The biggest reform Republicans have vowed to push for in these upcoming standoffs is so-called “entitlement reform,” a.k.a. “deficit reduction,” a.k.a., cutting social insurance and benefits for those in need.

The problem for Democrats: No one in the party agrees on how to address the issue.

The White House has repeatedly expressed a willingness – even an interest – in reducing the deficit through cuts to these programs. In his recent negotiations with Republican House Speaker John Boehner, the President floated cutting benefits to Social Security through a new cost of living index called “chained CPI” that would essentially revise down the government’s estimates of how much seniors need to cover their expenses. The result, of course, would be reduced benefits. …

But coming on the heels of a campaign that explicitly litigated the twin issues of tax fairness and protecting benefits for those in need, Obama finds himself with a growing, emboldened liberal wing of his party. And it’s as dead set against balancing the deficit on the backs of the neediest Americans, as House conservatives are to raising taxes.