Seventy-seven million baby boomers have entered or are approaching retirement. Social Security will make up the bulk of the income most of these seniors will have at their disposal. As our private retirement system continues to underperform and Medicare premiums rise, cutting Social Security COLAs based on a false premise is bad policy.
Fiscal conservatives around Obama have sold the president on the idea that nipping and tucking Social Security and Medicare is an easy way to get a lot of money, and doing it by the backdoor will entail a lower political cost to him. So far, he seems to have been proven wrong on all three assumptions. The Republicans haven't given an inch, the $270 billion in cuts undertaken so far this year under the January budget deal and the March sequester have cut the growth rate in half, and he is alienating core Democratic constituencies. One unanticipated benefit of Obama's stance is new, explicit pressure on Democratic House and Senate members, as well as candidates considering running for president in 2016, to pledge not to cut Social Security and Medicare. It would be so much better if this Democratic president were behaving as a progressive leader right now.
The Republican bargaining habit is well-established -- take Obama's "final" offer as the new starting point and demand further concessions. With this strategy, our president has let them take him to the cleaners for more than four years now, and is still hoping that sweet reasonableness will produce compromise. It never has and never will. If Democrats stand for anything, it is defense of Social Security and Medicare -- America's two most broadly beneficial and most beloved government programs -- and the president just gave away this last bit of product differentiation. In the past, Republicans have saved Obama from himself by refusing to consider any tax hikes. Now, I'm beginning to think, it's time for Democrats save him from himself. And the Democratic Party. And us.