Obama pushing for cuts to Social Security, Medicare

By Glenn Greenwald for Salon

This is at once an extraordinary and completely unsurprising headline:

For months, the standard narrative among progressive commentators was that Republicans were outrageously exploiting the debt ceiling deadline to impose drastic entitlement cuts on a resisting and victimized Democratic President (he’s weak in negotiations!), but The Post article makes clear that the driving force behind these cuts is the President himself, who is pushing for even larger spending cuts than the GOP was ready to accept:

President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue. . . . As part of his pitch, Obama is proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to people in both parties with knowledge of the proposal. The move marks a major shift for the White House and could present a direct challenge to Democratic lawmakers who have vowed to protect health and retirement benefits from the assault on government spending.

This morning’s New York Times article similarly makes clear that it is the President who is demanding an even larger “deficit reduction” package than has previously been discussed. Headlined “Obama to Push for Wider Deal With G.O.P. on Deficit Cuts,” the article reports that “President Obama has raised his sights and wants to strike a far-reaching agreement on cutting the federal deficit” and that he “wants to move well beyond the $2 trillion in savings sought in earlier negotiations and seek perhaps twice as much over the next decade.” This is all in pursuit of “an agreement that ma[kes] substantial spending cuts, including in such social programs as Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security — programs that had been off the table.” The President, as part of the package, is reportedly seeking some elimination of modest tax “loopholes” that benefit wealthy Americans to claim, absurdly, that there is “balanced” sacrifice.

It’s true that these articles rely upon anonymous sources, though multiple such sources close to the negotiations — from both parties — are cited in consensus about what is taking place, and there are numerous other reports entirely consistent with these. It’s been bleedingly obvious for some time that the bipartisan D.C. political class and the economic factions that own it have been intent on massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare — see George Carlin’s 2007 video explanation below — but the combination of deficit hysteria (repeatedly bolstered by Obama) and the manufactured debt ceiling deadline has, by design, created the perfect pretext to enable this now. As one “Democratic official” told the Post: “These moments come along at most once a decade. And it would be a real mistake if we let it pass us by.” Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine is not a GOP-exclusive dynamic.

How many people who voted for Obama in 2008 would have expected a headline like this a short two-and-a-half years later? Many more than should have. As Matt Taibbi explains in trumpeting Frank Rich’s superb new New York article detailing Obama’s subservience to Wall Street:

Throughout 2008, it was hard to shake the feeling that this was a politician whose legacy could still go either way. There were an awful lot of troubling signs on the horizon in Obama’s campaign, not the least of which being the enthusiastic support he was receiving from Wall Street.

Obama in part ran a very slightly economically populist campaign, but the tens of millions pouring into his campaign coffers from the very rich (and specifically from hedge funds) told all of us that we probably shouldn’t expect those promises to come off. For a piece I wrote that summer, I asked people in Washington why Wall Street would be throwing money at a guy who was out there on the stump pledging to reach into their pockets:

“Sadly, the answer to that question increasingly appears to be that Obama is, well, full of shit. . . . These populist pledges sound good, but many business moguls appear to be betting that the tax policies, like Obama himself, are only that: something that sounds good. ‘I think we don’t want to make too much of his promises on taxes,’ says Robert Pollin, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts. ‘Not all of these things will happen.’ Noting the overwhelming amount of Wall Street money pouring into Obama’s campaign, even elitist fuckwad David Brooks was recently moved to write, “Once the Republicans are vanquished, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for that capital-gains tax hike.”

Disgustingly, Brooks turned out to be right, and the narrative of the Obama presidency did end up turning sour, on that front anyway.

Continue reading…


  1. Carmine Tronolone on July 12, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Social Security can be strengthened by raising the payroll tax cap.

    Medicare can be shored up by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

    Medicaid can be saved by letting the Bush Tax cuts expire.

    Obama needs to be reminded that Democrats are the party of FDR & LBJ, NOT Hoover!

    • Disobey on July 24, 2011 at 8:09 pm

      Can you say

      Their gonna steal it all
      Sooner or later

    • Ted on July 24, 2011 at 9:53 pm

      We need to have another democratic party candidate in the primary for 2012. The democratic party will not win with Obama if he tries to cut social security, medicare and medicaid because these plans
      of Obama will kill the democratic party for sure.

  2. Robert Burns on July 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Now, at long last, can you not see you have more in common with a protester in Damascus, Syria than you do with the old wealth and oligarchy that run America – both parties. Oppression by the wealthy and the elite is a global condition.
    It is way past time for organized and economically exceedingly painful non-violent resistance. Or will you wait for your grand children to have to mount a bloody revolution to retake the America our founders pledged their lives and fortunes to bring into existence?

  3. Elaine Cormier on July 20, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Please do not cut my social security – things are tough enough as I enter into my senior years……..now I am being threatened with no social security………

    You don’t know what it is like not knowing what your future holds for you and paying into this system our entire life and hoping it will help us live normally when we are age……….


  4. Carol Dobson on July 20, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Obama promised to NOT cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. This is a betrayal. I will not support him if he does this.

  5. Wilson Saavedra on July 20, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Not one cent cut for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The republicans started the war with knowledge that WMD was a lie. Now pay! So start bringing our troops home, 100% now! If that doesn’t do it, continue bringing back the troops from other countries like Germany, Japan and the rest of the empire, If that doesn’t do it, continue with drastic reduction of budget for the Pentagon, If that doesn’t do it, continue with stopping cutting taxes for the rich, If that doesn’t do it, continue revoking loopholes for the rich and corporations (unless is for charity, education, green and medical research), If that doesn’t do it, continue with ending subsidies for Big Oil…

    • frieda hirschberg on July 20, 2011 at 1:03 pm

      I agree!

  6. frieda hirschberg on July 20, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Perhaps the gov. should pay back all the money they have stolen from social security over the years, speaking of paying their debts..Now you don’t hear much about that..Did they just write it off?? And does this mean that the younger people keep paying in, even if there benefits are lowered, somehow this doesn’t seem fair. I’m diabled and stopped working 3 years earlier than I planned resulting in my nestegg being much less. I need every penny I get just to pay for necessities. Not taking into consideration I haven’t gotten a cost of living raise in 2 years and cost of living is soreing! WE NEED A 50/50 BUDGET INCLUDING RAISING TAXES ON THE RICH. It appears all programs are being cut and not enought revenue to match the cuts. Are the republicans going insane, are they breathing different air than the rest of us? Do they know something the general public is unaware of? I’m 62 and never can remember a president of the United States every being so disrespected as Obama..He can hardly get any work thru at all for the BULL–

  7. glen backard on July 20, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    URGENT !



    First of all I want to thank you very much for all the very good things you have done for our country.

    However, with all due respect I will not donate anymore money to you or to the Democrat party until you announce that, NO MATTER WHAT, you will stand firm throughout your entire Presidency on absolutely NO tax breaks for corporations and NO cuts to Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security.

    The corporate takeover of the United States which is being led by the Republicans is destroying the security of the middle class people of our country by stripping away vital American needs and this is completely unacceptable.

    81 percent of Americans want TAXES RAISED on corporations and NO CUTS to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security.

    I am very upset that you keep caving in to the outrages demands by the Republicans.

    So I’m sorry to have to say that if you cave in again and do not raise taxes on all corporations and if you make ANY cuts at all to Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security then I will not vote for you in 2012. I will be voting for the green party instead.

    So PLEASE, PLEASE Mr. Obama, don’t cave in any more. I couldn’t take another one.


    WHITE HOUSE PHONE #….. 202-456-1111

    • Cece on July 24, 2011 at 9:29 pm

      Remember Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are only insurance programs. They do not represent any $ stashed away, as they are unfunded, yet taxed to workers, so where are the savings? All moneys coming in have been long used as general funds, and how does anyone think it helps to further decrease the ability of people to procure insurance? Go google the 5 myths of social security. How can so many politicians get away with telling such huge lies about Social Security?

      • Ted on July 24, 2011 at 10:06 pm

        Yes, why are they lieing to us(and getting away with it) when social security has NOTHING to do with the dept??? Do you think that they are so dumb that they don’t know that?? Or, has all of the social security fund been borrowed by bush for the wars and there is no way of paying back the loan??

  8. Jerry Culp on July 20, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Mr President,
    I can’t even find the words to voice my displeasure with your decision to cut important social programs like medicade, medicare,social security etc. I understand there’s a debt problem in this country but have you ever thought about the possibility of ending some of these wars as a start for cutting spending? I don’t hear either side talking about that. Personally sir, if I were to go to the polls right now and vote, I wouldn’t vote for either party because quite frankly both parties frieghten me. To think that taking away from those who most need it while ignoring ALL the other programs that we could scale back to save money, all the other ways to make money and all the other ways to stop spending sickens me. Please sir. I URGE you! Stop acting like a typical politician and start acting like a human being and show some emotion and care for those who REALLY need it the most. Thank you!

  9. Sumitra on July 24, 2011 at 4:50 am

    Why increase the payroll tax—that’s already too high for most working class Americans. Get the money where the money is–from the gamblers(i.e. financial institutions, corporate malfeasance-ers!!)
    TAX SPECULATION! (i.e. credit default swaps, derivatives).
    If there is a 2% tax on speculation we would have enough money for all social serivce and health care needs for all Americans.
    Make the Legislative Branch (Congress and esp. Senators), and the Executive Branch, and all Judicial Branch pay for their own Health Care by buying their own health insurance. They are already getting paid through the tax dollar—why give them free health care?

  10. Lisa Fredsti on July 24, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    I just hung up on a telephone solicitation for Re-elect President Obama. I told the caller I would not contribute one dime. He asked, incredulously, “Why?” I said because he was proposing to cut Social Security and Medicare. The caller denied this. I said I knew about the grand bargain with Boehner and the Gang of Six, I study these issues very carefully. He started to talk again, I cut him off, said, “Not one dime,” and hung up.

    At least with Bush we knew what we were going to get. I feel like this is a “Nixon goes to China” scenario. It takes a Democratic President to betray fundamental Democratic Party principles.

  11. JIM, STOLZ on July 24, 2011 at 8:01 pm


    • Parlo DelVero on July 25, 2011 at 2:57 pm

      Telling me does no good. Tell your Congressman.

  12. Desiree Michaels on July 24, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    President Obama, you’ve shown yourself with this offer to be a DINO (Democrat in Name Only). Your behavior has been more Republican and Corporatist than that of the “Blue Dogs”. Even the “Blue Dogs” know better than these sort of deals, they know these deals aren’t just political poison but NATIONAL poison.

    It’s several decades past time to once again have a leader – and I mean leader by behavior not just by title – who stands up and does what the PEOPLE need. A leader who does the right things, the hard things. The right things and hard things are rarely politically expedient and they don’t involve rolling over and playing dead in the name of “bipartisanship”. Negotiating isn’t giving your opponent everything they want and then some. Negotiating means you offer to give something and see what you can get them to give something in return until a deal is made.

    We CANNOT take anything more from the poor, disabled and elderly. There’s nothing more to take, unless you plan to turn our bodies into Soylent Green. The ONLY way to balance this budget crisis is the ONE thing that Boehner will not consider tax “increases” – many of which aren’t true increases but allowing cuts or credits to expire. It’s time that “shared sacrifice” is just that – shared. Shared by ALL of us, not just the “little people”.

  13. Debra Istvanik-Strotman on July 24, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    The president better not agree with the whack jobs; republicans and tea party, and all democrats had better stand strong against anyone who wants to take away social security and medicare or reduce the benifits.

    I will stand with all who will protest in the streets against these spineless sub humans whom over the years have borrowed and I use that word loosely, from our money. Repay what you borrowed and then go away.

    You did what Bush couldn’t and didn’t want to do, you had Bin Laden taken out, you saved the auto industry now stand strong against all republicans and tea party members and do all you wanted to do while president and you will be reelected. Follow the scum and you will not be president for a second term. We can’t afford to have a republican and we can’t afford to have anyone who stands with them.

  14. Elaine Laisure on July 24, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    I cannot afford to have Medicare Stripped. The Rich can afford a Tax Increase. Tax Cuts do Not create jobs as demonstrated the past few years. It appears the Republicans are set on a 1930’s Depression Society. Congress and the President should cut their benefits and wages by 50%.

  15. Jack Herbert on July 25, 2011 at 12:13 am

    When are we going to realize that complaining and hoping someone else will make our government work for us is useless? The only thing that will work is getting us to act together effectively to take back our government or create systems of our own.

    Isn’t it obvious that we have to run and elect people we choose whom we can trust and we have to recall the politicians who are abusing us — the ones who will insist on cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

    People in Wisconsin have gathered the signatures to force recall elections of state legislators. The elections are coming up.

    If you won’t make the effort to recall the abusers and to get, run, and elect our own choices, you’re not serious, you need to grow up.

  16. Roger Adams on July 25, 2011 at 2:04 am

    Mr. President,
    I am sure I am not telling you anything new, but for those that haven’t gotten the message yet. . .

    Obama is a shill for Wall Street and the investment bankers. He is a con man and he sold you a bill of goods. Change you can believe in has morphed to austerity that will bleed you. He never intended to do anything else. He ven said as much if you had been paying attention.

    He has the money class standing firmly behind his proposed austerity measures for the little people because they are calling the shots. If you don’t understand how this works, I pity you. You are in for the surprise of your collective lives.

    These people know that as long as all we do is write letter and push buttons on web sites there is nothing to fear from the proles. Until we collectively stand up and tell these people in terms that they understand that we have had enough, they will continue to bleed us and bleed us until there is nothing left of us. That means a national strike-no economic activity from the working class going into their pockets. That means the threat of suffering economically, socially. even physically for the rich as we have already suffered. Until then we will be ignored. Depend on it.

  17. DS Lamb on July 25, 2011 at 3:09 am

    Time to run an independent for President. Bernie Sanders anyone? I might as well write his name in on my ballot, since I won’t ever be voting Republican and won’t vote Democrat if Obama is the nominee.

  18. FPSherrick on July 25, 2011 at 4:58 am

    Obama has betrayed every Democrat in the United States. He MUST NOT BE RE-ELECTED!!!!!!

  19. Dana Dodd on July 25, 2011 at 6:59 am

    I feel as others do. I second the comment “Congress and the President should cut their benefits and wages by 50%”. We have poor and elderly people who barely survive on what little social security they get as it is. As Ted above says, “social security is not the cause of the deficit”. Stop the ridiculious and expensive war. BRING ALL OUR TROOPS HOME to protect us. Tax the rich 50/50. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING OBAMA?? America is going down the toilet already. Are you not worried because you and your family (like the rest of congress)have a wonderful retirement plan and don’t have to sweat getting old and crippled? Are you just a puppet on a string? If social security benefits are cut I will NOT vote to have you re-elected, and I am not alone. Americans are not going to roll over and play dead until politicians kill us. I for one am going down with a fight. Re-read some history Obama. We have had Presidents that have pulled us out of our deepest despair and they did it without making the poor suffer. I guess the days of real leaders of America are over. There is too much greed and evil doings going on behind the scenes today. It is hard to feel safe anymore.

  20. CrossCountryMan on July 25, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Obama may well be the anti-christ and to think i worked hard to get him elected at the personal level by advocating for him with friends, family, church members, on the internet, by phone, in public meetings, with VVAW, and VFP members etc., etc., etc., and on the public and private level with everybody, everywhere i went! Pushing this through as he allegedly is will destroy the tax-paying middle class and at the same time destroy Amerika! Could he, after-all be the Manchurian Candidate prophesized 50 years ago in a movie by the same name??? If he does this i hope it prompts another Civil WAR!

  21. Parlo DelVero on July 25, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I’m glad I voted for Kucinich. And I’ll vote for him again.

  22. Leo Baggs on July 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    No Truer words were ever spoken from all of you !! I have to say I finally got fed-up with the BS that’s coming out of Washington, so I called both the Indiana DNC, and the DNC in Washington. The DNC in Indiana said among other things,that I should get in touch with my Representative in my district[sorry, wrong answer] it’s Rep.Larry Bucshon, Ya,right! He’s one of our new Idiot’s in DC. Before, his present Job !! He was a Heart Surgeon who must had to take the Hippocratic Oath to heal, now as a Republican he’s taken the oath as a Hypocrite [which I guess cancels out the first one]!! and is now trying to cancel out Medicare, Medicaid, mortgage deduction, social security. And as brilliant as our last election was for the Senate the one that got in was [Coates] who hadn’t lived in Indiana for the last four, or five years,and was a Lobbyist for foreign contries, and companies. Although,the last one was Evan Bayh [a Democrat] was a blue dog democrat which means that your neutral,or neutered !! He now works Fox News, or Ruperts Murdoch’s folly !! Our Governor Mitch Daniels, the one that sold the “Indiana Toll Road “, would have probally sold off the rest of the roads in the country,and The Lincoln Bedroom would have been on “The Antique Road Show” if he would have made to the White House !! Why don’t we sign a petition to have the new “Tea Partyers, and Republicans pay for their Healthcare,and benifits. It’s just the matter of “not” stuffing the money into their pockets, maybe we could all get a break for a change!!

  23. Michael Shaw on July 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    After the president’s speech this evening it is evident that Social Security and Medicare are on the table. The president calls this reasonable compromise. I call it a massive deception placed upon the American people as tax brakes to the wealthiest Americans continue as do wars around the globe which are profitable for America’s wealthiest people. I also believe his so called closing of tax loopholes on the rich is a dishonest brokerage and will amount to nothing but doublespeak. I supported Obama once. It looks like those days are now over! Seems that our only hope left in stopping this dastardly deed is to go to our congressional leaders and hope they are ready to defend these programs from republicans and Obama.

  24. IUPAPAW on July 27, 2011 at 1:59 pm