Rob Horowitz: Obama Puts Retiree Entitlement Programs on the Table
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
The President further demonstrated that he means business on this politically difficult issue by committing to achieve the same amount of health care savings over the remainder of the decade as proposed by the Simpson-Bowles Commission—the gold standard of debt reduction proposals. Among the ideas embraced by the President are requiring wealthy seniors to pay higher Medicare premiums. These specifics on Medicare combined with Obama’s support for implementing a chained CPI to provide a small reduction in Social Security cost-of-living increases during the recent fiscal cliff debate demonstrate once and for all that President Obama is serious about retiree entitlement reforms and make the Republican refrain that he won’t publicly commit to specific proposals in this area ring hollow.
The framing of Obama’s message about the need to act now on retiree entitlement reform, however, was aimed more at the resistance in his own base than at the Republicans in Congress. As the President asserted, modest adjustments in retiree entitlements are not only important because they reduce the long-term debt, but because without them sufficient funds will not be available for the critical investments needed to spark economic growth such as spending on infrastructure, research & development and education. Further, fixing these programs now means that less drastic cuts can be avoided later preserving retirement security for today’s and tomorrow’s seniors.
President Obama recognizes that the federal government spends seven times as much money on seniors than on youth—an unacceptable ratio that will get much worse as baby boomers begin to retire in larger numbers. Over the next 10 years, 18 million new beneficiaries will enter the Medicare program and the number of Social Security recipients will grow by about 40%. The math is simply inescapable.
It is up to all of us who believe that smart government investments are critical to future prosperity to grasp this reality and to stop defending an unworkable status quo. For liberalism should not be about fighting to preserve every specific line of programs developed during either the New Deal or the Great Society, but about working to craft a new social compact that is designed to ensure real equality of opportunity, an adequate social safety net and economic prosperity for the 21st century.
The fiscal imperative to fix retiree entitlement programs is coupled by the political imperative of doing so. The only possible way to achieve more government spending on domestic priorities in the short-term is by reaching an agreement on long-term debt reduction. As The Hamilton Project’s Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney, reflecting the consensus of most economists, write in a recent paper, “The textbook solution to the dual problems of continuing near-term economic weakness and long-run budget deficits is to pair short-run economic stimulus with gradual but credible changes to spending and taxes that reduce deficits in the long run.”
The plain political facts are that the only way to get enough Republican buy-in to pass needed modest new stimulus is to reach some form of “Grand Bargain” on long-term debt reduction. Further, progress on debt reduction is an important priority for independents—the swing voter group which as always will be a key to which party prevails in the 2014 mid-term elections.
With deadlines looming on the “so-called” sequester triggering automatic budget cuts as well as the debt ceiling, the fiscal and budget debates are about to pick up more steam. President Obama’s specific and credible retiree entitlement proposals could serve as a trigger for reaching a lasting bi-partisan agreement. Thinking progressives and liberals should support the President on his sensible and politically courageous approach.
Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island
- Rob Horowitz: ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Notes
- Rob Horowitz: 5 Reasons for New Year’s Day Optimism
- Rob Horowitz: 5 Things to Watch in the Vice Presidential Debate
- Rob Horowitz: Affordable Housing Bond is a Good Investment for RI
- Rob Horowitz: Chuck Hagel is an Excellent Choice for Secretary of Defense
- Rob Horowitz: Cicilline & Doherty is a Neck-and-Neck Race
- Rob Horowitz: Election Gives President Obama More Leverage on Fiscal Cliff
- Rob Horowitz: Gemma’s Hail Mary
- Rob Horowitz: Get Out the Vote
- Rob Horowitz: Immigration Reform Moves to the Front Burner
- Rob Horowitz: Making College Affordable Must Be High Priority
- Rob Horowitz: Millennial Turnout is a Key for Obama
- Rob Horowitz: Momentum Behind New Action on Climate Change
- Rob Horowitz: Momentum Builds for Marriage Equality
- Rob Horowitz: Obama Proposes Common Sense Gun Policies
- Rob Horowitz: Obama and Romney Down to the Wire
- Rob Horowitz: President Hillary Clinton? Not So Fast
- Rob Horowitz: President Obama is in Solid Position to Defeat Romney
- Rob Horowitz: President Obama’s Solid Popular Vote Win
- Rob Horowitz: Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee Botches Pension Issue
- Rob Horowitz: Rhode Island Must Upgrade Its Workforce
- Rob Horowitz: Romney’s Ill-Timed Foreign Policy Punch
- Rob Horowitz: Sandy Hook Tragedy a Chance for Common Sense Gun Legislation
- Rob Horowitz: Social Media Becoming a Force in Politics
- Rob Horowitz: The Ties That Bind Help Us Weather the Storm