President Obama in his proposed budget posited cuts to Social Security cost-of-living increases as a way to get Republicans to go along with higher taxes on the wealthy. It’s a strategy that’s likely doomed to fail, and if it doesn’t, it will tarnish his legacy as a Democratic president.
Most people start contributing to the Social Security fund as teenagers, and rightly expect to start getting that money back when they’re in their 60s. Neither the president nor Congress should be tinkering with benefit formulas that would result in less income for many people who already are living on the edge of the poverty line.
The White House may say the president was merely laying down a card in his high-stakes budget game with the GOP, and that the card still could be picked up and tucked away. But the damage has been done: Obama is violating a promise he made when running for president in 2008 and is proposing to shrink the deficit on the backs of senior citizens.
Beginning in 2015, according to the president’s plan, Social Security recipients, military retirees and civilian federal retirees would get smaller benefit increases each year. The proposal would reduce average annual cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, by 0.3 percentage points. This year, the COLA was a mere 1.7 percent. Under the new measure, it would have been about 1.4 percent.
In a 2008 speech to the AARP, Obama, reacting to John McCain’s suggestion that Social Security cost-of-living adjustments might have to be reduced, vowed that he would never do that.
The president’s budget planners must have been thinking it was open season on older people, as the document also proposes $305 billion in cuts to Medicare over the next decade. Medicare is the over-65 health-insurance program run by the federal government. With so many baby boomers reaching that age each year, those cuts will be devastating.