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On Social Security: organize!

Bloggers Glenn Greenwald and Ezra Klein are having a bloggish dispute over whether to use anonymous sources.  But the subject at hand — the prospect of cuts to Social Security — is much larger.  And the real question is the best approach for advocates of social change to the new political environment.

As previously noted here, it started with veteran muckraker William Greider warning of a growing campaign by conservatives to sink Social Security, or at least trim its sails, in the name of “fiscal responsibility.”  This was a couple weeks before the White House “fiscal responsibility” summit was held on February 23.

Klein wrote on the 19th that such “din-raising” was probably not necessary, because his friends in the administration assured him that as far as they’re concerned, “entitlement reform” means health care reform.  He later wrote that “people in the White House” were telling him “there’s no intention to touch Social Security in the foreseeable future.”  He was being spun.

A few days later, on the morning of the summit, a New York Times piece offered a far different perspective, reporting that “persons who’ve spoken with” President Obama, including Senator Lindsay Graham, said “Obama is eager to seek a bipartisan solution to ensure the long-term solvency of Social Security,” but “opposition from his party’s left and from Congressional Democratic leaders” has led him to drop that effort, at least for now.  (The same day Robert Kuttner, Klein’s colleague at the American Prospect, gave a thorough overview to the issues in an op-ed for the Washington Post, highlighting the role of the “deficit hawk” Democrats who are suddenly so important.)

So, far from being safe in the steady hands of the administration, Social Security had been taken off the chopping block only in the face of opposition from outside the White House.

Last Thursday, David Brooks reported on calls from four (anonymous) “senior members of the administration” objecting to his depiction of Obama’s budget proposal as “liberal.”  Among their points: The President “is extremely committed to entitlement reform and is plotting politically feasible ways to reduce Social Security [spending] as well as health spending.”  (Perhaps Klein could suggest they have a talk with Kuttner?)

Hopefully Greenwald and Klein will come to an understanding over the proper treatment of sources.  But as far as regular folks are concerned, hopefully when opponents of Social Security organize to pressure the administration, supporters of Social Security will listen to Greider, organize, and raise a din.

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Category: economy, seniors

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