Several top-ranking Democrats — including Reps. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Steny Hoyer (Md.), James Clyburn (S.C.) and Xavier Becerra (Calif.) — questioned the wisdom of altering popular seniors benefits in the context of deficit reduction.The leadership, Hoyer, Clyburn, and Becerra, all reject the idea of dealing with Social Security in the context of a deficit. A rank and file member, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), highlights the political insanity of the proposal: "Seniors vote in even heavier numbers, proportionately, in off-year elections. So just looking at a political standpoint ... I would think that this would be a damning blow to our chances of taking back the House next year."
"I think there was general consensus that all of that discussion should be something for the table on which we preserve Social Security and not really part of this budget," Pelosi said following a meeting Democrats held with budget experts on the White House plan to reduce future Social Security benefits by adopting a new way of calculating inflation. [...]
Most of pushback from rank-and-file members, she said, stemmed from concerns that the Social Security cut appeared to be "subsidizing ... lesser priorities" rather than bolstering the program itself. That could have negative consequences on future efforts to strengthen the program, Pelosi lamented.
This reaction shows the way for Democrats to pivot away from cuts to the idea of bolstering the program, and for Obama to pivot away from this idea, already a political loser, to talking about what could actually sustain and strengthen Social Security and to help beneficiaries, starting with raising the payroll tax cap. It's becoming increasingly clear that the retirement crisis facing America is sure as hell not the deficit, and it's not Social Security insolvency. It's an increasing impoverished generation of older people for whom existing Social Security payments are barely adequate. In this economy, that's the conversation about Social Security we should be having.
This is a great opportunity for Democrats to seize that narrative, and start talking about what's really going to matter to older Americans in upcoming elections.