Obama's Deficit Panel Draws Ire from Left

Published on
by
CBS News

Obama's Deficit Panel Draws Ire from Left

by
Stephanie Condon

Opposition to Mr. Obama's deficit commission has reached a fever pitch among liberal activists, who have even adopted some of the most notorious rhetoric conservatives used during the health care debate to relay their concern. Two of Mr. Obama's own presidential campaign and transition team members last month penned an article entitled, "Has Obama Created a Social Security 'Death Panel'?"(CBS News)

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that Congress will not pass a traditional budget resolution this year because long-term deficit questions are better left to President Obama's bipartisan deficit commission, an 18-member panel charged with creating a plan to bring down the deficit to 3 percent of the economy by 2015.

"It
isn't possible to debate and pass a realistic, long-term budget until
we've considered the bipartisan commission's deficit-reduction plan,
which is expected in December," he said. "I believe that Congress must
take up and vote on that plan."

To the Democratic
Party's liberal base, however, the majority leader's full-throated
endorsement of the deficit commission is simply confirmation that the
president and Congress are seeking to scale back Social Security and
Medicare -- and avoid accountability by ceding responsibility to an
unelected group.

Liberal activist David Swanson, who
runs the site Democrats.com, attended Hoyer's speech Tuesday morning to
protest the prospect of seeing Social Security benefits cut while
Congress continues to fund the Afghanistan war. He characterized
Hoyer's statements this way: "We're going to wait for the guy [Mr.
Obama] whose constitutional responsibility is to execute the will of
the Congress to tell us what to do."

"And then we're
going to do what his commission says," Swanson continued, "and
everybody knows what his commission is going to say."

Opposition
to Mr. Obama's deficit commission has reached a fever pitch among
liberal activists, who have even adopted some of the most notorious
rhetoric conservatives used during the health care debate to relay
their concern. Two of Mr. Obama's own presidential campaign and
transition team members last month penned an article entitled, "Has Obama Created a Social Security 'Death Panel'?"

The article's co-authors Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson, now
co-directors of the group Social Security Works, point to the clear
interest among some commission members in rolling back Social Security.

"We're going to mess with Medicare, Medicaid and Social
Security because if you take those off the table, you can't get there,"
commission co-chair Erskine Bowles, former Clinton White House chief of
staff, said in a March speech.
"If we don't make those choices, America is going to be a second-rate
power and I don't mean in 50 years. I mean in my lifetime."

Altman
and Kingson also point out that if the Treasury were to repay the
billions it has borrowed from Social Security, the program would pay
out the full benefits owed for more than another 25 years.

"So
what is the rush?" they write, blasting Congress for giving the
commission so much deference. "What is the need for such an
unaccountable, fast-tracked process when one has never been needed
before?"

Liberal economists like the New York Times'
Paul Krugman have accused deficit commission co-chair Alan Simpson,
former Senate Republican whip, of perpetuating zombie lies when he warns that Social Security will be bankrupt in a matter of years.

Nevertheless, many contend entitlement programs, which make up the government's largest expenditure, need to be reformed.

"We're
lying to ourselves and our children if we say we can maintain our
current levels of entitlement spending, defense spending and taxation
without bankrupting our country," Hoyer said.

Concern
over the deficit has, in fact, hamstrung debate in Congress over the
budget, as well as extending unemployment benefits. Both Democrats and
Republicans have expressed concern that within just 10 years, the debt
could reach unsustainable levels, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Hoyer Tuesday outlined the type of entitlement reforms the deficit commission could recommend.

"On
the spending side, we could and should consider a higher retirement
age, or one pegged to lifespan," he said, "more progressive Social
Security and Medicare benefits; and a stronger safety net for the
Americans who need it most."

Swanson, meanwhile, said
that the commission should start by "dropping the pretense that Social
Security is broken already and dropping the pretense that the public
wants to cut back Social Security."

Jane Hamsher, founder of progressive blog FireDogLake, contends
that "the Obama White House has been interested in cutting Social
Security right out of the gate" and has pressed for more transparency
from the deficit commission by running a live webcast on FireDogLake of the closed front door every time the deficit commission meets.

In
one such recording, the man behind the camera, Alex Lawson of Social
Security Works, engaged in a testy exchange with Simpson, who raised
the ire of the left even further with references to the "lesser people"
who rely on Social Security. The video prompted the liberal grassroots
group MoveOn.org to start an e-mail campaign asking for Simpson to step down from the commission.

The
commission has all year to consider recommendations, and 14 of the
commission's 18 members must agree to a proposal before it is included
in the final package of recommendations Congress will vote on.
Commission members say adjusting Social Security benefits is a likely
point of consensus, the Washington Post reports.

Share This Article

More in: