Reuters: Obama lays down a marker on Social Security cuts

Cross-posted from Reuters.com:

Would he or wouldn’t he?

President Obama’s deficit commission endorsed cutting Social Security benefits last month, and many wondered whether the president would endorse those cuts in his State of the Union message this week. Instead, the president reiterated the traditional Democratic position on Social Security in his address that he staked out as a candidate in 2008:

“We must [strengthen Social Security] without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.”

That rhetoric differs significantly from the “everything on the table” messages emanating from the White House since the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform issued its final report. Written by commission co-chairmen Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the report recommended benefit cuts via a higher retirement age, lower annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) and a third, somewhat technical change in the way benefits are calculated.

What happened in the weeks since the release of the commission report? A coalition of traditional Social Security backers and Democratic lawmakers seem to have convinced the White House to back away from the Simpson-Bowles recommendations. Their case had two main points — both correct: 1. Cutting benefits is bad policy; 2. Cutting benefits is bad politics for Democrats — and for Republicans.

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