Bernie Sanders: Barack Obama Better Not Cut Social Security
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called out President Barack Obama for softening the commitment he made during the 2008 campaign to protect Social Security from cuts, and for aligning himself with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on the entitlement issue during the first presidential debate.
“Four years ago when Obama ran against John McCain, he was very clear,” Sanders told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. “And what he said in so many words is, ‘John McCain will cut your Social Security, I will not.’”
Sanders noted that President Obama’s tenor has changed, and that he has been increasingly vague about whether or not he would accept cuts to Social Security as part of a larger agreement with congressional Republicans to avoid the looming “fiscal cliff” of the sequestration measures that will take effect at the beginning of next year. “To the best of my knowledge, the president has not told us that he will not cut Social Security,” Sanders said.
It has been reported that during the summer of 2011, President Obama was in fact willing to accept cuts to Social Security (also Medicare and Medicaid) in exchange for tax increases on the wealthy, as part of a proposed “grand bargain” with Republicans to raise the debt ceiling.
The Vermont Senator also said that the first presidential debate, in which Obama said he and Romney had a similar position on Social Security, reinforced his fears that the program would be subject to cuts.
Cuts could come in the form of a change to how cost of living adjustments are calculated, by switching to the so-called chained CPI, which grows at a slower rate than the current calculation. A report this month by AARP cautioned against such an approach.
“Changing the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) would have a detrimental impact on the economic wellbeing of older and disabled Americans and their family members who receive benefits from Social Security,” the report said.
Sanders, who founded the Senate’s Defend Social Security Caucus and currently serves as its chairman, has launched a petition and is leading a national coalition of various interest groups whose mission is to reject legislative efforts to scale back benefits for seniors.
“The response from the grassroots is off the charts,” said Alex Lawson, Executive Director of Social Security Works, a group which has signed onto Sanders’ petition. “People understand what is at stake, and they are saying loudly and clearly, ‘No cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits and absolutely no tax cuts for the richest 2 percent.’”
Ilya Sheyman, Campaign Director at MoveOn.org, added, “Figuring out a real program for jobs, instead of job-killing cuts, is something Congress should carefully focus on, even if it requires working into January or beyond.”
Sanders has also circulated a letter to his Senate colleagues, which 29 of them have signed, emphasizing that Social Security is not responsible for the budget deficit and that cuts to the program for current or future beneficiaries should not be part of any deficit reduction package.
“Contrary to some claims, Social Security is not the cause of our nation’s deficit problem. Not only does the program operate independently, but it is prohibited from borrowing,” part of the letter reads. “Even though Social Security operates in a fiscally responsible manner, some still advocate deep benefit cuts and seem convinced that Social Security hands out lavish welfare checks. But Social Security is not welfare. Seniors earned their benefits by working hard and paying into the system.”
Sanders pointed out that despite popular opposition to cutting entitlement programs, the discussion inside the beltway has reflected a dramatically different tone. He describes it as, “‘Yes, let’s lower the tax rates for the wealthiest people in this country, the largest corporations, and let’s cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.’” The tone of the debate, he says, “is way out of touch with where the American people are.”
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO and a Sanders ally, expressed a similar concern in a Politico op-ed Tuesday night. “The grand bargain crowd says we have to cut benefits to lower the deficit,” Trumka wrote. “Do you think the American people really want to cut benefits for Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare in exchange for lowering the top tax rate for the richest Americans? I don’t think so.”
Sanders identified Peter Peterson as one of the more powerful proponents of entitlement cuts influencing the debate in Washington. Peterson is a billionaire private equity mogul who has personally contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a group which has set out to brand Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as areas in need of dramatic cuts, according to a Huffington Post report.
Sanders argued that wealthy individuals like Peterson provide financial cover for members of Congress who vote for unpopular cuts to entitlement programs. “What he’s going to say to all the politicians is, ‘Look, the American people want the rich to pay more in taxes, they don’t want to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. I want you to vote to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and not tax the rich. And when you get into political pressure, we’ll be there to back you up.’”
“This is how corrupt Washington has become,” Sanders added. “Billionaires are giving very strong support to elected officials who will do exactly the opposite of what the American people want. I think that’s a pretty pathetic situation.”
Sanders acknowledged that cuts to Social Security would be even more likely in a Romney administration, but reminding President Obama of his prior opposition to benefit reductions remains the focus of his efforts.
“We’re doing our best right now to make sure that the president comes on board the position he had four years ago: that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit and that Social Security should not be cut.”
Requests for comment to the White House and to the Peterson Foundation were not immediately returned.
Earlier on HuffPost:
Paul Ryan: QE2 Risks Inflation
Back in 2010, Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan explained that the Federal Reserves plan to purchase $600 billion worth of securities — known as QE2 — was little more than “sugar-high economics” that a href=”http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-14/romney-ryan-see-fed-qe-as-inflation-risk-amid-low-prices.html” target=”_hplink”risked rising inflation and weakening the dollar/a. But instead the opposite took place. According to Bloomberg:
blockquote”Since that prediction by Ryan, who has been chosen by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to be his running mate, the dollar has risen against major currencies and inflation has stayed below the Fed’s goal of 2 percent.”/blockquote
Christina Romer: Unemployment Will Remain Below 8%
In early January of 2009, Christina Romer, economic adviser to then President-elect Barack Obama, made a prediction: massive government stimulus on the order that would eventually be passed by Congress would keep unemployment below 8 percent, reports a href=”http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/10/AR2009011001999.html” target=”_hplink”emThe Washington Post/em/a. Without it, unemployment could reach as high as 9 percent.
In July 2012, unemployment edged up to a href=”www.bls.gov” target=”_hplink”8.3 percent/a. It has not gone below 8 percent since a href=”http://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=z1ebjpgk2654c1_met_y=unemployment_rateidim=country:USfdim_y=seasonality:Sdl=enhl=enq=us+unemployment+rate#!ctype=lstrail=falsebcs=dnselm=hmet_y=unemployment_ratefdim_y=seasonality:Sscale_y=linind_y=falserdim=countryidim=country:USifdim=countrytstart=984805200000tend=1337227200000hl=en_USdl=enind=false” target=”_hplink”January 2009/a.
Jim Cramer: Obamacare Will Topple The Stock Market
On a href=”http://mediamatters.org/blog/2010/03/22/dow-finishes-up-following-health-care-vote-pagi/162074″ target=”_hplink”March 18, 2010/a, Jim Kramer stated on Larry Kudlow’s program that Obamacare would tank the stock market. The reform package was, in his words, “the single greatest impediment to the stock market going higher.”
On March 23 of that year, according to a href=”http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20000981-503544.html” target=”_hplink”CBS News/a, President Obama signed health care reform into law. Following Yahoo’s tracking of the Dow Jones, the market on April 1 2010 was at 10,927. On August 17, over two years later, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was pegged at a href=”http://data.cnbc.com/quotes/.DJIA” target=”_hplink”13,264/a. Granted, the market could still take a nose dive. But odds are it won’t be because of health care reform.
Michelle Bachmann: Obama Taking ‘The Final Leap To Socialism’
In a radio interview Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann gave with Bill Bennet in March of 2009, the Minnesotan claimed that Obama’s policies were representing the “final leap into socialism,” a href=”http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2009/03/05/36590/buchmann-thwart-obama/” target=”_hplink”Think Progress/a reported.
But alas, while Bachmann’s sensational claim may have gotten her into the spotlight, the government has been engaged in selling its stake in the industries that it had to temporarily prop up.
General Motors, an automaker that the U.S. government had to prop up with emergency capital, bought back all preferred shares held by the U.S. Treasury as of December 2010, reports a href=”http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2010/12/16/g-m-buys-back-2-1-billion-preferred-shares/” target=”_hplink”emThe New York Times/em/a.
Wall Street’s largest banks that have frequently brought about wrath from liberals such as a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/18/opinion/18krugman.html?_r=1ref=paulkrugman” target=”_hplink”Paul Krugman,/a like Citi, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, are still privately run.
Glenn Beck: U.S. Will Go Through ‘Great Depression Times 100′ (Or Hyperinflation)
In early 2010, then-Fox News commentator Glenn Beck said that the U.S. was likely in for a “Great Depression Times 100,” reports a href=”http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201001050049″ target=”_hplink”Media Matters/a, going on to say that the country would experience a period of hyperinflation.
Unemployment during the Great Depression peaked at around 25 percent, according to an article published by a href=”http://www.bls.gov/opub/cwc/cm20030124ar02p1.htm” target=”_hplink”the Bureau of Labor Statistics/a.
But even at the worst moments of the Great Recession, unemployment only reached slightly above 10 percent. Presently, it is a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/03/unemployment-rate-jobs-report-bls_n_1736843.html” target=”_hplink”at 8.3 percent/a, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With inflation estimated to remain stagnant at 1.5 percent through 2012, the nightmare warnings of hyperinflation expounded by Beck as well as by renowned “economist” a href=”http://www.cobdencentre.org/2010/10/peter-schiff-dollar-hyperinflation-is-coming-unless-policy-direction-is-rapidly-changed/” target=”_hplink”Peter Schiff/a appears to be just that. A nightmare.
Rick Santelli: ‘Stagflation Is Almost A Certainty’
In October of 2009, CNBC analyst and Tea Party founder Rick Santelli told said on the show Fast Money that he believed a href=”http://184.108.40.206/id/15840232?video=1287468464play=1″ target=”_hplink”"stagflation is almost a certainty.”/a In other words Santelli was predicting that America would go through a period of high inflation and high unemployment. The only question he had was when.
In November of that year, a href=”http://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpid0910.pdf” target=”_hplink”the Bureau of Labor Statistics/a revealed that between October 2008 and October 2009, prices rose by 1.7 percent not including food and gas. This made, at the time, Santelli’s claim even bolder.
Even though unemployment is still high — almost three years later — inflation has risen far below the Federal Reserves 2 percent annual target, a href=”http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-14/romney-ryan-see-fed-qe-as-inflation-risk-amid-low-prices.html” target=”_hplink”Bloomberg reports./a
Rush Limbaugh: Obamacare Will Leave 250 Million People Uninsured
Among the many predictions conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has made over the years, the one he made on March 8, 2010 was not one of his best.
On his daily radio show emThe Rush Limbaugh Show/em, Limbaugh announced to his listeners that healthcare reform, which would be signed into law later that month, would end up leaving 250 million Americans uninsured, a href=”http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201003080025″ target=”_hplink”Media Matters/a reported.
As of June 2012, 49.9 million Americans do not have health insurance, a href=”http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/27/politics/btn-health-care/index.html” target=”_hplink”CNN estimated/a.
Mitt Romney: U.S. WIll Default If We Raise Debt Ceiling
In the a href=”http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1106/13/se.02.html” target=”_hplink”June 13, 2011 Republican Presidential Debate/a, Mitt Romney, when asked about the consequences of not raising the debt limit answered the moderator’s question with a question. “Well, what happens if we continue to spend time and time again, year and year again more money than we take in?”
As Asher Smith pointed out on a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/asher-smith/republican-debate-economy_b_876899.html” target=”_hplink”emThe Huffington Post/em/a, this can only mean that the U.S. will eventually be unable to pay off its obligations and, as a result, default.
Bit as of August 2012, close to one year after the debt ceiling was raised, the U.S. still hasn’t defaulted.
Bill Gross: End Of QE2 Would Cause Bond Yields To Go ‘Much Higher’
In March of 2011, PIMCO Co-Founder Bill Gross predicted an imminent spike in treasury bond yields following the end of the Federal Reserve’s Quantitative Easing program, a href=”http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2011/03/02/gross-warns-qe2s-end-could-sink-markets/” target=”_hplink”emFortune’s/em Colin Barr reported/a.
Bond yields, Gross told reporters, were likely to go “higher maybe even much higher” at the end of June 2011 when QE2 ended. The 10-year treasury bond yield has since fallen. Since the 2011, 10-year bond rates have hovered between 2.5 and 1.5 percent, according to a href=”http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/USGG10YR:IND/chart” target=”_hplink”Bloomberg/a.
Joe Biden: US Out Of Recession In 18 Months (Feb. ’09)
In February of 2009, Vice President Joe Biden predicted that the federal stimulus package being implemented by Barack Obama’s administration would “literally drop kick us out of this recession,” a href=”http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/801-economy/114661-gop-reminds-biden-of-missed-prediction-on-the-recovery” target=”_hplink”emThe Hill/em/a reported. “This [stimulus] is about getting this out and spent in 18 months to create 3.5 million jobs.”
Technically, the recession ended during the third fiscal quarter of 2009, a href=”http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/gdp_glance.htm” target=”_hplink”according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis/a. But with unemployment hovering around over 8 percent for the last three years, some economists are no longer talking about calling the current economic period a recovery. Brad DeLong, an economist with UC Berkley, told readers on his blog in 2011 that we’re now in the midst of a a href=”http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/06/the-little-depression.html” target=”_hplink”"Little Depression” instead./a
Peter Schiff: Inflation At 20 Percent By 2009
Economist Peter Schiff stated that the Federal Reserves monetary policies would lead to 20 percent inflation within one year. The statement, made in October 2008 on a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jB9fuIvksLw” target=”_hplink”Glenn Beck’s former CNN program/a, was proven wrong. During 2009, a href=”http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/inflation-cpi” target=”_hplink”the U.S. actually experience deflation./a
Ron Paul: Beware Of Runaway Inflation
Congressman Ron Paul believed that runaway inflation was “just horrendous” in May 2011, he said during an appearance on a href=”http://www.ronpaul.com/2009-05-12/ron-paul-warns-against-runaway-inflation/” target=”_hplink”Fox Business News/a. a href=”http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/inflation-cpi” target=”_hplink”When Congressman Paul made that statement/a, inflation was pegged at 3.2 percent and, after peaking at 3.9 percent that October, inflation has steadily fallen to 1.4 percent in July 2012.