White House Retreats On Social Security -- For Now

From the WSJ's MarketWatch, information about exactly how close the administration came to proposing Social Security cuts. Please note, it wasn't ruled out for good -- but only put on the back burner. As Digby points out again and again, the

From the WSJ's MarketWatch, information about exactly how close the administration came to proposing Social Security cuts. Please note, it wasn't ruled out for good -- but only put on the back burner.

As Digby points out again and again, the Republicans will have no problem cooperating with the Democrats on cutting Social Security -- and then turning around and slamming us in the teeth with it in the 2012 elections, just like they did in the mid-terms:

The White House last month considered offering specific benefit cuts and tax increases to shore up Social Security's finances, but ultimately decided to back off.

Officials weighed suggesting that Congress raise the ceiling on wages subject to the Social Security payroll tax and allow benefits to rise more slowly than under current law, according to three people familiar with the deliberations. The hope was to engage Republicans in talks.

But aides decided against putting forward the ideas, sure to be unpopular, without a clear signal from Republicans that they were ready to talk. As a result, the budget President Barack Obama will release Monday won't include any specific proposals to alter Social Security.

"It doesn't make sense for us to come out and say, 'We're going to do it this way,' and get pilloried," said one person familiar with the conversations. "We have to do it together."

The decision is a fresh illustration of difficulties both parties face as they consider ways to follow through on their promises to slow the growth of spending on federal retirement and health benefits to address projected budget deficits.

Some Republicans have endorsed recommendations made in December by a bipartisan fiscal commission, which includes the ideas the White House favored. Others have endorsed partial privatization of the system, which Democrats oppose. But the GOP has not coalesced around a proposal and there have been no bipartisan talks.

House Republicans are having a similar internal debate about whether to propose changes to Medicare. Some are urging cuts to the health insurance program for the elderly; others are warning of political risks.

[...] The White House discussions were prompted, in part, by suggestions made by the fiscal commission the president appointed. An official said the president has embraced some other commission recommendations, including a corporate tax overhaul, a federal pay freeze and a medical malpractice overhaul.

The decision to hold off was made as the White House came under pressure from Democrats and liberal interest groups who oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits.

They suspected the president might make a Social Security bid in his State of the Union address. White House officials were declining to answer their questions, raising anxiety.

In early January, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka met with Mr. Obama and argued that Social Security did not need immediate action. On Jan. 20, the Congressional Progressive Caucus wrote Mr. Obama to urge him to resist efforts to cut benefits. And a large coalition of unions, women's organizations and other liberal groups called Strengthen Social Security lobbied White House economic aides and organized supporters to send a half million emails and letters to the White House.

At the same time, Democratic Party officials told the White House that a Social Security debate could be uncomfortable for Senate Democrats who face tough re-election races in 2012.

The White House wasn't contemplating a fully formed plan to fix Social Security, but rather an Obama offer that, it was thought, could lead to a bipartisan conversation. "To start a serious conversation, he would have to do something to show credibility," said one person familiar with the deliberations. "You can't just say, 'Let's go talk about Social Security.' "

[...] Obama advisers say they are open to talks on Social Security should Republicans show interest. "The president believes that we should strengthen the program without putting at risk current retirees or slashing benefits for future generations, and he believes we can only achieve this goal by working together—Democrats and Republicans—to find a bipartisan solution," said White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage

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"Bipartisan solution" -- to what, exactly? To the fact that Social Security is in pretty good shape and doesn't contribute one dime to the deficit -- or to the goal of getting Obama reelected?

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