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Obama as American Hamlet: Will Social Security cuts rub seniors, Dems wrong way?

With President Obama's next budget due in March, the growing speculation is whether he'll continue to include about $250 billion in cuts to Social Security, as many deficit hawks and virtually every Republican wants him to do, or not include them as many Senate and House Democrats are advising him to do this election year, because they believe boosting the 78-year old program is a winning issue for them.

Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Oh) (L) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) ask questions during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Social Security for seniors and private retirement accounts.
Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Oh) (L) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) ask questions during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Social Security for seniors and private retirement accounts.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
To cut or not to cut Social Security, that's the question ... and the rub for seniors and Democrats who want it protected and increased, not abandoned and cut.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The White House isn't the drafty old Elsinore Castle of Shakespeare lore, but the president is being cast as an American Hamlet as Washington wonders if "to cut Social Security or not to cut Social Security" is really the rub.

The rub for the White House is, after four years of agonizing tectonic plate grinding with Republicans over spending of any kind, especially social safety net spending, why should the president continue to believe the illusion of a grand bargain with GOP leadership can be reached, now that's he told them he's going to use his executive powers instead of going through Congress, and they have told him they don't trust or respect him?

But for America's seniors, the ones who most rely on Social Security benefits, both protecting it from those whose goal is to topple it and increasing it to keep pace with inflation for those lucky enough to live long enough to take advantage of the saving they've done all their working life are real litmus tests for the White House.

There is no stronger defender of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid today in the U.S. Senate than Ohio senior Senator Sherrod Brown. In a recent article by The Hill called "Obama faces budget dilemma," there was plenty of back-and-forth about tactics and perceptions, but the last sentence should have been the first sentence and the focus of the article.

Sen. Brown solved Obama's dilemma by stating the obvious: there are other ways to reduce the deficit that don’t cut entitlements.

"This is unacceptable. There are commonsense ways we can reduce the deficit that do not demand sacrifice from the most vulnerable Americans," said Sen. Brown, a Democrat from the biggest battleground state of all who won a second term in 2012 following arguably one of the most expensive and fiercest political races in modern history.

An ally of Sen. Brown on protecting Social Security is Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent, of Vermont. "We want the president to make very clear that he is going to stand with seniors, that he is going to stand with disabled vets," Sanders said, The Hill reported. "Good politics follows from good policy. When you have a middle class that is struggling it is bad public policy to cut programs that people desperately need. That is just wrong."

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), a leading national voice on the issue, announced in early February that it has launched the Boost Social Security Now education campaign to inform and mobilize its membership, grassroots networks and on-line communities to convince Congress that now is the time to boost benefits, not cut them.

President Obama should know that public support for expanding Social Security is growing, not shrinking. Toward that end, NCPSSM expanded its focus on Social Security in 2012 with the release of a proposal to modernize benefits that included caregiver credits, shifting the annual cost of living adjustment formula to one designed for elderly consumers and improving the basic benefit of all current and future beneficiaries. Other Senate allies of Brown and Sanders include Senators Elizabeth Warren, Tom Harkin and Bernie Sanders, and Representatives Linda Sanchez and Gwen Moore.

"For years, Washington’s fiscal debate has been co-opted by the billion dollar austerity lobby and its single-minded quest to cut middle-class benefits in Social Security and Medicare to reduce the deficit," said Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO.

Watch Max Richtman on 60 Seconds Ohio

Richtman, who was in Columbus, Ohio a few months back to talk to seniors with Sen. Brown in attendance, said the anti-Social Security mission ignores the cold hard economic realities facing millions of retirees, the disabled, widows and children.

"That’s why the National Committee, on behalf of its millions of members and supporters nationwide, is saying enough is enough. Now is the time to boost Social Security benefits, not cut them. It’s the right thing to do for our economy and America’s middle-class families and this is the right time to do it."

Richtman's group has endorsed nine different pieces of legislation that would enhance Social Security, including S. 567 and HR 3118, which when fully phased in would boost benefits by approximately $70 per month, and adopt the more accurate consumer price index for the elderly (CPI-E).

What appears to be a commonsense solution that increase and strengthen Social Security finances in a fiscally responsible way—lifting the payroll tax cap——is also one of the least talked about solutions by mainstream media.

For 46 percent of America’s retirees today, Social Security’s average monthly benefit of just $1,269 represents 90 percent of their total income. Lifting 58 million Americans of all ages out of poverty is what Social Security does now. For future generations, especially the Recession Generation which faces income loss, diminished net worth, and high unemployment during their vital income earning years, all of which ultimately impacts their retirement, Social Security will be even more important.

Richtman's group, The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that strives for better-informed citizens and voters, wants Americans of all ages to understand the positive economic impact Social Security has on the economy.

To understand why Sens. Brown and Sanders say cutting $250 billion out of the program would do great harm, as Republicans argue President Obama must do to avoid yet more criticism from them, if that's even possible, consider this fact: American families spend $775 billion in Social Security benefits nationwide each year. Without this spending, local businesses and state economies would be poorer.

Obama's dilemma? For Sens. Brown and Sanders and other voices, like NCPSS, there is no dilemma. Congress should increase Social Security benefits now to protect the economic security of millions of American families.

The news article Obama as American Hamlet: Will Social Security cuts rub seniors, Dems wrong way? appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.

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