security and interest on its $14 trillion debt, leaving 24 cents of
revenue to fund the rest of the federal government's activities. But
the Government Accountability Office estimates that if the country
doesn't get serious about tackling its mounting debt, the government,
by 2020, could be spending 92 cents of every tax dollar on Medicare,
Medicaid, Social Security and interest, with a mere 8 cents left over
for everything else. Sahadi includes a helpful graphic to support her analysis.