Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Who Will Win the White House Social Security Split?

The Hill
reports that "Social Security reform is splitting President Obama's economic and political advisors." The president's policy team, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, and National Economic Council Deputy Director Jason Furman, argue that now is the time to work with Republicans to craft a Social Security reform deal. Ideally, they have argued, Social Security would have been addressed while Democrats still controlled the House, but now is better than never.

In the other corner stand President Obama's political advisors, including David Axelrod, David Plouffe, and Jim Messina, who argue that "backing benefit cuts could prove disastrous to his 2012 reelection hopes."

Which side will win?

Please. While I am rooting for the pro-reform camp, which has the better of the argument, who thinks that President Obama would put a bipartisan deal to address a large and looming entitlement shortfall ahead of his own electoral prospects?

Remember, this is the guy who started his primary campaign for president stressing the need to address a Social Security "crisis." Then, after some pushback from the Left, he clammed up and ruled out everything except for tax increases on the rich.

Obama then entered office talking up the need for a Social Security reform commission. After pushback from the Left, he put the commission on ice.

Later, to defend against GOP charges of budgetary mismanagement, he brought the fiscal commission back from the dead. But, again after pushback from the Left, he promptly ignored the bipartisan commission's deal on Social Security reform, which included sign-on from Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) on the left and Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) on the right.

See a pattern here? For what it's worth, President Bush was at least willing to talk about things he and the Republican base didn't like, such as increasing the Social Security tax "cap." Agree or disagree (count me in the latter camp), Bush at least showed some leadership. President Obama? Not so much.

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