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Democrats Draw Hard Line Against Obama’s Social Security Plan

By David Yonkman, Washington Correspondent   |   Friday, 05 Apr 2013 02:54 PM

President Barack Obama’s proposal to change the calculation for Social Security cost of living increases is drawing hard criticism from Democrats, while Republicans are equally engaged in knocking his plan to raise more tax revenues.

Reaction was strong Friday when the White House confirmed that Obama’s annual budget request scheduled for release Wednesday would include a new inflation gauge for the Consumer Price Index that would effectively reduce future benefit increases for Social Security recipients.

“Democrats invented Social Security and have been protecting it for almost 80 years. They should be leading the charge against," former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote in The Huffington Post.

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Reich, a noted economist, insisted the rate of growth in Social Security payments is already stingy, and that the program is flush for at least another two decades.

Nobel Prize-winning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman piled on Obama as well, arguing for an increase instead of a cut in the rate of growth in Social Security benefits.

“The shift from defined-benefit pensions to defined contribution, the rise of the 401(k), has been a bust, and many older Americans will soon find themselves in dire straits,” Krugman wrote Friday. “SS is the last defined-benefit pension still standing — thank you Nancy Pelosi for standing up to Bush — and should be strengthened, not weakened.”

Krugman’s mention of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was a reference to her fight several years back with former President George W. Bush and Republicans who wanted to privatize the Social Security program, leaving it vulnerable to the ups and downs of the stock market. It was a strong position, he seemed to suggest, that made Obama look weak in the face of current GOP calls for entitlement reforms.

Sen. Bernie Sanders also weighed in, accusing Obama of going back on his word to the American people with his so-called “chained Consumer Price Index” plan that would result in lower benefit payments.

“In 2008, candidate Barack Obama told the American people that he would not cut Social Security,” said the Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats. “Having him go back on his word will only add to the rampant political cynicism that our country is experiencing today.”

Obama’s budget request, to be delivered more than two months later than usual this year, stands little chance of becoming law despite his Social Security proposal, which some Republicans seem to suggest was too little, too late. But the White House said it could help set the stage for a broader debt reduction package if Republicans are willing “to do more on revenues.”

House Speaker John Boehner quickly rejected that suggestion, complaining the president has consistently pushed for tax hikes but has done little to solve the nation's spending problem.

“The president and I were not able to reach an agreement late last year because his offers never lived up to his rhetoric,” Boehner said in a statement. “Despite talk about so-called balance, the president’s last offer was significantly skewed in favor of higher taxes and included only modest entitlement savings.”

“The president got his tax hikes on the wealthy with no corresponding spending cuts,” Boehner said. “At some point we need to solve our spending problem.”

The fiscally conservative Club for Growth also dismissed Obama’s budget proposal, saying it was “not a serious document.”

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Andy Roth, the group’s vice president for government affairs, told Newsmax that Washington needs a more ambitious plan to tackle the country’s $16 trillion debt and $1.1 trillion annual deficit.

“It’s basically what we expected, just more tax increases and no solutions to balance the budget,” Roth said.

But he did credit the president for taking a leadership role for the first time in challenging House and Senate Democrats to address entitlement reforms. Still, Roth said the president's Social Security inflation adjustment would not be enough to help resolve the large government spending issue.

“This is small-potatoes stuff that he’s bickering with his colleagues about,” he said.

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President Barack Obama’s proposal to change the calculation for Social Security cost of living increases draws hard criticism from Democrats, while Republicans knock his plan to raise more tax revenues.

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