When Republicans took over both houses of Congress earlier this month, they wasted no time letting it be known that they had Social Security in their crosshairs. Last Tuesday, the House passed a bill containing a provision which prevents shifting Social Security funds from the retirement program to the disability program, a transfer which has been routine for decades.
While this move angered progressive Democrats like Sen. Herrod Brown (OH) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), President Obama has been fairly silent on the matter, leading to fears that the president is going to allow, if not support, further cuts to the programs, Talking Points Memo reported.
“Advocates do not trust the president on Social Security,” Monique Morrissey, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, told TPM. “If he blinks and they message this right. It could be something.”
Nancy Altman echoed the same sentiment to TPM, saying that the Obama administration “hasn’t been great on this issue,” but she hopes that the president’s recent combative stance on issues like immigration could carry over to this as well.
“Our hope is that he’ll be that way on Social Security, too,” said Altman. “But if you look at past history, you can’t be confident that that’s what will happen.”
That history isn’t too far in the past, either. In the summer of 2011, President Obama “was willing to put Social Security cuts on the table in exchange for new revenue in 2011 as he and Boehner sought a big financial deal ahead of the pending debt-ceiling deadline.”
In 2012, Obama’s campaign touted the message that he is “committed to keeping the promise of guaranteed Social Security benefits for current and future generations.” But after the election, the president’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposal “would have cut Social Security in exchange for tax revenues.” Those cuts were removed from the FY 2015 budged, but advocates fear that the GOP will change the program over the next two years.
“An important part of the advocacy that we’ll do over the next couple years,” said Dan Adcock, policy director of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, “is trying to ensure that all the important players, including the White House, understand why it’s important not to cut benefits. We’re not going to leave any stone uncovered.”
And, as Adcock told TPM, there might be a “silver lining” to the House’s moves on Social Security: it will rally the progressive wing of the party and the public around the program. Hopefully it will, because aside from not actually going broke like the GOP keeps pretending it is, Social Security is a vital part of taking care of the, as Sen. Warren put it, “most vulnerable” segments of our population.