WaPo Editorial: "Mr. Obama's Time To Lead On Entitlements"
Democrats, meanwhile, are sounding more and more maximalist in resisting spending cuts. Many insist that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and education - pretty much everything except the Pentagon - are untouchable. Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), who had been one of the more reasonable Democratic leaders, said Tuesday that, while he favors reform of entitlement programs, it shouldn't be part of the negotiations on the fiscal cliff. The Post's Greg Sargent reported that union leaders and other liberals came away from a White House meeting encouraged that administration officials agree. "They expect taxes to go up on the wealthy and to protect Medicare and Medicaid benefits," one attendee said. "They feel confident that they don't have to compromise." Don't have to compromise? Elections do have consequences, and Mr. Obama ran on a clear platform of increasing taxes on the wealthy. But he was clear on something else, too: Deficit reduction must be "balanced," including spending cuts as well as tax increases. Since 60 percent of the federal budget goes to entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, there's no way to achieve balance without slowing the rate of increase of those programs.
AP: "Senate Dems Divided Over Cuts To Benefit Programs"
Deep divisions among Senate Democrats over whether cuts to popular benefit programs like Medicare and Medicaid should be part of a plan to slow the government's mushrooming debt pose a big obstacle to a deal for avoiding a potentially economy-crushing "fiscal cliff," even if Republicans agree to raise taxes. Much of the focus during negotiations seeking an alternative to $671 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts beginning in January has centered on whether Republicans would agree to raising taxes on the wealthy. President Barack Obama has insisted repeatedly that tax increases on the wealthy must be part of any deal, even as White House officials concede that government benefit programs will have to be in the package too. "It is the president's position that when we're talking about a broad, balanced approach to dealing with our fiscal challenges, that that includes dealing with entitlements," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. But even if GOP lawmakers agree to raise taxes, there is no guarantee Democrats can come up with enough votes in the Senate to cut benefit programs - as Republicans are demanding.
Politico: "Democrats Talk Tough On Entitlements In Fiscal Cliff Debate"
Congressional Democrats are starting to draw a much tougher line on entitlements in the increasingly messy fiscal cliff talks, warning Republicans to keep their hands off Social Security and Medicare benefits. … The tougher line reflects an emboldened group of Democrats on the Hill whose tougher public posturing could complicate efforts by the White House to cut a sweeping deal with the GOP.
USA Today Editorial: "Social Security Adds To Deficits"
Do Democrats really believe Social Security doesn't contribute to federal deficits and the national debt? They're certainly saying it a lot: "Social Security does not add one penny to our debt, not a penny," Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, insisted Sunday on ABC'sThis Week. During Monday's briefing at the White House, press secretary Jay Carney repeated the theme: "We should address the drivers of the deficit, and Social Security is not currently a driver of the deficit - that's an economic fact." Well, saying it's a fact doesn't make it so. Durbin, Carney and others making that claim should take a look at the president's own budget to see what's really going on. On page 465 of the budget's "Analytical Perspectives," they'll find a chart showing that Social Security ran a deficit of $48 billion last year. This year, Social Security will come up $50.7 billion short. In 2015, as more Baby Boomers retire, the gap between cash in and cash out is expected to reach $86.6 billion. Need a second source? In a report released last month, the Congressional Budget Office said Social Security benefits began exceeding payroll tax revenue in 2010, and without changes, the program will never get back into balance. Denying this harsh reality requires playing accounting shell games and believing (or pretending to believe) that Social Security can be bailed out by its trust fund. And if you believe that, we have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.
Budget and Spending Entitlement Spending