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The cadre of Democrats fighting to keep Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid out of the mix in the lame-duck fiscal cliff artifice fight appears to be gaining in strength.
WASHINGTON — President Obama’s re-election and Democratic gains in Congress were supposed to make it easier for the party to strike a deal with Republicans to resolve the year-end fiscal crisis by providing new leverage. But they could also make it harder as empowered Democrats, including some elected on liberal platforms, resist significant changes in entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Two staunch liberals, Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa and John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, said in a letter to Mr. Obama that he should “reject changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that would cut benefits, shift costs to states, alter the structure of these critical programs, or force vulnerable populations to bear the burden of deficit reduction.”

More than 40 House members, led by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, declare in a resolution that any deal on taxes and spending “should not cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits.”

The greatest indication that they're gaining steam comes from Sen. Dick Durbin, not known as a reliable ally in the fight to prevent benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare, who is signaling in a speech on Tuesday what might be growing consensus among Democrats to leave entitlements off the table in the fiscal cliff curb talks.
“Progressives should be willing to talk about ways to ensure the long-term viability of Medicare and Medicaid but those conversations should not be part of a plan to avert the fiscal cliff,” Durbin says, according to excerpts provided by his office.

The Illinois Democrat reiterates the view of many in his party that Social Security isn’t a driver of the nation’s deficit. And he insisted that current beneficiaries be protected from changes to any program.

For Durbin, one of a handful of Democrats on the Simpson/Bowles Catfood Commission to support the report of the chairs, that's encouraging movement—he's arguing against a grand bargain being shoehorned into this lame-duck debt and deficit fight. Considering Durbin's close relationship with President Obama, this is even more reassuring, at least for the short term. But winning this short-term battle against austerity would be the first step in winning the war.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 08:45 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Need to do something about Steny and the Bluedogs (21+ / 0-)

    (what few remain).

    He's the most powerful of the lot and responsible for the Telecom Immunity Bullcr*p.

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    —Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 08:53:41 AM PST

  •  who'd a thunk it ever/shrunk, for kossake? (4+ / 0-)

    consider these terms: ocean rise, weather re-patterning, storm pathology, drout famine, acceptance of nature

    by renzo capetti on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 08:58:14 AM PST

  •  If they overcome the stupidity of the Warners (28+ / 0-)

    It's a good thing there wasn't a rock near my TV yesterday when I heard Warner say we can raise Medicare eligibility age because people are living longer.  

    HELLO!!! Clueless wonder!  If people are living longer maybe it is because they have HEALTHCARE for chronic conditions and cancers that would otherwise kill them in their 60's.  

    But hey I guess you Blue Dogs can cure the Social Security problem.  Just kill them off young by taking away Medicare and then they will not live longer for sure.

    There seems to be an amazing correlation between how obscenely rich you are and your zeal to cut Medicare.

    •  Life expectancy for some Americans has FALLEN (8+ / 0-)

      From the September 12, New York Times

      For generations of Americans, it was a given that children would live longer than their parents. But there is now mounting evidence that this enduring trend has reversed itself for the country’s least-educated whites, an increasingly troubled group whose life expectancy has fallen by four years since 1990.

      Researchers have long documented that the most educated Americans were making the biggest gains in life expectancy, but now they say mortality data show that life spans for some of the least educated Americans are actually contracting. Four studies in recent years identified modest declines, but a new one that looks separately at Americans lacking a high school diploma found disturbingly sharp drops in life expectancy for whites in this group. Experts not involved in the new research said its findings were persuasive.


      The steepest declines were for white women without a high school diploma, who lost five years of life between 1990 and 2008, said S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the lead investigator on the study, published last month in Health Affairs. By 2008, life expectancy for black women without a high school diploma had surpassed that of white women of the same education level, the study found.

      White men lacking a high school diploma lost three years of life. Life expectancy for both blacks and Hispanics of the same education level rose, the data showed. But blacks over all do not live as long as whites, while Hispanics live longer than both whites and blacks.

      The authors attribute much of the decline to high percentages of young women without health insurance and the rise in unmarried women giving birth.

      “Social Security has nothing to do with balancing a budget or erasing or lowering the deficit.” -- Ronald Reagan, 1984 debate with Walter Mondale

      by RJDixon74135 on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:34:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  He is confusing two measures. (8+ / 0-)

      Life expectancy at birth is longer than in the 1930s.  But the actuarially-relevant measure is life expectancy at 65. That has risen among higher-income people but has started falling for low-income women. The rise in life expectancy was taken into account by the Greenspan Commission the last time that the plutocrats got their hands on Social Security.

  •  Thanks for staying on top of this fiscal madness (10+ / 0-)

    "Lets show the rascals what Citizens United really means."

    by smiley7 on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 09:10:52 AM PST

  •  This appears to be encouraging news. Unnecesssary (34+ / 0-)

    and misguided compromise on Social Security, Medicare, and social spending would be a strategic blunder that will do great harm to the Democratic Party, and any politician who commits such a betrayal to the middle class, working class, and poor now that we've drawn such clear battle lines and won an election on these themes.

    Not only would such a betrayal anger voters, but also enrage many of the considerable number of the more progressive of the Democratic activists, such as myself, who have put aside many past "disappointments," and pulled all the stops to reelect no only President Obama, and more and better Democrats, but even some of the "not-so-much-better" Democrats in a degree of party "re-unification" that I've rarely seen in my lifetime.

    To fracture and betray this re-united coalition will be extra shameful, in this case, because it will not be necessary.

    In the worst case, other than betrayal, we can let the Bush tax extensions, and payroll tax cuts expire, then proposes an even larger middle class tax cut to make up for both, then see how many days Republican hold-outs can resist the outpouring of sentiment, enhanced by the daily media cycle of the bully pulpit and Democrats egging them on, when the default position is now a several thousand dollar a year return of taxes to previous rates.

    In negotiation theory, one should always know ones "best alternative to a negotiated agreement, aka BATNA, and in this case we have the winning hand.  But, we may need urgent education and awareness raising for many Democratic and Republican politicians who "appear" to misunderstand the situation and the stakes, and may be inclined to false courage under the misimpression that it is Lincoln-like transcendence of partisan politics for the "good of the nation."  It will not be.

    The unmentioned elephant in the room is an almost doubling of total defense spending for three off book wars that should be ending financially, not just in terms of troop commitments.  We've been spending near $100 billion/year each for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the "war of terrorism" such as putting dubious "fusion centers" in every state.  The Republican plan here all along as been to trade such increases in defense spending for social spending and it not only a bad investment financially, but also bad for our true national security which, in the long term, is directly contingent on a health economy, and healthy, well educated, highly morale citizens who believe in the legitimacy of their own government.

    My understanding from a comment last night is that we continue to spend over $80 billion a year in Iraq after troop withdrawals. In terms of economic stimulus those expenditures have much higher "multiplier effects" spent in the U.S. on social programs and infrastructure development at home than wasted overseas.

    Politicians who mistakenly betray our middle class by cutting social spending rather than defense spending will be judged harshly by history. The Patriotic thing to do is to balance budgets in ways that support American's first.

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 09:22:59 AM PST

    •  those "off the book wars" (10+ / 0-)

      now that they've been put on the books, the republicans think that's the normal defense budget. Who knew, making the budget process honest would have this cost.

    •  Thank you thank you (5+ / 0-)
      The unmentioned elephant in the room is an almost doubling of total defense spending for three off book wars that should be ending financially, not just in terms of troop commitments.
      I recommend one educate oneself to this by examining the Wikipedia link on recipients of foreign aid, broken out by total dollars.    Play with it: very interesting.

      Wikipedia: United States foreign aid

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:05:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I made it into a pie chart (12+ / 0-)


        I pulled out the Israel slice in addition to the Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq slices.   Could have added Egypt, perhaps, as well.

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:14:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks lgmcp. Folks should also read the (6+ / 0-)

        wikipedia entry on total defense spending and be aware of how it differs from base defense spending.  Between the two of them we can easily take $100 to 200 billion a year out over the long-term.

        The danger of doing it all at once would be the negative impact of drastically reduced impact of government spending opposite of the Keynesian stimulus we need adding to what should be our bigger concerns - the austerity bomb, and direct increases to unemployment.

        This could be wisely offset by alternative more effective stimulus of our domestic economy with expanded "investment" in upgrading our infrastructure, including concepts of a"smarter electric grid," as well as nuts and bolts construction spending on improving roads and bridges during a transition period, until natural economic growth enables us to gracefully transition back to more historic averages in terms of defense spending.

        But to make it really vivid and simple, ask yourself which spending do you think has higher "multiplier effects" for our domestic economy? Investments in infrastructure that has real productive values and labor hired domestically, or tanks, bombs, and foreign bribes and other spending done with foreign labor, and components produced overseas?   This is a no-brainer folks - bring our troops home and getting them working on productive domestic investment.

        Notice also, virtually every dollar going to Medicare, and Social Security is spend immediately in the U.S on something that has real economic value to Americans, and requires business investment in the US to deliver.  Military spending leaks in other places and is largely "consumption" expenditures that have produces little additional real "security value" given the already saturated "diminishing returns to factor."  Some might argue these "returns" are now in a  negative region, leading to less real security. But, without getting into arcane economic debate, most will agree military spending has lower economic multipliers than domestic spending.

        The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

        by HoundDog on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:39:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Defense, Big Pharma, and existing cuts (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HoundDog, MBramble, lgmcp

          That gets us almost to the $3T in "cuts' advocated by the "Grand Bargain".

          As you say, winding down the wars and some low-hanging Pentagon fruit can save at least $1T over 10 years.

          I do not know how much money is saved if Medicare was allowed to negotiate best price with Big Pharma, but that has got to be a major chunk towards $1T over 10 years.

          Add in existing cuts which as Cedwyn often points out, are part of the equation. That puts us over $2T, even at teh low end of your estimated Pentagon savings.

          A lower deficit means lower interest projections over 10  years.

          Back of the invisible envelope calculations, we are at about $2.5T of the $3T overall, and all we've done is eliminate a Big Pharma corporate giveaway, ended wars we do not like, and trimmed the bloated Pentagon.

          that leaves us with about $50B/year cut from a $2.3T annual budget or about 2%. I think we can achieve that without the world coming to an end.

          There's a lot of panic about over these negotiations. People are cowed by the big numbers. I know you get it, HoundDog. People listen to you.

          •  Thanks for reminding me of allowing Medicare to (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MBramble, lgmcp, jfdunphy, Quicklund

            negotiate with the big pharmaceutical companies quicklund, I forgot about that one.

            And, you stimulate another idea for our negotiating posture that might produce dramatic results.  Right now the GOP is creating a media narrative consisting mostly, of how much equivalently  "reasonable compromise?" will Democrats make, if Republicans "compromise" on taxes -- which of course is not a compromise as this will happen automatically.

            But, as soon as we start putting defense spending cuts and a willingness to put the ability of Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on the table as examples of our willingness to pursue spending cuts, how long to do you think it will take before the GOP decides to put this whole self-created mess behind us with simpler solutions.  Right now its like a game of shooting Democrats like fish in a barrel.

            The fish need to start shooting back.

            Which reminds me yesterday someone wrote a post suggesting that if we but buy-in to Medicare on the table as one of the ACA insurance options we could save large numbers of billions of dollars.

            While we are at it why don't we think about pardoning about 500,000 to 800,000 people in jail for non-violent drug offenses at $50,000 per person/year. This might  save $25 to $40 billions in addition to be the right thing to do.

            Let's have a serious examination of all the potential saving and I think we will see that cutting social spending like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, government pension, (with chained CPI), and education shouldn't even be on the table.  

            The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

            by HoundDog on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 11:56:46 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sensors indicate this is the general idea (0+ / 0-)
              Let's have a serious examination of all the potential saving and I think we will see that cutting social spending like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, government pension, (with chained CPI), and education shouldn't even be on the table.  
              Well, yes and no. As discussed, allowing prescription negotiation would be a "cut" to the safety net, but not a cut to the beneficiaries. I do feel the Democrat's goal here is to raise taxes and cuts spending, but to do so in way that protect beneficiaries.

              Obviously the nation's prisons will not expel hundreds of thousands of people during the lame duck session. But that example is a good one to show why Democrats should not fear all spending reductions just because Republicans like them. (Speaking generally, not implying anything towards you.)

              On the marijuana issues specifically, the wind is clearly blowing in the right direction. It will probably take another election cycle in 2014 and a few more Washingtons, but right now it looks like basic economic considerations are pushing marijuana laws towards teh dustbin.

              Well, just to wrap up, I think the Democrats are telling us they understand the basic goals here. Pressuring them on the goal of protecting beneficiaries is good and actually helps them. Any 'grand bargain' deal will be imperfect, of course. But I think we are in position to score an overall win.

  •  Troubling that it wasn't already widespread (6+ / 0-)

    and intransigent.

  •  Uh oh, trap door: (26+ / 0-)
    The Illinois Democrat reiterates the view of many in his party that Social Security isn’t a driver of the nation’s deficit. And he insisted that current beneficiaries be protected from changes to any program.
    Screw the idea that future recipients can get choused out the program's full and consistent continuation.  Modest changes in the income cap and we're good to go.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 09:47:42 AM PST

    •  exactly (18+ / 0-)

      all of you under 55, forget you paid for these programs for nearly 40 working years.  

      Forget that your retirement age was already raised to 67 nearly 30 years ago by that other transformative President the current President so admires.

      •  My birthday is 7/24/1957 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Can you tell me just how screwed I am?  Please be gentle.


      •  I'm Not Understanding Why.... (7+ / 0-)

        These programs are called "Entitlements." Social Security and Medicaid have been "Line Item Deductions" on every pay stub I have ever received since when I reached age 14 in 1970 when I first started working on a farm....

        These funds were taken from my pay with the implicit understanding that should I become disabled or, reach age 65 and retire that the benefit would be there for me...

        Lets start calling this "Calling of Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid, Entitlements" exactly what it truly is... Fraud!

        If they want the right to call them "Entitilements" then simply refund everything I have paid into those "Entitlements" with interest...

        I've paid into these "Entitlement Programs" for 43 years already and Good Lord Willing will continue paying in to them for at least 11 years....

        I intend to collect the benefit I have paid for!

        "Do you realize the responsibility I carry? I'm the only person standing between Richard Nixon and the White House." ~John F. Kennedy~

        by Oldestsonofasailor on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:33:02 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Someone at FDL suggests calling them (9+ / 0-)

          "earned benefits" instead.  I like that!

        •  You've got hold of this by the wrong end, IMO. (4+ / 0-)

          The connotation that "entitlement" equal "stuff for mooching free-loaders" is 100% ass-backwards.  

          They are called "entitlements" precisely BECAUSE you are, in fact, legitimately  entitled, authorized, and morally justified, in receiving them.   You ARE entitled, because they are YOURS.  

          There is a small hitch in that the medicare and medicaid premiums you individually have paid in, are likely quite a bit smaller than the actual cost of the care you may likely consume.  That is NOT the case with respect to social security, where most people (except the disabled or exceptionally long-lived)  get out more or less just what they put in.

          "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

          by lgmcp on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:43:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Different take on the terms (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            lgmcp, Oldestsonofasailor

            Until recent retirement, I worked in private non-profit social service for a number of years (in Oregon), and in that coalition, and even including state Dept. of Human Services staff, "entitlements" referred to programs that you qualified for by income level, like SNAP (food stamps), TANF (welfare), LIEAP (heating assistance) and the like.

            The term 'entitlements' has been hijacked, no doubt by Frank Luntz...

            "We will find fulfillment not in the goods that we have, but in the good we can do for each other." ~ RFK

            by paz3 on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 11:36:31 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Entitlements? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          aliasalias, Oldestsonofasailor

          I'm not certain when 'entitlement creep' began, but the Repubs are working it as a term of faint derision.

          Write the White House, your senators and representative right NOW and state unequivocally that those deductions on your paycheck for SS and Medicare are not for ENTITLEMENTS, they are earned benefits!

          Pardon the shouting...  :-)

          "We will find fulfillment not in the goods that we have, but in the good we can do for each other." ~ RFK

          by paz3 on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 11:28:56 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Defaulting on Commitments (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lgmcp, Oldestsonofasailor

          I've even heard people like Jerry Brown say the government has to default on its commitments on Social Security and Medicare.  Imagine if the US said it was going to default on its bonds.  We just won't pay you for those Treasuries.  How would that go?  But they feel they can just flat out screw the people on Social Security and Medicare.  Well, bad things happen to countries when the people no longer trust their government.  If Democrats want to teach people how to think like Republican libertarians just start defaulting on these commitments.

    •  It sounds like Durbin needs to hear from a lot (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      more people.  What is Durbin's actual income?  I'll bet it's pretty darn high.  If he  got $1000 less or so each year in retirement income in the future, he wouldn't even notice it. That's not so for middle-income and lower-income people.  

  •  Yawn, let me knwo when Obama goes on record (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    420 forever

    he's the only guy who matters.

  •  "View of Many" That SS Doesn't Drive Deficit?? (26+ / 0-)

    How about "the legal fact" that it doesn't?

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 09:50:49 AM PST

  •  Uh oh.. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kovie, blueoasis, maryabein, TJ, slinkerwink

    I remember how tough the Progressive Caucus was during the healthcare fight.

    "Wet paper bag" and "unable to fight one's way out of" come to mind...

    When extra-terrestrial beings make their first appearance on our planet, and ask for representatives of our species to best exemplify humanity, I'm sending a nurse, a librarian, and a firefighter.

    by Wayward Son on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 09:52:01 AM PST

  •  They are not 'entitlement cuts' (6+ / 0-)

    These are social programs that we invested money in together as a society. Cutting taxpayers funded social programs is what we are talking about, and for no other reason than to make the wealthy richer.

    Please stop using inappropriate framing.

    "Political ends as sad remains will die." - YES 'And You and I' ; -8.88, -9.54

    by US Blues on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 09:53:01 AM PST

    •  And to keep the military "stronger" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      US Blues


      "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." A. Einstein

      by bewert on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:00:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Precisely .... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      US Blues

      and yet the CEOs got to "borrow without repaying" from the company pensions to which the workers contributed.  The GOP just salivates over all the money there to be looted.  OH, for the lock box that Gore suggested.  

      "Life without liberty is like a body without spirit. Liberty without thought is like a disturbed spirit." Kahlil Gibran, 'The Vision'

      by CorinaR on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:44:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What ever happened to the Peace Dividend? (8+ / 0-)

    The big cuts to the Pentagon we were promised after the Cold War ended, never happened.

    Now the DC beltway is filled with brand new mansions that were largely built with the largess of no-bid, defense contracts.

    If we are looking for fat to cut, it lives in the suburbs of Virginia and Maryland.

    "Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed." -- Vaclav Havel

    by greendem on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 09:54:25 AM PST

    •  Thank GHWB for that (0+ / 0-)

      He used the "peace dividend" to bail out the Savings and Loan industry.

    •  Sure is was (0+ / 0-)

      Go visit Fort Ord if you don't believe it.

      The "Peace Dividend" was squandered instead of being used to pay down the national debit. All Hail Reaganomics. Both parties gleefully pitched in at the feeding trough.

      Now admittedly when I look at the Quicklund 1990 model I see a unit vastly under-experienced in politics. But all I remember was politician after politicians asking, "what will we spend the peace dividend on?" To which my TV heard me reply, "Nothing! Pay off the damn debt."

      Of course back then it was a terrifying $4T or so. But just think if Reaganomics had ended when the USSR fell. The mind boggles.

  •  Throw the table out while you're at it, Dems (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's a stupid table and we need a new one.

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 09:55:06 AM PST

  •  Can we please stop (10+ / 0-)

    Using the right wing framing of "entitlements" as if they're some freebie we don't deserve?  These are earned benefits; I've been paying into Social Security and Medicare since I was 14.

  •  Who will be the first politician to point out (5+ / 0-)

    that one of the solutions to any impending Medicare or Medicaid crisis is to rein in inflation in health care costs?  Medical inflation far outstrips other inflation.  Fix this problem before cutting any benefits.

    The electoral college was my safety school.

    by Fiddler On A Hot Tin Roof on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 09:56:37 AM PST

  •  Plouffe yesterday about entitlements, tough things (10+ / 0-)

    From Buzzfeed, during discussion at University of Deleware yesterday:

    "The only way that gets done is for Republicans again to step back and get mercilessly criticized by Grover Norquist and the Right, and it means that Democrats are going to have to do some tough things on spending and entitlements that means that they'll criticized on by their left," Plouffe said at his alma mater in conversation with former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt.
    We need to keep reminding them why they were re-elected.

    "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." A. Einstein

    by bewert on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 09:58:29 AM PST

  •  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wordfiddler, bewert, Neon Mama, LSophia

    Democrats should be open to discussion of changes to the benefit side only AFTER the cap on income subject to payroll tax has been removed and both earned and unearned income are counted as income.

    "The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little. " --Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by jg6544 on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 09:59:24 AM PST

  •  Any cuts to earned benefits must be (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tb mare, Boris49, LSophia, aliasalias

    tied to equal or greater cuts to congressional health benefits.

    The electoral college was my safety school.

    by Fiddler On A Hot Tin Roof on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:00:29 AM PST

    •  So many Congressmen have so much wealth (0+ / 0-)

      that it wouldn't matter to them.

      BTW, I heard Chris Van Hollen on News Nation today, and he sounded a lot better than David Plouffe yesterday.  I called his office to tell them I liked what he said and that he should stick to his guns.

  •  Ed Schultz Dissed Plouffe Being Open To Cuts (7+ / 0-)

    Have to keep the pressure up on these guys. Mitigating factor is Plouffe management of two winning campaigns of course. But when governing can we go with the popular will and support earned benefits and raising taxes on the rich? Or are we still trying to win over the minority who didn't vote for you 2 elections in a row,

  •  Don't get the champagne out quite yet. (7+ / 0-)
    “I listened to voices from the left, and many of them say, ‘Don’t touch any of the entitlement programs,’ ” Durbin told MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" on Tuesday. “I don’t think that’s a responsible approach.”

    The second-ranking Democratic senator said he wanted to preserve Medicare and Medicaid as programs, but that it was important to find a way to reduce increasing healthcare costs through entitlement reforms.

    •  i will never forget this piece by Glenn Greenwald (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TJ, mkor7, NoMoJoe, Eric Blair, aliasalias

      during the public option/reconciliation fight February 2010;

      This is what the Democratic Party does; it’s who they are.  They’re willing to feign support for anything their voters want just as long as there’s no chance that they can pass it.  They won control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections by pretending they wanted to compel an end to the Iraq War and Bush surveillance and interrogation abuses because they knew they would not actually do so; and indeed, once they were given the majority, the Democratic-controlled Congress continued to fund the war without conditions, to legalize Bush’s eavesdropping program, and to do nothing to stop Bush’s habeas and interrogation abuses (“Gosh, what can we do?  We just don’t have 60 votes).

      The primary tactic in this game is Villain Rotation.  They always have a handful of Democratic Senators announce that they will be the ones to deviate this time from the ostensible party position and impede success, but the designated Villain constantly shifts, so the Party itself can claim it supports these measures while an always-changing handful of their members invariably prevent it.  One minute, it’s Jay Rockefeller as the Prime Villain leading the way in protecting Bush surveillance programs and demanding telecom immunity; the next minute, it’s Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer joining hands and “breaking with their party” to ensure Michael Mukasey’s confirmation as Attorney General; then it’s Big Bad Joe Lieberman single-handedly blocking Medicare expansion; then it’s Blanche Lincoln and Jim Webb joining with Lindsey Graham to support the de-funding of civilian trials for Terrorists; and now that they can’t blame Lieberman or Ben Nelson any longer on health care (since they don’t need 60 votes), Jay Rockefeller voluntarily returns to the Villain Role, stepping up to put an end to the pretend-movement among Senate Democrats to enact the public option via reconciliation.

      A standing army is like a standing member. It's an excellent assurance of domestic tranquility, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure. Elbridge Gerry - Constitutional Convention (1787)

      by No Exit on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:31:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Preserve them "as programs" (0+ / 0-)

      That is the kind of weasel spin that drives me over the edge.  I would rather hear a true believing Tea Party wingnut tell me that he doesn't believe in the programs at all than have a LYING BETRAYING weasel with a "D" after his name try to trick me with spin words so I won't know I've been screwed till after the deal has been cut behind locked doors in the dead of night.

  •  Social Security is not (9+ / 0-)

    an "entitlement". It is  deferred earnings.

    Besides, if something is an entitlement, doesn't that mean we are entitled to have access to it?

    These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people... -Abraham Lincoln

    by HugoDog on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:02:58 AM PST

  •  Stop calling them "Entitlements" (Please) (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rlochow, LSophia

    I prefer earned benefit, or social insurance, myself.

  •  I have an honest question. Why shouldn't people (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MiserableOldFart, LSophia

    making a lot pay more. From today's NY Times

    Individuals with incomes over $85,000 a year ($170,000 for couples) already pay higher premiums for Medicare coverage of doctors’ services. For beneficiaries with incomes over $214,000 ($428,000 for couples), the monthly premium is more than $300 per person, about three times the standard premium.

    Mr. Obama wants to increase premiums for high-income people and increase the number of beneficiaries who must pay higher premiums based on income.

    Why not? Honestly, this makes sense to me.

    "Say little, do much" (Pirkei Avot 1:15)

    by hester on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:09:15 AM PST

    •  If you raise the premiums to (4+ / 0-)

      the point that the wealthier leave Medicare,it weakens the program and makes it more like welfare. Further,since so few retirees are in the highest tiers,then you have to redefine who is rich enough to tax to get any significant revenue.
      Threading the needle.
      Personally,I think this could be done. But not with this current congress.
      Why not start by allowing Medicare-D to negotiate drug prices like the VA does? Enormous savings.

      "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

      by tardis10 on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:21:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Democratic resistance growing? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rlochow, sreeizzle2012

    Goddamned well better be. AND STOP CALLING THEM "ENTITLEMENTS."  They are no such thing.

    •  Actually, it's exactly what they are. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mkor7, HCKAD

      They are social benefits to which we are ENTITLED, exactly because we have PAID INTO THEM ALL OUR LIVES, with OUR OWN MONEY.  That's what an "entitlement" IS.  Look it up.  

      The Republicans' (and, I'm afraid, society's) Newspeak changeover of the word into a negative is a different issue.  That may make it unwise to use the word now.  But it's still the right word.  

  •  Medicare cost savings (0+ / 0-)

    I do think we need more cost savings in Medicare.  That isn't the same thing as cuts, though.  For example, a public option would save money.

    Even though these put-off-to-the-future-but-put-in-a-timebomb bills are generally idiotic, I wouldn't completely mind something for Medicare.  I could see putting in cost savings targets and authorizing the executive branch to do what it needs to do the meet those targets.  After several years, automatic cuts could kick in if the targets aren't met.  That seems reasonable.

  •  my daughter-in-law works I durbin's... (0+ / 0-)

    d.c. office.
    i get my first social security check next month.
    co-incidence? i think not.

    United we bargain. Divided we beg.

    by mellowjohn on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:12:39 AM PST

  •  when "facts" become partisan "views" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rlochow, a2nite, mkor7
    The Illinois Democrat reiterates the view of many in his party that Social Security isn’t a driver of the nation’s deficit. And he insisted that current beneficiaries be protected from changes to any program.

    no man is completely worthless, he can always be used as a bad example.

    by srfRantz on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:13:07 AM PST

  •  Approval Rating Will Go Down If Open To Cuts (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sreeizzle2012, rlochow, LSophia

    And it will be because the left is pissed off. Following the popular will to resist cuts is good policy. Will not be the first time the leaders of the party snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  •  Can we stop saying "Entitlements" and substitute (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Earned Benefits"? If that phrase could become the standard on dKos, maybe it could actually begin to influence the national dialog...

    We all understand that freedom isn't free. What Romney and Ryan don't understand is that neither is opportunity. We have to invest in it.
    Julian Castro, DNC 4 Sept 2012

    by pixxer on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:18:52 AM PST

  •  Can we call it the "fiscal wheel-chair ramp"? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Just sayin.

    "There were questions that Governor Romney wanted to address to make sure people understood that he's not a felon" - Ed Gillespie (Romney supporter)

    by itswhatson on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:24:44 AM PST

  •  Entitlements My Ass (0+ / 0-)

    If social security and medicare are "entitlements"why was money being deducted from my paycheck every week???  ENOUGH WITH THE ENTITLEMENT BULLSHIT ALREADY!!!!!

  •  I don't trust Durbin and his statements are (5+ / 0-)

    ambiguous enough to be easily parsed later.

    This, however, is a clearer statement of intent:

    Two staunch liberals, Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa and John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, said in a letter to Mr. Obama that he should “reject changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that would cut benefits, shift costs to states, alter the structure of these critical programs, or force vulnerable populations to bear the burden of deficit reduction
    Much has been made of saving social securty and the other programs, yet when it has been discussed in more detail, it sounds more like the infamous "losing some freedoms to protect our freedoms" of the Bush years.

    I suspect that Medicare is being targeted to take the greatest hits, but if so, that will be a calamity to all by relatively affluent retirees.

    Any but the most minor adjustments to any of the programs will be a major hit to many and I fear an anti-Democrat backlash from the people even though we know that Republican programs and policies would be much worse.

  •  Durbin is a jackass (0+ / 0-)

    He spent a lot of energy trying to offer entitlement cuts to his corporate overlords. Now that he realizes it's a losing battle, he gets to pose as the savior of SS. What a douche.

    “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

    by 420 forever on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:28:11 AM PST

  •  What we need (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Is a Grover Impisst type pledge from  every Democrat in office

    The Job Killing Republican Party is directly responsible for the Great Bush Recession.

    by earthling1 on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:30:59 AM PST

  •  The deficit is a federal-funds deficit. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mkor7, Eric Blair, aliasalias

    Actually, it's good to have a deficit when the economy is this shaky.
    But the long-term problem isn't the medicare and SS funds. Those are filled by their own taxes, and by law they can't draw on anything else. What the Republicans are asking is to keep using the SS payroll taxes to fund the subsidies to energy companies forever.

    To fix the deficit long term:
    1) Restore progressivism to the Individual Income Tax.
    2) Tax all income at the same rate -- dividends and capital gains and muni interest included.
    3) Get the Corporate Income Tax fixed so that it represents something like the % of federal goveernment income that it did in 1965.

    This would push the deficit too low for current economic conditions. So:
    1) Pass through some money temporarilly to states and municipalities to fund local services. Do that once with a schedule for the subsidy to diminish and disappear over a six-year period.
    2) Fund infra-stricture repair until the current backload of jobs to be done vanishes.
    3) Subsidize public colleges, JR colleges, and universities on condition that they freeze tuition and other charges to their 2010 levels or below.

    To fix the SS system, long-term, not part of the other problem:
    1) Remove the income cap on SS taxes.
    2) Put new federal hires under SS, and have the US government pension be supplemental, just like the US Steel pension is.
    3) Do the same for new state and local government hires.
    These wouldn't solve current problems, but they would pay didvidends in 40 years.

  •  Hold their feet to the fire! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama, LSophia

    The president and senate will only do the right thing if progressives force them to do so.

    NO cuts in earned benefits!

    Keep hammering them with phone calls and petitions!

  •  The best part of the quoted article? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama, mkor7
    "The Illinois Democrat reiterates the view of many in his party that Social Security isn’t a driver of the nation’s deficit. And he insisted that current beneficiaries be protected from changes to any program."
    Really?  ...and why would that be the "view" of many Democrats?

    Perhaps because it's the objective truth!


    Why isn't my IRA worth $100M???

    by Jill on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:39:14 AM PST

  •  Less carrot (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and much more stick from the frontpagers on this issue please. Make them do it right.

  •  _NOW_ can we agreeon a small thing? (0+ / 0-)

    That being, the Democratic Party as led by Chief Neocon Barak Obama are not holding nightly drunken revels in which they compete with one another in devising the most heinous ways to screw over the average American?

    Yes, keep writing your elected officials.

    Yes, suggest good ways to make cuts (allow Medicare to negotiate prescription prices with Big Pharma) instead of just unleashing anger.

    Yes, keep in mind that the best of intentions can go awry, that mistakes can be made.

    But can we stop with one little thing? The insistence the Obama Administration is out to do us evil.

    The administration and Congressional Dems keep offering us comments which indicate They Get It. At some point do not the critics have to acknowledge that?

    We cannot listen to the doom-and-gloom-is-the-only-possibility types indefinitely. To do so is paralyzing.

    •  What you call gloom and doom is backlash (5+ / 0-)

      from people who do not appreciate proposals to cut social insurance programs they have paid into all their working lives.  When such proposals come from Democrats they have worked to elect, it can cause rage.

      What Durbin now gets (although he voted for the Simpson-Bowles plan previously) is that there is a lot of public opposition over Social Security cuts because groups on the left have been organizing to oppose them, and to create a large stink if cuts are tried.  The White House gets that there are not the votes in the Senate to pass a bill with Social Security cuts in it.  But that is not because they don't want them.  David Plouffe made that clear, again.

      But Durbin is still on board in the future for cuts.  Just read what he said about protecting current beneficiaries.  Not future beneficiaries.  Current beneficiaries.

      If I lived in Illinois I would work for and vote for his primary opponent. This is unacceptable from and Democrat, to participate in dismantling the crown jewel policy of the Democratic Party, the legacy of FDR.

    •  Nothing coming out of the WH or from (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ginger1, aliasalias, quagmiremonkey

      the Congressional Dem leadership truly indicates they "get it." Everything, including yesterday's much-ballyhooed statement from Jay Carney, is subject to "interpretation" and open to unpalatable "compromise."

      Where you see doom-and-gloom, I and many others see ambiguity.

      Trust me, I don't want to "win" this argument. I desperately want "entitlement" benefits to remain sacrosanct. I would dearly love to sheepishly eat my words.

      We'll see. We can tally up the score in 2016.

      When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill...

      by PhilJD on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 11:47:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Democrats are moving the debate in their favor (0+ / 0-)

    Social security is not a driver of deficits or debt (the program is probably owed a ton of money from the general fund).  Prior to the election, Democrats would not have made that statement and now they have.  That statement alone calls some of the fundamental assumptions of Simpson-Bowles into question.

    Regarding the medicare issue, the Democrats are interpreting the election results as a mandate to reject the voucherization of medicare.  These comments are a direct attack on Paul Ryan, which will hopefully frustrate Ryan enough to think about leaving Congress.

    The other aspect of the medicare critique is that the Democrats are going to make the GOP own any cuts to the program. They are stating very clearly that only reimbursements/payments to insurance companies, doctors and hospitals will be considered. No benefit cuts.  The Dems are also saying that the only impact on current recipients they will consider is means testing of high earning recipients.

    The GOP is not likely to be to eager to adopt either type of cut for a couple of reasons.  First, they campaigned against Obama's cuts to insurance co subsidies for the prescription drug program. That's the 716 bn lie that lyin' Ryan talked about ad nauseum.  They won the 2010 election with that lie and tried it again to fend off the voucher attacks.  I doubt they will make that type of specific cut.

    In addition, if they support means testing, they will be hurting their most loyal voting bloc: older, wealthy, white seniors.  I don't think they'll support that either.  What the GOP wants is more of a big structural reform like voucher-care which they can hide behind as somehow saving the program.

    My prediction:  there will be no grand bargain.  The income tax rates on the top bracket will go up.  The two parties will reach agreement sometime in 2013 to restore the Bush rates for the middle income brackets and to restore some of the defense cuts.  

    The deficit, which is already dropping, will go down further due to tax increases, job growth and Obamacare.  

    Alternative rock with something to say:

    by khyber900 on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:54:11 AM PST

  •  When is someone going to step up (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TJ, LSophia, zaka1, aliasalias

    and start making the case for increasing SS benefits (since pensions are becoming extinct) and expanding Medicare (buy in for under 65).

    Play some damn offense Democrats!

    It's not Democrats v. Republicans or Liberal v. Conservative. It's People v. Money, and Money is winning.

    by superfly on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:58:12 AM PST

  •  I try to be hopeful, but . . . . (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LSophia, zaka1

    past history does not give me confidence.  Sooooooo many times, on soooo many things, I've seen the Dems talk all big and tough beforehand, only to abjectly surrender and give the whole farm away.

    I'm open to being pleasantly surprised, but I'm planning on not being.


  •  View? What about facts? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Sen. Dick Durbin:

    The Illinois Democrat reiterates the view of many in his party that Social Security isn’t a driver of the nation’s deficit. And he insisted that current beneficiaries be protected from changes to any program.
    What's with this "view" stuff? Either SS is or isn't a driver of the nation's deficit! As I understand the body of law that governs SS and SSI, there is a separate trust fund for the two, and the balance of what's owed to beneficiaries is not connected to the deficit.

    Saying "view" implies that it's a matter of (political) opinion. Talk me out of this, but it's not an opinion but a factual matter under SS trust fund law.

    "We will find fulfillment not in the goods that we have, but in the good we can do for each other." ~ RFK

    by paz3 on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 11:13:23 AM PST

  •  The question is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Land of Enchantment

    do they care about the midterms or don't they?

    If they want Democrats to come out, vote, and campaign for them, they need to protect the Democratic brand - which is, in large part, represented by the social safety net.

    Have they forgotten what happened in 2010 so quickly?

  •  I just (0+ / 0-)

    do not want the Dems to cave.

  •  Let's stop calling them entitlements (0+ / 0-)

    and start calling them inalienable rights  . . . rights to life.

  •  First of all (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Medicare is not free.  I'm on disability and there is a premium taken out of my social security check each month for Medicare.  Second of all I have to paid a monthly premium and carry a second insurance policy Medicare B and while it isn't as high a premium as private insurance, it still costs me another lump sum monthly.  Social Security isn't free either, I worked forty years before I became disabled and paid into social security starting at age 14.  It is the worth of the dollar that has changed over the last fifty some years when I started paying into the system.  Forty years ago, twenty bucks would buy you gas, and lunches for a week.  Today, it hardly gives you a full tank of gas.

    Cutting social programs or cutting back will not help the fiscal problems we are facing today.  We've now have had unpaid tax cuts and unpaid for war for ten years add to that continous outsourcing of jobs and the housing crash and ask yourself if all of that should be paid for with the population's well being and security of keeping a roof over their heads when elderly or disabled?  

    It shouldn't be called an entitlement especially since it was businesses that cuts pensions in the private sector and then the private sector that took what money we had saved in 401Ks and blew it on risky deals and putting people in debt that they would never be out of.  

    Even if they cut Medicare or whatever, the medical community will just put pressure on those to pay more out of pocket or just not see a doctor.  My neurologist I began seeing five years ago now charges $250.00 per visist, when I first started with this doctor it was $112.00 and seriously this is where the problem is. . . who else in the middle class is getting this kind of raise in their personal income other than doctors?  Truth is no one.

    "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolution­ary act. " George Orwell

    by zaka1 on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 11:38:31 AM PST

  •  Reform might not be so bad (0+ / 0-)

    Raise (or eliminate?) the cap on Social Security withholding; perhaps waive payment on the first $5 or $10K of income as well.  Not a cut, but instead a reform that could contribute to its long-term sustainability.

    "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!", but "That's funny..." (Isaac Asimov)

    by Land of Enchantment on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 11:44:48 AM PST

  •  Payroll taxes should be suspended (0+ / 0-)

    Democrats should have never conceded that anything needs to be done about the budget in the first place! It's literally impossible for the United States to be insolvent, it's literally impossible for the United States to not make every single medicare and social security payment it wants to make, it's literally impossible for the federal reserve to lose control of interest rates! The only thing that's even theoretically possible is for excessive deficits to result in demand-pull inflation, and with double digit real unemployment, that's not probably not a serious concern!


  •  This is very different from what he said (0+ / 0-)

    on Morning Joe?


    "Small Businesses Don't Build Levees" - Melissa Harris Perry

    by justmy2 on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 12:36:42 PM PST

  •  I can only Give a Warning (0+ / 0-)

    If democrats want another taste of disappointing the LEFTISTS like they did before 2010, then all they have to do is agree to the GRAND BARGAIN as described in the leaked letter from the previous Boehner/Obama nearly done deal. If the President and Democrats cannot see that they have a mandate and a clear choice made by voters, then they are not listening to us and their supporters will stay away in droves just like 2010. How disasterous would that be?

    We are still seeing the effects in the states that were completely overrun by the teahadis. Gerrymandering alone is what carried the rethugs through the 2012 elections in the house. All made possible by the 2010 elections. Instead of caving to recalcitrant retuhugs, they should be bold and stand firm on the platform they were elected to fulfill. If the fiscal bump is run over, we stand firm and put out a bill to cut taxes on the first 250k of income. Let the rethugs be seen opposing that bill. 2014 would then be the total opposite of 2010. Passing the grand sellout is asking for a repeat of 2010.

  •  Let's not forget a couple of related (0+ / 0-)

    issues: 1) when the government needed money, it "borrowed" lots of money from the Social Security Trust Fund. Not clear if it was paid back, with interest.
                2) lots of immigrants pay into social security, medicare and medicaid, and don't draw any money from it. What happens to make up the difference, if immigration reform pushes out people who make these extra payments without receiving benefits?

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