Democrats committed to protecting social security and Medicare, despite loose talk from David Plouffe

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

There was some consternation among liberals and progressives on Monday when word leaked that senior White House advisor David Plouffe was making noises again about a "grand bargain" and that Democrats would have to compromise on "entitlements." Top Obama Aide On Fiscal Cliff: "This Is Going To Get Hairy":

Obama senior adviser David Plouffe predicted that the fiscal cliff
negotiations are "going to get hairy" in the coming weeks, saying
President Barack Obama is committed to achieving the elusive "big deal"
on taxes and spending he and Speaker of the House John Boehner have
tried to strike for more than 18 months.

In post-election remarks
at the University of Delaware, Plouffe warned of "paralysis" if both
parties remain beholden to their base, saying Obama is looking for a
deal that sets the country on the right fiscal path for a 10- to 20-year
period.

"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.

The senior White House adviser repeated Obama's opposition to
extending the Bush tax cuts on those earning more than $250,000 a year,
but expressed openness to a tax reform deal that could potentially lower
what the wealthy pay.

“What we also want to do is engage in a
process of tax reform that would ultimately produce lower rates, even
potentially for the wealthiest," he said, referring to benefits from
corporate tax reform.

Plouffe added that . . . they know they must also "carefully" address
the "chief drivers of our deficit": Medicare and Medicaid.

Dude, did you not get the memo? Obama won the election. Democrats added seats in the Senate and House. Do you you not know what a "mandate" is? This isn't 2011. Obama holds all the cards in this negotiation. Knock it off with all that "Third Way" capitulation crap.

It appears Plouffe may have speaking out of turn. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Efforts to Curb Social Spending Face Resistance:

As Congress returned Monday, the debate over [social security and Medicare], which many Democrats see as the core of the party’s identity, was shaping up as the Democratic version of the higher-profile struggle among Republicans over taxes.

In failed deficit reduction talks last year, Mr. Obama signaled a willingness to consider substantial changes in the social safety net, including a gradual increase in the eligibility age for Medicare and limits in the growth rate of future Social Security benefits. An urgent question hanging over the new round of deficit talks is which of those changes Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats would accept today.

While a potential change in calculating Social Security increases was part of the talks with Speaker John A. Boehner last year, the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, made clear on Monday that the administration was not considering changes to the retirement program as part of the deficit talks.

“We should address the drivers of the deficit, and Social Security is not currently a driver of the deficit,” Mr. Carney said.

* * *

Democrats have given no indication that they are willing to consider policy changes or savings of the magnitude demanded by Republicans.

* * *

In the current negotiations with Congress over deficits and the debt, Mr. Obama said he would take a serious look at how to “reform our entitlements” because “health care costs continue to be the biggest driver of our deficits.” Unless Mr. Obama and Congress reach some agreement, tax increases and budget reductions will take effect automatically on Jan. 1.

Even if Mr. Obama and Republican leaders in Congress could agree on savings in Medicare and Medicaid, the president would face resistance from some liberal members of his party who oppose cuts in the two giant health care entitlement programs. Medicare and Medicaid insure one-third of all Americans, account for more than one-fifth of the federal budget and are expected to grow much faster than the economy in the coming decade.

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.

* * *

Mr. Obama and some Democrats in Congress say they are willing to squeeze savings from Medicare by trimming payments to drug companies, hospitals and other health care providers. They have generally ruled out structural changes that would increase costs for a typical beneficiary.

Mr. Obama’s room for maneuvering is limited by several political factors. In the presidential campaign, for example, he attacked cost-cutting proposals by his Republican opponents and won support from millions of voters by promising to defend Medicare.

Moreover, since the Supreme Court upheld the new health care law in June, Mr. Obama has become skittish about cutbacks in Medicaid, the federal-state program for low-income people. . . Cutting federal Medicaid payments to states could reduce the federal budget deficit, but could also cripple Mr. Obama’s efforts to persuade governors to expand the program, the foundation of his health care overhaul.

Greg Sargent reports on a meeting today between representatives of major unions and progressive groups who met privately
this morning with senior Obama administration officials at the White
House — and were pleased with what they heard. Reasons to be encouraged about fiscal cliff’s endgame:

[A]ttendees at this meeting came away convinced — for now — that the
White House firmly believes it has the leverage in the fiscal cliff
talks, and has no intention of budging on the demand for higher tax
rates from the rich or on other core priorities.

Indeed, one person at the meeting — which included people from the
AFLCIO, AFSCME, SEIU, MoveOn and others — came away convinced that the
White House would ultimately prove willing to go over the fiscal cliff
if necessary, rather than give ground on core demands
, though this is
not by any means a desired option and isn’t being discussed as a
strategic possibility.

The attendee tells me the White House is cool to the idea of going
over the cliff, but added: “Would they if it’s between that and
compromising their core principles? I was left with the impression that
they would.”

“They remain in the same place: They expect taxes to go up on the
wealthy and to protect Medicare and Medicaid benefits,”
the attendee
added. “They feel confident that they don’t have to compromise.”

White House officials also signaled in the meeting that they are
going to insist that Republicans agree to resolve the need to raise the
debt ceiling as part of the fiscal talks — and won’t abide a separate
fight over it
, attendees said. Also key: Attendees got the impression
the White House does not view this looming debt ceiling battle in the same terms as the 2011 fight, where Republicans had the leverage.

“They don’t seem to have the same fear now,” the attendee said. “They
intend to get this wrapped up in these negotiations, and don’t intend
to have a separate fight. Their position is this needs to be resolved
all at once.”

* * *

[I]t’s always possible that White House officials are projecting such a
resolute attitude to these groups to mollify them; after all, they are
pressuring the White House to stand firm on core priorities. But these
groups are very attuned to any signs of a potential cave. So if they’re
saying privately they are happy with what they’re hearing, that could be
a good sign.

Let's hope he is right.

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