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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

January 21, 2010

OBAMA PUTS SOCIAL SECURITY ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK

James Ridgeway, Mother Jones - Hope for lasting liberal change was washed away on Tuesday-not just with the loss of the Democrats' super-majority in the Senate, but with a closed-door deal that would lead to cuts in bedrock liberal programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. While Massachusetts voters were casting their ballots to install Republican Scott Brown in Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, President Obama was hammering out an agreement with Democratic leaders to support a commission on the deficit with the power to propose reductions to entitlement programs. This proposal represents a capitulation to conservatives in both parties, and leaves liberals surrendering not only on health care, but on the core achievements of the New Deal and the Great Society.

As the Washington Post explains this morning:

"Under the agreement, President Obama [2] would issue an executive order to create an 18-member panel that would be granted broad authority to propose changes in the tax code and in the massive federal entitlement programs - including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security - that threaten to drive the nation's debt to levels not seen since World War II.

"The accord comes a week before Obama is scheduled to deliver his first State of the Union address to a nation increasingly concerned about his stewardship of the economy and the federal budget. After a year in which he advocated spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a huge economic stimulus package and a far-reaching overhaul of the health-care system, Obama has pledged to redouble his effort to rein in record budget deficits even as he has come under withering Republican attack."

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who has long advocated creation of an independent budget panel, called the agreement an "understanding in concept" that holds the promise of at last addressing the nation's most wrenching budget problems.

"This goes to the question of the country's credibility with managing its own finances. This is essential for the nation," Conrad said. . .

Normally, any change in taxes must be passed first by the House, with legislation wending its way through the Ways and Means Committee up to the floor. But the proposed arrangement shortcuts-indeed appears to bypass-this procedure. The appointed commission is to make a recommendation on the budget after the November midterm elections. That recommendation will then go straight to the floor of both houses for an up or down binding vote. There are no congressional hearings and no opportunity for members of the House to weigh in on the proposals. . .

For nearly three decades, Social Security has taken in more revenue each year than it has paid out in benefits. These excess funds have been invested in special issue U.S. government securities. Thus, Social Security has effectively been loaning its excess funds to the federal government to spend on other programs. Rather than increasing the federal deficit, Social Security's annual surpluses have actually been covering up the true size of the deficit in the general fund.


Bill Scher, Campaign for America's Future - Progressive leaders representing more than 50 organizations declared their opposition Wednesday to the Conrad-Gregg debt commission proposal, which is expected to be introduced on the Senate floor soon as part of the bill to allow our federal government to meet its obligations by raising the debt ceiling.


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