President Obama’s performance in the first debate has been widely criticized, particularly his answer to a question about Social Security. As a result, the campaign felt the need to put up a blog post clarifying Obama’s position on Social Security. While the campaign uses some very weaselly phrases to put the best possible spin on Obama’s position, they make it perfectly clear that Obama’s plan includes cutting Social Security benefits.
From the Obama campaign website:
Both President Obama and Mitt Romney know that the program is solvent for more than two decades and that there’s a need for gradual reforms to the benefits that millions of seniors have worked for, paid for, and earned. [...]
The President knows that guaranteed Social Security benefits are not handouts, but a bedrock of the commitment to retirement security America makes to our seniors. He believes that no current beneficiaries should see their basic benefits reduced, and he will not accept any approach that slashes benefits for future generations.
Note that use of the world “slashes.” Obama promises not to reduce benefits for current seniors but promises only to not “slash” benefits for future generations. The only reason to make these two separate promises is if the phrasing mean two different things.
Obama simply promised not to “slash” benefits, which the President defines as making really big cut. Just to make clear that Obama considers “slashing” different from cuts or reductions the campaign included a set of bullet points.
- While all measures to strengthen solvency should be on the table, the administration will not accept an approach that slashes benefits for future generations.
- No current beneficiaries should see their basic benefits reduced.
Cuts are on the table but not for current retirees, although there are indications Obama does not consider a cut in cost of living adjustments (COLA) to be a “cut,” which would certainly impact them. Obama hopes to cut future Social Security benefits, as long as the cut are not big enough to be considered “slashes.” Given that Obama has wide latitude when it comes to interrupting what the word means, Obama can agreed to any level of cuts and still claim to have kept his promise.
The Obama campaign made it perfectly clear that Obama did not misspeak during the debate. Obama wants to “tweak” Social Security, i.e. cut benefits. There should be no doubt about what is on Obama’s agenda for his second term.