Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Deficit reduction theater 2

Neither Mr. Obama nor Congressional Republicans are tackling the large entitlement benefit programs [Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid]. ...

Mr. Obama and Republicans are left, then, competing to cut just 12 percent of the federal budget, the so-called nonsecurity discretionary spending that Congress appropriates each year. ...

Some administration advisers wanted [Obama] to propose specific changes to fix Social Security, which has accumulated surpluses to date but before long will begin paying out more than it takes in from payroll taxes.

But, Democrats say, Mr. Obama and his political team figured that Republicans are unwilling to talk compromise this soon after their return to power in the House and that a president facing re-election next year would be unwise to risk proposing bold but controversial ideas, like small reductions in cost-of-living adjustments for future Social Security beneficiaries, only to be rebuffed.

Mr. Ryan, the House Republican budget chairman, rejected that reasoning. ...

But asked whether House Republicans would propose a bold budget this spring that would truly rein in future deficits as the fiscal commission proposed, Mr. Ryan demurred. “I wish I could tell you the answer to that,” he said.
--Jackie Calmes, NYT, on much ado about nothing done

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