Dear President Obama, Please Don't Propose Cuts To Social Safety Nets

Thom Hartmann, from his March 30, 2011 show

Dear President Obama,

In your upcoming speech about handling the deficit, we implore you not to raise the eligibility age of America's social safety net programs or cut benefits in any way. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid hold the core principles of the Democratic party. These programs have paved the way for millions upon millions of Americans for generations to pay into a system that guaranteed them important medical care and sustenance in their twilight years. They need to be protected by your office as well as the entire Congress and should not be subjected to harsh cuts in order to appease politicians who call for austerity measures in a time of recession.

While the county is still recovering from a horrendous global financial collapse caused by the greed of Wall Street CEOs, bank executives and negligent bureaucrats, senior citizens--both now and in the future--are the people who stand to lose the most.  Social Security does not contribute a single penny to the deficit, so allowing the conservatives to frame this as a fiscally responsible choice is not only incorrect, but morally wrong.

There are many tools at your disposal to ease the federal deficit and at the same time protect the most vulnerable of our society. These social safety nets took decades to develop, not out of reckless government spending, but because past presidencies witnessed unspeakable horrors to the elderly and the poor and reacted to protect its own constituents.

If the eligibility age is raised, it will create an unnecessary burden from which not many will be able to recover. If you do in fact cut benefits it will destroy the very foundation of the party on which this country has relied and put in peril many millions of its citizens in the future.

We look forward to hearing you voicing your strong commitment to this Democratic Party bedrock in your speech tomorrow.

UPDATE: Jonathan Cohn makes his own case on why raising the eligibility age is a bad idea, both politically for the White House and practically for the people who would be affected.

One reason reaching the age of 65 is such a relief to so many people is that it represents their chance, finally, to get out of the world of private health insurance and into Medicare. For the most part, it means the end of jumping between sources of coverage of wondering constantly which doctors will see them. (Despite what you may have heard, doctors are still more likely to take Medicare than private insurance.) Medicare has its problems but for most seniors it offers peace of mind that other sources of coverage simply don’t, at precisely the age when many of them are first experiencing serious health problems. Postponing the age at which seniors can get that security is not going to make them happy.

So the implications for policy are bad. And the implications for politics? Even worse, particularly given what we've seen this week.

As everybody knows, Republicans hammered Democrats in the 2010 midterms by attacking the Affordable Care Act's Medicare cuts, never mind how reasonable wonks like me thought they were. But when the newly elected Republicans voted for the Paul Ryan budget, which proposes much deeper cuts and would effectively end the program was we know it, the GOP seemed to relinquish whatever political advantage it had gained on the issue. A special election in upstate New York, in which a Democrat won and the Ryan budget figured prominently, seemed to confirm on


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