Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Already It Was Impossible to Say Which Was Which

The Intercept reports that Donald Trump appears to be changing his stance on entitlements.  Up till now Trump has insisted that he would protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid against attempts to cut benefits, promising to "focus on economic growth so that we’d get 'so rich you don’t have to do that.'"

But now he's backing down, or at least reconsidering.
Trump policy adviser and co-chairman Sam Clovis said last week that the real estate mogul would look at changes to all federal programs, “including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare,” as part of a deficit reduction effort.

Clovis made the comments at the 2016 Fiscal Summit of the Pete Peterson Foundation, an organization whose founder has spent almost half a billion dollars to hype the U.S. debt and persuade people that the Medicare and Social Security programs are unsustainable. Trump also met privately last week with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., an outspoken Medicare privatization advocate.
All pretty predictable, no?  My first reaction was that this sounded familiar.  Didn't Barack Obama follow a similar trajectory?  Yes, he did.

When he was campaigning for his first term as President, he told an AARP convention on September 6, 2008 (via), "But his [McCain’s] campaign has gone even further, suggesting that the best answer to the growing pressures on Social Security might be to cut cost-of-living adjustments or raise the retirement age. I will not do either."

Of course, he did both.  In 2010 he appointed a commission to make recommendations on cutting the national deficit, packing it with deficit hawks (including Paul Ryan).  Despite the way Obama had rigged it, the Simpson-Bowles commission was unable to agree on conclusions, so Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles wrote up their own recommendations, which President Obama and most of the media treated as if they represented the commission as a whole.  These recommendations included phasing in a raise in the "retirement age" (meaning the age at which a retiree can receive full benefits) to 69 and changing the index for cost-of-living adjustments so as to lessen those adjustments, resulting in a benefits cut of 3 percent according to the economist Dean BakerObama also announced his willingness to use cuts in Social Security and Medicare to bargain with the Republican Congress on the debt ceiling.  The Business Roundtable, a gang of corporate CEOs, would prefer raising "full retirement age" to 70, and of course the usual Republican suspects in Congress were already on board for that.

So there's concern that "A Trump presidency would threaten programs like Social Security."  It would probably would, but so would any other Republican candidate's presidency.  So, most likely, would a Clinton presidency.  But an Obama presidency already has.