Halperin: Obama fumbling Social Security reform by running Dem playbook

posted at 9:30 am on August 23, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

With Social Security already running in the red a full nine years before Peter Orszag insisted the deficits would begin, even Harry Reid has to acknowledge that Congress needs to act on fixing the entitlement program.  That will force both parties to take political risks in crafting solutions for the crisis.  Time’s Mark Halperin notes that Barack Obama, the man who made “change” into a campaign slogan, has instead decided to lead a Democratic charge to frighten the elderly rather that work for a solution to the problem, and he’s not happy about it:

In a move as predictable as Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, Democrats are using Social Security scare tactics to gain ground before the November election. President Barack Obama is not only tolerating this classic old politics maneuver by his party — he is leading the charge. …

It is clear why Democrats are raising the specter of Republican efforts to alter Social Security. This tactic has worked in the past, as older voters — who typically turn out at the polls in higher percentages, especially in midterm years — tend to trust Democrats more than Republicans to protect the cherished retirement program. And given the weak economy, Obama’s mushy poll numbers and the lack of traction on the White House’s legislative achievements, it is no surprise that Democratic leaders would turn to the tried-and-true tactic. Also, with some prominent Republicans still calling for a fundamental change to the system by adding private accounts, the GOP has opened itself up to political attack.

But Obama is living in a parallel Vulcan universe if he thinks he and his strategists can spend the next two months using campaign appearances, advertising, robocalls and other voter communication to demonize Republicans on Social Security, and then turn around in January and try to make a deal on that same issue.

Tried and true?  Perhaps in previous cycles, but possibly not in 2010.  Status-quo arguments don’t work in a meltdown, which is what people are experiencing now.  Unemployment continues to rise, economic indicators are all heading south, and the budget deficits have skyrocketed in the past three-plus years under Democratic control of Congress.  With Social Security slipping into the red along with all of these issues (and in some cases because of them), seniors aren’t going to buy an argument that Democratic status-quo maintenance will solve the problem.

Of course, some of this is just plain dishonesty.  Halperin assumes that Democrats will have to do something about Social Security, even just because it’s going to fail soon and on their watch.  With Obama on the stump demonizing the same Republicans with whom he’ll have to work, he won’t be in any position to lead the effort.  That may be moot anyway.  If Republicans take control of Congress, they may choose not to do any Social Security reforms anyway, focusing instead on driving down federal spending in other areas and dismantling Obama’s brand-new entitlement, ObamaCare.  They can gamble that a Republican President in 2013 will work better with Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress in creating an effective reform of SSA and make Obama irrelevant to the discussion.


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Politicians crack me up.

They think(?) they can fix(?) Social Security without pissing anyone off?

Too bad, they didn’t think of that in 1936, when they set the Ponzi Scheme in motion.

franksalterego on August 23, 2010 at 9:35 AM

Of course. Demorats always play politics with S. S. instead of working for needed reform.

Their motto: Screw the grandchildren; just win the election.

WannabeAnglican on August 23, 2010 at 9:35 AM

The only question is:

Will the Republicans (The Stupid Party) after decades of hearing the same Democratic scare crap regarding Social Security, have a comprehensive public relations/media response prepared in advance of their expected November victory?

I suspect the Stupid Party lead by establishment hacks like McConnell and Boner, will have the same flacid, torpid, mealy, defensive response to the same tired Democratic scare strategy.

rickyricardo on August 23, 2010 at 9:36 AM

I don’t see it working this time. Seniors are PO’d at Barry over Obamacare and the half trillion it cuts from Medicare. He’s insane if he thinks he can go out there now and convince them that the Dems are the party that cares.

Doughboy on August 23, 2010 at 9:36 AM

If the GOP gets some control in the next congress, they need to focus on killing ObamaCare in the craddle.

Once that entitlement is dealt with, we’ll deal with the other one that we’ve kicked down the road before.

myrenovations on August 23, 2010 at 9:39 AM

I was under the impression that the death panels were going to ameliorate this problem for the dems.

Vashta.Nerada on August 23, 2010 at 9:39 AM

the cherished retirement program

Speak for youselves, “cherishers.”

Me, I despise it.

Bat Chain Puller on August 23, 2010 at 9:41 AM

Obama is trapped in 1965, fighting Bull Connors in Selma, Alabama.

Pelosi still thinks it’s 1967 and the Summer of Love.

Harry Reid is lost amidst a “Godfather II” plot.

We don’t have leaders, we have wannabe movie directors.

I don’t want to see the sequel. This ends this November.

NoDonkey on August 23, 2010 at 9:42 AM

I am curious at what point the RNC can start running, “The president is lying to you” ads.

“Barrack Hussein Obama: The Lying Liar who Lies”

The Social Security fiasco is such a lovely example of the way he lies and uses lies and lies about lying, why not call him, and his party, on it? Over and over and over?

WashingtonsWake on August 23, 2010 at 9:42 AM

Unemployment unexpectedly continues to rise, economic indicators are all unexpectedly heading south, and the budget deficits have unexpectedly skyrocketed in the past three-plus years under Democratic control of Congress.

Hello?

The Mega Independent on August 23, 2010 at 9:43 AM

Democrats have been loudly bragging about cuts in Medicaid payments to doctors, and lowering the ‘cost’ of Medicare, for too long to have any credibility left on social security.

Skandia Recluse on August 23, 2010 at 9:44 AM

Tell lies. Win big.

It’s the Libtard way.

GrannyDee on August 23, 2010 at 9:44 AM

I suspect the Stupid Party lead by establishment hacks like McConnell and Boner, will have the same flacid, torpid, mealy, defensive response to the same tired Democratic scare strategy.

rickyricardo on August 23, 2010 at 9:36 AM

Not only rhetorical response but action too.

The R establishment is just that, establishment.

Forget the R, it can be a distraction sometimes.

In the end, they care about power, control, wealth, prestige and favorable media coverage.

They too are corrupt, self-interested bastards that will use the R base to get what they want.

Can’t wait for them to start “reaching out to Obama” and their “friends across the aisle”.

Wonder what comes next, after more people realize the R’s won’t fix this country.

artist on August 23, 2010 at 9:45 AM

older voters — who typically turn out at the polls in higher percentages, especially in midterm years — tend to trust Democrats more than Republicans to protect the cherished retirement program.

For the umpteenth time, it is not a retirement program. It was designed, enacted, and funded as a whole life insurance policy, and cannot viably function as a pension.

Vashta.Nerada on August 23, 2010 at 9:46 AM

Sorry. The whole Vulcan thing doesn’t work for me. Spock told people to live long and prosper. Our president doesn’t like people to do either.

lm10001 on August 23, 2010 at 9:47 AM

Isn’t it obvious that with continued declining employment numbers, infusions into the SS coffers goes down? Likewise does federal revenue decrease.

To have credibility, the GOP has to repeatedly hammer the point that the current SS system is unsustainable. The party must present credible, fact-filled solutions that lessen the fears of current seniors and soon-to-retire boomers who have sustained the Ponzi scheme. The emphasis must be focused on choices and the freedom to prepare for our own retirements.

As it is now, the economic downturn has people dipping into their already depleted 401Ks (if they are fortunate to still have one).

The GOP must repeatedly show its ideas in bread and butter terms. The Left never lets up on the counter-argument to paint the fiscally responsible as villains. It is time to expose the lies of the Left.

onlineanalyst on August 23, 2010 at 9:51 AM

My mother voted for Obamao, and has regretted it ever since. She’s a veteran of WWII (Navy Waves) and first began to regret her vote when there was noise made about cutting veterans benefits. Then there were the cuts to Medicare, and the bloated POS called ObamaCare. Her friends that voted for Obamao feel the same way – betrayed.

I don’t care what the dhimmicrats try to say this election cycle – they have soured their relationship with the elderly voters in this country. Nothing they or Obamao can do will win them back.

Timothy S. Carlson on August 23, 2010 at 9:53 AM

We all know the only idea the Democrats have for fixing Social Security is: Raise Payroll Taxes. Nothing else, and of course the odds are better than 50-50 even if they did raise FICA, they’d attach a rider to the bill allowing them to spend the money on some other pet projects and still leave Social Security starved for funds.

jon1979 on August 23, 2010 at 9:54 AM

Slightly off topic, but what is up with these so called journalists and their poor word selection. In this article, Halperin uses the word “cherished” to describe beneficiaries reliance on the SS program. In my dictionary, cherish is defined as ~ to treat with affection and tenderness; to keep fondly in mind ~ Do we really believe this is how people view the retirement safety net. In many cases, this is the only source of income people have. Without it, they are toast. Cherish just seems like an odd choice of words.

glennbo on August 23, 2010 at 10:04 AM

I don’t see it working this time. Seniors are PO’d at Barry over Obamacare and the half trillion it cuts from Medicare. He’s insane if he thinks he can go out there now and convince them that the Dems are the party that cares.

Doughboy on August 23, 2010 at 9:36 AM

I dunno. A lot of people care about their own checks before anything else. And people believe that they OWN their Social Security money. So to them any change that reduces benefits is akin to defaulting on a loan that they have given Uncle Sam.

hawksruleva on August 23, 2010 at 10:05 AM

Isn’t Krugman still writing that there is nothing wrong with Social Security? This isn’t a mistake, it’s strategy by the Dems. I actually believe Obama on this one.

Democrats will fight till the last dog dies to keep SS exactly the way it is. To admit that it is failing is to admit that the ENTIRE welfare state they have constructed since the New Deal isn’t going to work anymore.

Republicans have found the Dems’ weak spot here, whether by design or by accident. They are sounding like the grownups and the realists in the room, while Democrats are still on Fantasy Island where everyone can retire at 62 and live a life of plenty, at someone else’s expense.

rockmom on August 23, 2010 at 10:06 AM

I suspect the Stupid Party lead by establishment hacks like McConnell and Boner, will have the same flacid, torpid, mealy, defensive response to the same tired Democratic scare strategy.

Exactly. The good news is the Democrats are going to lose big in November. The bad news is the Republicans are going to win big in November.

Status quo Republicans are my biggest fear after the election.

halfastro on August 23, 2010 at 10:07 AM

Cherish just seems like an odd choice of words.

glennbo on August 23, 2010 at 10:04 AM

It’s tyelling, if you ask me. Social Security is “cherished” because the oldest Americans still associate it with FDR, who they think “saved” America from the Great Depression. It’s not their own checks they cherish so much as the idea that we will never have old people living on the streets penniless.

rockmom on August 23, 2010 at 10:08 AM

The seniors get it…that is part of the Tea Party…
We know that a “fix” has to happen, so to pretend that a fix isn’t necessary is an insult to seniors.
We get it…the economy is screwed up and adjustments have to be made.
We just want to be part of that adjustment…and not some insurance organization pretending they are representing seniors.
The AARP is just an arm of the Obama machine…

right2bright on August 23, 2010 at 10:13 AM

I suspect the Stupid Party lead by establishment hacks like McConnell and Boner, will have the same flacid, torpid, mealy, defensive response to the same tired Democratic scare strategy.

rickyricardo on August 23, 2010 at 9:36 AM

This guy is a concern troll. Please do not respond to him. On every thread he repeats the same trashing of McConnell and Boehner. He is trying to take our eye off the ball and get us to stay home in Nvember because “those stupid GOPers won’t change anything, so why bother to vote for them.”

Just a reminder: we would not be in a position to regain control of the House and Senate without the disciplined and courageous leadership of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner. They took the onslaught of the White House and their paid-for media thugs on the “Party of No” crap and did not flinch. They refused all compromises on ObamaCare and forced the Dems into ramming it through using corrupt and infurating tactics. They stopped Cap and Tax dead in its tracks in the Senate. They stood against the horrible Porkulus bill and now it is a gigantic millstone around the Democrats’ neck because it didn’t work and it ran up a gigantic deficit.

The House and Senate Republicans have remained united in opposition to Obama’s agenda, in a way that most us did not expect or believe possible last year. There is no reason to believe they will not be just as disciplined and united when they are back running the Congress next year.

rockmom on August 23, 2010 at 10:15 AM

rockmom on August 23, 2010 at 10:08 AM

Perhaps you are correct. It seems to me that the people who have any actual memory of FDR and hold cherished thoughts are long gone or soon to be. Heck, many of the elderly were just kids when FDR was in the WH. It is probably more likely that it is the liberal left who cherish the memory of FDR and his failed policies and want to keep the dream alive. The farther away we get from FDR the more people will wake up and see the fraud for what it is.

At least we can hope and pray this is so.

glennbo on August 23, 2010 at 10:15 AM

Cherish just seems like an odd choice of words.

glennbo on August 23, 2010 at 10:04 AM

It really isn’t…as I look back on my years of dedicated work, my decades of putting away for my retirement, I cherish those memories, that dedication…I cherish the fact that I provided well for my family, and we were promised that our money would be returned to us.
A deal is a deal…a politician can say whatever he wants, but you make a deal, you stick to it.

right2bright on August 23, 2010 at 10:16 AM

But Obama is living in a parallel Vulcan universe if he thinks he and his strategists can spend the next two months using campaign appearances, advertising, robocalls and other voter communication to demonize Republicans on Social Security, and then turn around in January and try to make a deal on that same issue.

parallel? I’d say it’s orthogonal

ted c on August 23, 2010 at 10:18 AM

Obama is trapped in 1965, fighting Bull Connors in Selma, Alabama.

Pelosi still thinks it’s 1967 and the Summer of Love.

Harry Reid is lost amidst a “Godfather II” plot.

We don’t have leaders, we have wannabe movie directors.

I don’t want to see the sequel. This ends this November.

NoDonkey on August 23, 2010 at 9:42 AM

Democrats have relied on the same playbook for decades. Class warfare, (race, if they can get away with it), and the same old rich v poor, with Democrats promising “equality” with unfunded entitlements, bailouts, and phony stimulus packages designed to re-create the welfare state—permanent government dependency.

It may take more than ten years to reverse the spending policies Pelosi and Obama have passed putting this nation in eternal debt while they make payoffs to their labor unions and special interest. Under the guise of helping the middle class, the Democrats have condemned the next two generations to financial servitude, and they have no one to blame but their own power-hungry ambitions, (hopefully), destined for extinction.

Rovin on August 23, 2010 at 10:20 AM

They can gamble that a Republican President in 2013 will work better with Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress in creating an effective reform of SSA and make Obama irrelevant to the discussion.

I think Mr. Obama himself is making himself irrelevant and increasingly marginalized from both Congress and the American people. I get no sense that he wants to work with anyone but himself, his close circle of czars, and others in his base that he can whip up and spin into acting against the majority of the public on most issues like HC, immigration, and the GZM.

ted c on August 23, 2010 at 10:21 AM

we were promised that our money would be returned to us

Hahaha… it’s not your money. If you dropped dead tomorrow, who gets it?

Anyone who trusts a government promise… sucker.

Bat Chain Puller on August 23, 2010 at 10:22 AM

I don’t see it working this time. Seniors are PO’d at Barry over Obamacare and the half trillion it cuts from Medicare. He’s insane if he thinks he can go out there now and convince them that the Dems are the party that cares.

Doughboy on August 23, 2010 at 9:36 AM

Sure, but they will try. They have been selling their cuts to Medicare as “strengthening” the program, without any mention to actual cuts. Go to the healthcare.gov propaganda website for more info. Interesting factoid: Google has promoted that website to the number one search result for “health care,” free of charge.

Joe Caps on August 23, 2010 at 10:25 AM

Democrats have been loudly bragging about cuts in Medicaid payments to doctors, and lowering the ‘cost’ of Medicare, for too long to have any credibility left on social security.

Skandia Recluse on August 23, 2010 at 9:44 AM

SSI has been a popular program for a long time. The winners of a ponzi scheme are never the people who complain. Democrats just keep pointing out the winners like a Casino keeps posting pictures of the one person who hit the Jackpot without showing you the thousands who lost.

Will Democrats have credibility on SSI and Medicare? With a vast number of people the answer will be yes they do.

Until Republicans can muster up the collective guts necessary to tell people exactly why it has to change, how it has to change and most importantly stick to the message we have no hope of anything but becoming another Greece.

jpmn on August 23, 2010 at 10:25 AM

Re SS, is it perhaps ‘cherished’ because liberals know that demagoguing the issue has won them so many elections?

slickwillie2001 on August 23, 2010 at 10:27 AM

I honestly don’t know how we will ever solve the SS/Medicare problem. If you have ever seen the opening day sale at one of the big department stores then you know that a large percentage of our population will NEVER give up anything voluntarily. If they get to vote on it they will ALWAYS vote for the person who will promise to give it to them. We, the ones on this forum, think that if we could just get good leaders in office we could get this s**t done. NOT. No elected pol is going to commit political suicide, even though quite a number of Dems did earlier this year with Ocare. I’m afraid we will need a benevolent dictator to accomplish what must be done. And we are at the magic 50% point where the takers are even with the earners. We are at the point of no political ability to accomplish anything of substance except cutting the military.

inspectorudy on August 23, 2010 at 10:27 AM

He is trying to take our eye off the ball and get us to stay home in November because “those stupid GOPers won’t change anything, so why bother to vote for them.”

Nonsense.

The slow, steady, steam roller of Progressive politics has been unrelenting over the last 30 years. Establishment Republicans have done nothing more than throw burning tires into the streets to temporarily obstruct their advance while doing NOTHING to advance a long range conservative agenda.

Throughout Republican administrations and Congressional majorities ACORN continued to receive taxpayer funding.

That’s all you need to know.

“Concern trolling” about these Republican leadership hacks in Congress is warranted until the Stupid Party can figure out how to intelligently assert itself when it’s in a position of power.

rickyricardo on August 23, 2010 at 10:28 AM

We are at the point of no political ability to accomplish anything of substance

I’ll see that and raise you Chris Christie.

Bat Chain Puller on August 23, 2010 at 10:32 AM

Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress in creating an effective reform of SSA and make Obama irrelevant to the discussion.

Obama: The guy who lives in the White House

BobMbx on August 23, 2010 at 10:36 AM

“Concern trolling” about these Republican leadership hacks in Congress is warranted until the Stupid Party can figure out how to intelligently assert itself when it’s in a position of power.

rickyricardo on August 23, 2010 at 10:28 AM

You should concern yourself with history, and knowledge first…then maybe, maybe, (if you haven’t so damaged your reputation) someone may actually think you have a point.

right2bright on August 23, 2010 at 10:36 AM

Let’s see the Stupid Party has cut Medicare and foodstamps (and who knows what else since no one really knows what the hell they are doing) why would anyone trust them with ssecurity?
Obama would be better off pretending it doesn’t exist. Just like I pretend he doesn’t exist.

ORconservative on August 23, 2010 at 10:37 AM

Gosh sorry, in my world the Stupid Party is the Corrupt Party is the Democrats.
The Republicans are the wimps.

ORconservative on August 23, 2010 at 10:38 AM

You should concern yourself with history, and knowledge first…then maybe, maybe, (if you haven’t so damaged your reputation) someone may actually think you have a point.

You must be employed by the Department of Energy or the Department of Education.

rickyricardo on August 23, 2010 at 10:40 AM

Hahaha… it’s not your money. If you dropped dead tomorrow, who gets it?

Anyone who trusts a government promise… sucker.

Bat Chain Puller on August 23, 2010 at 10:22 AM

My wife does…stupid.
And you may not have faith in America, but I do, and have…a sucker is one who has no faith, and with that “no faith” has nothing to fight for.
You have said that you can’t trust the government, yet you live here…so who is the sucker, me who will fight for what is mine, or you, who will gladly give up what someone has taken from you.
Better look up the word sucker…I think it has your name under it.

right2bright on August 23, 2010 at 10:41 AM

You must be employed by the Department of Energy or the Department of Education.

rickyricardo on August 23, 2010 at 10:40 AM

Thank you for proving my point…

right2bright on August 23, 2010 at 10:42 AM

What esle does teh WON got? Besides agitate and litigate, Obama & Co don’t know squat!

They are fumbling, not because they produced the wrong solutions for every problem, but because they can’t build a different strawman for each situation fast enough.

Sir Napsalot on August 23, 2010 at 10:43 AM

The Republicans are the wimps.

ORconservative on August 23, 2010 at 10:38 AM

So tell me…how many Senate races have you won? How many congressional races have you won?

right2bright on August 23, 2010 at 10:43 AM

SS is “cherished” only because we count on it being there, and then the damn pols pull the rug away. At age 55 and up, it’s simply too late to save enough, so older people get angry. If taxes were lower and there were better ways to save, we would be doing it.

PattyJ on August 23, 2010 at 10:43 AM

You have said that you can’t trust the government, yet you live here…so who is the sucker

Show of hands… how many here trust the government?

And you didn’t answer my question. If you die before collecting SS, who gets the money?

It’s not your money anymore.

Bat Chain Puller on August 23, 2010 at 10:49 AM

Finally found something the Won’s afraid to touch. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s one of the first things that really does need fixing besides our tax system. It’s easy for dems to scare old people, this is the only income some have. It’s not easy living old, cold and lonely and then add broke to it, not to mention the death panels.

Kissmygrits on August 23, 2010 at 11:07 AM

Exploitable flaw in the Democrats position.

Raising taxes won’t work. But if they insist, then the trust funds and foundations that allow Progressives to avoid contact with reality should be targeted.

If Social Security is not to be touched, then the bureaucracy should be cut to free up funds to meet SS needs.

LarryD on August 23, 2010 at 11:13 AM

I actually believe that the young people won’t be snookered by the SS dhimmicrat hustle. Time will tell.

Mojave Mark on August 23, 2010 at 11:16 AM

HACKENSACK, N.J. – Just two people in New Jersey will begin receiving coverage Monday under new plans created by federal health care reforms.
NJ Protect plans are available to those who have been without insurance for at least six months and submit evidence of pre-existing health conditions.

The state will receive $141 million in federal subsidies to cover claims that exceed the premiums paid by the beneficiaries.

ted c on August 23, 2010 at 11:17 AM

The GOP should campaign to repeal Obamacare to save Medicare and Medicaid

Declare saving Medicare is the first step to saving Social Security

They would not be lying.

They would be showing good faith on the promises made when enacting Social Security

They would put Obamacare back in the box where it belongs

They could begin weeding out the boatload of new gov workers being installed to handle the shadow government Obamacare overhead

entagor on August 23, 2010 at 11:18 AM

Enter: Paul Ryan

cpaulus on August 23, 2010 at 11:26 AM

right2bright on August 23, 2010 at 10:43 AM

Well, as many as I’ve run in.
Look, the Democrats are clearly progressive socialists and those who are not are either corrupt or stupid or both. The Republicans, with some exception seem afraid of a strong offensive. Wimpy.
McCotter, a R from MI, was asked what would be wrong with offering his constituents 50bucks/vote and he replied it would be unethical and then he was asked what was the difference between the 50/vote and promising bigger better social programs…………..lightbulb……answer: nothing.

ORconservative on August 23, 2010 at 11:39 AM

So much for the FDR trust fund lies. FDR lied to the people said the money was to be placed in a trust fund. Then he turned around and said to the Supreme Court that the SS revenues would be just general taxes. The people weren’t smart enough at the time to see lies and a ponzi scheme for what it was. Like with all ponzi schemes, time to pay up.

Makes you realize the Imam Obama-Kare lies will, well you know, turn out to be lies.

tarpon on August 23, 2010 at 12:03 PM

The GOP should campaign to repeal Obamacare to save Medicare and Medicaid

Declare saving Medicare is the first step to saving Social Security

A simple but potentially effective argument, which means the party of Michael Steele will focus on abortion and reaching across the aisle.

rickyricardo on August 23, 2010 at 12:07 PM

The problem with Republicans when it comes to changing or killing entitlement programs is that they always try to explain their actions in terms of logic. Their arguments are logical and usually correct, but that doesn’t necessarily change minds. What the Dems excel at is the use of emotion to win their arguments. What they say may not be true but their argument either strikes fear, sympathy or empathy with many people.

This is not to say the Republicans cannot do the same thing. A logical argument that strikes an emotional cord will be much more powerful than a utopian dream or “what if” fears that have no foundation in reality. The Dems will try to say that Grandma will loose her SS to the big evil capitalist corporations or that the retirement age will be moved so far back that no one will live long enough to collect. The Republicans can frame their arguments with solutions that are both logical and workable, while at the same time doing the same “what if” scenarios by showing what is happening in Greece, Spain and the rest of Europe.

ReaganWasRight on August 23, 2010 at 1:19 PM