In response to recent fears about the "fiscal responsibility summit" actually being a sneak attack on Social Security, Ezra Kelin writes that the Obama administration will actually use the summit to change the conversation on entitlement reform away from a Social Security and / or Medicare crisis, and instead as a health care crisis:
Talk a lot about the health care crisis and longer-term problems in the budget and get people to stop talking about an illusory crisis in a made-up program called socialsecurityandmedicareandmedicaid.
There is no replay of Bush's crisis-mongering the offing. No commission headed by Kent Conrad with a mandate to cut the program. Any fixes would look more along the lines of, well, the Orszag-Diamond proposal -- which most liberal embraced as the responsible alternative in 2005 -- than the Pete Peterson plan. And it would be mindful of the articles Furman wrote defending Social Security, like this CBPP brief offering 10 facts central to understanding the program.
The Orszag-Diamond plan in may have reached some sort of consensus in certain D.C. circles with people who call themselves "liberal," but it is not, and never was, popular among either liberals around the country or the general population. The reason is, as Jane Hamsher reminds us, that the Orszang-Diamond plan actually cuts benefits (more in the extended entry):
Workers who are 55 or older will experience no change in their benefits from those scheduled under current law. For younger workers with average earnings, our proposal involves a gradual reduction in benefits from those scheduled under current law. For example, the reduction in benefits for a 45-year old average earner is less than 1 percent; for a 35-year-old, less than 5 percent; and for a 25-year-old, less than 9 percent. Reductions are smaller for lower earners, and larger for higher ones.
"As you may know, a proposal has been made that would curb Social Security benefits for middle-income workers in the future, curb them even more for higher-income workers, but would not affect benefits for lower-income workers and those born before 1950. Do you favor or oppose this proposal?"
Oppose 54%, Favor 38%, Unsure 8%
The plan being polled here is clearly the Orszang-Diamond proposal. While no ideological cross-tabs are available for this Gallup poll, it is a safe bet that the self-identified liberals were overwhelmingly opposed to it. My point being that while those in the policy wonk business may think that modest Social Security benefit cuts represent some sort of liberal consensus, the fact is that such a plan is heavily opposed by liberals at large, and indeed opposed by the nation at large, too.
It is very good that the Obama administration is looking to reframe the entitlement debate toward health care and away from Social Security, and that Social Security is not on the administration's radar. However, as long as someone who, only four years ago, published a plan favoring Social Security benefit cuts is apparently drafting the federal budget, I reserve the right to remain unnerved about potential Social Security cuts during the Obama administration. Those fears will be greatly reduced if no such cuts appear in the budget outline that will be revelaed next Thursday.