By Robert HiltonsmithCommission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform co-chairmen Erskine Bowles, left, and Alan Simpson (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)Conservatives have always used misguided public fear about the size of the national deficit as an excuse to target government programs they hate — and score political points. That’s certainly true in the current Congress and was on full display during the Senate Budget Committee hearing yesterday. “We are hurtling toward the financial cliff,” said Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota.
But while Washington and much of the media are still focused on the squabble over funding the federal government for the rest of the year — and hyping up the possibility of a government shutdown — in the end, this fight doesn’t amount to a momentous shift in priorities. Whether we end up cutting $10 billion from the federal budget, as Democrats suggest, or $61 billion, as Republicans want, the slash to discretionary spending will hardly be felt by most Americans (though the most vulnerable — students, children, and the poor — will feel it the most).
No, the real budget battle will be the one waged immediately after the current skirmish. House Speaker John Boehner has set his sights on Social Security and Medicare and plans to cut funding to those programs when he offers his proposal for next year’s budget this spring. These are cuts that will hurt millions of Americans and torpedo the country’s growth and prosperity.
Washington DC — At a press briefing convened by The Century Foundation, the Economic Policy Institute, and Demos, pollsters conveyed that the public is decisively opposed to all form of Social Security benefit cuts.
Read the press coverage:
Dan Froomkin of Huffington Post: Obama’s Social Security Talk Is Turning Voters Off, Pollsters Say
The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire by John McKinnon: Democratic Pollsters: Social Security Overhaul Could Help — and Hurt
Humberto Sanchez in National Journal Daily (requires account or trial): Liberals Warn About Tinkering With Social Security
John Amato at Crooks and Liars: Polls show President Obama’s talk on Social Security is turning voters off to the Democratic Party’s handling of the program
Digby: Solidifying Our Losses
Joan McCarter at DailyKos: Progressive pollsters warn against Social Security cuts
Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Dem pollsters plead with Obama: Don’t touch Social Security!