Left Furious With Obama For Backing Social Security Cuts

The White House
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Liberals are mounting strong criticisms of President Obama amid news that his budget will include a Social Security benefit cut — an official endorsement of a policy compromise he’s offered Republicans for years — and warning Democrats not to dare vote to cut the cherished retirement program.

A trio of progressive advocacy groups issued scathing statements Friday in response to reports that Obama’s proposal will include a policy called “Chained CPI,” which would re-index Social Security cost of living increases to a lower rate of inflation — a benefit cut the president has included in deficit offers to Republicans since 2011.“President Obama’s plan to cut Social Security would harm seniors who worked hard all their lives,” said MoveOn.org’s executive director Anna Galland. “That’s unconscionable. It’s even more outrageous given that Republicans in Congress aren’t even asking for this Social Security cut. This time, the drive to cut Social Security is being led by President Obama and Democrats.”

Stephanie Taylor of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee accused Obama of “proposing to steal thousands of dollars from grandparents and veterans” and threatened to subject any Democrat who votes for a Social Security benefit cut to a primary challenge.

“You can’t call yourself a Democrat and support Social Security benefit cuts,” Taylor said in a statement. “The President has no mandate to cut these benefits, and progressives will do everything possible to stop him.”

Jim Dean, the chair of Democracy For America, called the reports a “profoundly disturbing shot across the bow for the progressives who called their neighbors, spent weekends knocking doors and donated millions to reelect [President Obama].”

Obama’s decision to include Chained CPI in his budget, which is expected to be unveiled April 10, reflects his latest effort to entice Republicans into a grand budget deal that stabilizes the national debt at a level where it’s growing more slowly than the economy. Republicans have demanded Obama support significant entitlement cuts but have refrained from proposing such policies themselves. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) responded Friday that Obama shouldn’t hold entitlement cuts “hostage” to tax increases, but Obama has steadfastly insisted that such cuts must be accompanied by higher taxes on the wealthy, to spread the burden of deficit reduction more evenly. Part of the administration’s calculus is that backing these cuts will illustrate Obama’s willingness to compromise and bring the GOP’s obstinacy to light.

Not surprisingly, Social Security advocates aren’t on board with the president’s approach.

“Social Security is too important to the economic security of the American people to be used as a bargaining chip,” said Nancy Altman, who leads the advocacy group Social Security Works.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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