There’s a story out in the Washington Post about Obama’s supposed willingness to make cuts to entitlements, specifically Social Security. Also out today is a story in The Hill concerning proposals to make much deeper cuts to defense spending than previously proposed. All of this has to do with the debt ceiling debate.
The question I ask is what is really behind the Obama willingness to cut (or claim to be open to cutting) Social Security. Is it real or is it just politics?
Combine that with increased cuts in defense and one has to question what the administration is or isn’t really willing to do? My conclusion? The Social Security cut proposal is smoke and mirrors. The defense cuts are real, i.e. that’s where Obama and the Democrats are willing to go and go deep. Why have I concluded that? Well, two paragraphs, one in each story, give the game away.
Privately, some congressional Democrats were alarmed by the president’s proposal, which could include adjusting the measure of inflation used to determine Social Security payouts. But others described it as primarily a bargaining strategy intended to demonstrate Obama’s willingness to compromise and highlight the Republican refusal to raise taxes.
A president running for re-election is not going to condone cuts in Social Security in an election year. Politics 101. Not. Going. To. Happen.
But … he comes from a base constituency which would be fine with deep cuts to defense (disclaimer: there are cuts to defense that can be made – that’s understood – but not at the level they’re proposing). Here’s the paragraph from The Hill story that tells you how serious Obama is about cutting spending – he gave it away at his “Twitter Townhall” yesterday:
During his first-ever Twitter town hall meeting Wednesday, Obama said the Defense budget is so large that even modest cuts to it would free up dollars for other federal programs.
Of course the budget is “large”, thanks to him we’re involved in our third war. But that’s not the key takeaway from this paragraph. Notice what he’s talking about for the dollars freed up by cuts. Debt reduction? Nope – further spending.
But it is more than clear that Obama is willing to gut defense and attempt to claim radical spending reductions on the back of the national security apparatus as a means of satisfying voters concerned about debt. The $400 billion in DoD cuts has already been declared dangerous. $700 billion would most likely be crippling. With the first, you would trim mostly fat, but have a good chance of cutting critical muscle (i.e. critical programs such as the F-35). With $700 billion in cuts, to continue the analogy, you’re cutting through muscle straight to the bone.
Defense spending is not sacrosanct and as I mention above, there are certainly cuts to be made. But the problem with spending isn’t to be found there. It is and always has been in entitlements. President Obama has no intention of cutting Social Security – bet on it. Unless such cuts for both Medicare and Social Security are made and restructuring of both programs seriously undertaken, what is happening (other than defense cuts) can’t be taken seriously and represents the politics at its worst.
Not that anyone should be surprised, considering the political class we’ve elected to represent us.
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