The president deserves Republican support on one part of his budget

By Tom Quiner

The president’s budget is a disaster.

He raises taxes and he increases spending. However, Mr. Obama actually attempts to do something about Social Security by changing the way it is indexed to inflation. He proposes adopting a “chained CPI” index which would moderate automatic benefit increases for Social Security recipients.

Republicans have been begging for entitlement reform. Republicans know that if we don’t get entitlements under control, we have no chance of warding off a fiscal armageddon. The sequester cuts are a side show, pocket change so to speak, to the serious business of getting America’s finances secure.

Mr. Obama actually did SOMETHING that will help a little, and then a Republican takes his head off for it. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) — who is chairman of the House GOP’s re-election committee, launched this attack, suggesting this new indexing formula …

“… lays out a shocking attack on seniors. I’ll tell you when you’re going after seniors the way he’s already done on Obamacare, taken $700 billion out of Medicare to put into Obamacare and now coming back at seniors again, I think you’re crossing that line very quickly here in terms of denying access to seniors for health care in districts like mine certainly and around the country.”

Congressman Paul Ryan, the most respected fiscal analyst in the Congress, was more circumspect. He expressed an interest in studying the president’s plan in more detail, adding:

“I think the president should be commended for leaning into an issue that is not popular.”

I encourage Republicans to avoid politicking this issue.



  1. illero on April 12, 2013 at 6:42 am

    We may actually have a real difference of opinion on this one. The ability of current seniors to adapt to a lowered CPI index is typically explained by saying that seniors will be minimally affected because they can simply “trade down” in the marketplace – replace beef with chicken, replace branded green beans with house brands, etc.

    So explain this to me:

    Why is it OK for current recipients of SS to have to trade down, but not ALL Americans? Why not index all public employee salary increases to inflation MINUS 16% (the chained-CPI reduction that would have occurred for 2013)? Companies and governments across the country index their annual increases to inflation to one degree or another. Do you think that if the proposal/policy was made to reduce future salary increases for all Americans by 16% of the actual inflation rate, using the logic that Americans can simply “trade down”, Americans would respond favorably, or even neutrally?

    Why is “trading down” a good thing for current SS recipients, and not a good thing for everybody? Alternatively, every American could simply pay a small percentage more into the SS system to help achieve long-term viability, and simply “trade down” to make up for the extra SS withholding.

    We all already know the simple answer to protecting SS viability in the future – protect current seniors, remove (or greatly increase) caps on withholding, raise the qualifying ages for receiving SS (as was done 25 years ago), and/or look at means testing.

    Affecting incomes of current recipients of SS goes against everything that has been “promised” up to now.

    Convince me otherwise.

    • quinersdiner on April 12, 2013 at 7:02 am

      I agree on several points with you, especially on the idea of raising the age one can start drawing SS.

      Regarding Obama’s proposal, he has been so consistently irresponsible and unreasonable with the budget, that I don’t think it’s good for Republicans to demagogue the one part of his budget that actually does something constructive about entitlements.

      Going back to the Clinton years, Republicans and Democrats agreed with research that showed that the indexing formula overstated inflation for SS. They came within a hair of agreeing to the change before Clinton pulled an Obama, did an about face, and demogued the issue to death by saying, “I won’t let them take your social security away from you.” Had the compromise been made then, SS would be in much, much better shape today. Is Obama’s approach flawed? Yes. Is it better than nothing? Yes, much better. Thanks for weighing in with a compelling case for your position.

  2. jlmahan on April 12, 2013 at 8:12 am

    i enjoy your writings and agree with most of what you say. However, that said, I have always taken issue with so many people referring to Social Security as an entitlement. I believe that Social Security is a reward that workers set up for themselves. So that one day, when they’ve reached a certain stage in their lives, they get to retire. They’ve worked hard and a portion of their earning, throughout their working lives have been put aside for them to have a next to live in and off of during retirement. I don’t see that as an entitlement more of a savings that they paid into.

    All my life I’ve known that my grandparents and parents have looked forward to retiring. I look forward to retiring. I’ve paid into Social Security for nearly thirty years and I’ve even started other retirement accounts. I have a plan and my financial adviser laughs at me but lets me know how proud he is with my plan. His own words, “more people your age should be so loyal to themselves.”

    I don’t see myself as entitled to something that is already mine.

    • quinersdiner on April 12, 2013 at 9:57 am

      Well said. The concern with Social Security is that benefits have been over-promised and are not sustainable long term under the current trajectory. People live longer than when the system was established. When the system was put in place, we had 17 people paying into SS for every one person receiving benefits. Now it’s three, and soon will be two people paying in for every person receiving benefits. I just met with my financial planner looking at my retirement portfolio. Social Security is a key component. I agree with what you said, I earned it, because I have (and continue) to pay into the system. I want it to be there for my kids and my grandson. It will be if we make some adjustments now, which is why I’m supportive of Obama’s suggested course correction.

      • jlmahan on April 12, 2013 at 12:10 pm

        I see what you are saying and I do agree that changes need to be made. With the simple fact that there aren’t as many people working currently, there isn’t going to be as much put into the Social Security system. I understand the baby boomer era. My parents are baby boomers and have retired. Out of their three children, I believe that I’m the only one of us that has started any king of future planning over and above Social Security.

        Something that I don’t understand and perhaps you can shed some light on it for me, is why, how, and what was so important that the government felt the need to take from the Social Security system? They had to have known that in this time, a great amount of workers would be retiring and starting to draw THEIR funds that they’d paid into the system, out. Is there a large event in history that I’m not connecting to that withdraw?

        I understand that children, who loose a parent, draw from that parent’s paid contributions, and I understand that people are living longer. If the current collapse hadn’t happen, and we still had people paying into it like we did have, wouldn’t those that had lived longer, have worked longer and paid more into the system?

        • quinersdiner on April 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm

          Politicians gain votes when they increase benefits. They lose votes when they increase taxes. Congress over-promised social security benefits and underfunded the program. Social Security IS fixable with reasonable adjustments now. Medicare and Medicaid are different stories.