A letter spearheaded by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), signed by fifteen Democratic colleagues and sent to the White House on Friday warns President Obama against calling for—as he has previously—cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid in his upcoming budget proposal.
Obama was rebuked strongly by progressives nationwide last year when he included a plan to cut Social Security benefits as a way to reduce future budget deficits.
As the letter from the 15 senators states, "Social Security has not contributed one penny" to the current deficit. In fact, it continues, the program "has a surplus of more than $2.7 trillion and can pay every single benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 19 years."
In addition to defending both Medicare and Medicaid funding, the letter goes on to say that "these are tough times for our country" but that additional cuts would make life for a struggling middle class and those living in poverty "even more difficult."
"While those on top have more than recovered from the worst recession since the Great Depression," write the senators, "tens of millions of Americans continue to lose ground economically."
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The message to Obama is not a new one, but progressive critics of the president have been repeatedly aghast at how willing he has been to include cuts to social programs in his proposals—the same kind of cuts called for by Republicans who have made attacks on the social safety net a cornerstone of their political agenda for more than forty years.
Addressing the conservative push for "entitlement cuts" and the hypocrisy of their position in his Friday New York Times column, economist Paul Krugman wrote:
Modern American conservatives talk a lot about freedom, and deride liberals for advocating a “nanny state.” But when it comes to Americans down on their luck, conservatives become insultingly paternalistic, as comfortable congressmen lecture struggling families on the dignity of work. And they also become advocates of highly intrusive government. For example, House Republicans tried to introduce a provision into the farm bill that would have allowed states to mandate drug testing for food stamp recipients. (A commenter on my blog suggested mandatory drug tests for employees of too-big-to-fail financial institutions, which receive large implicit subsidies. Now that would really cause a panic.)
The truth is that if you really care about the dignity and freedom of American workers, you should favor more, not fewer, entitlements, a stronger, not weaker, social safety net.
Read the letter: