Did Biden drop “flat guarantee” of no cuts to Social Security?

Like you I was encouraged by much that I heard during the VP debate.

Two things disturbed me though, both related to the coming — Obama-desired — attempt to reduce benefits for the social safety net.

■ The first, from the transcript:

RADDATZ: Vice President Biden, let me ask you, if it could help solve the problem, why not very slowly raise the Medicare eligibility age by two years, as Congressman Ryan suggests?

BIDEN: Look, I was there when we did that with Social Security in 1983. I was one of eight people sitting in the room that included Tip O’Neill negotiating with President Reagan. We all got together and everybody said, as long as everybody’s in the deal, everybody’s in the deal, and everybody is making some sacrifice, we can find a way.

We made the system solvent to 2033. We will not, though, be part of any voucher plan eliminating — the voucher says, “Mom, when you’re — when you’re 65, go out there, shop for the best insurance you can get. You’re out of Medicare.” You can buy back in if you want with this voucher, which will not keep pace — will not keep pace with health care costs. Because if it did keep pace with health care costs, there would be no savings. That’s why they go the voucher. They — we will be no part of a voucher program or the privatization of Social Security.

For comparison, here’s Biden in August, as quoted by Dean Baker (my emphasis):

Last week Vice President Joe Biden did a courageous thing, he promised an audience in southern Virginia that there will be no cuts whatsoever to Social Security in a second Obama Administration. He used the strongest possible language, telling customers at a local diner: “I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you.”

Biden’s debate language looks carefully parsed. Did Biden get the memo? If so, is this yet more proof that cuts are coming?

■ The second disturbing item was this framing by the debate moderator:

RADDATZ: Let’s talk about Medicare and entitlements. Both Medicare and Social Security are going broke and taking a larger share of the budget in the process. Will benefits for Americans under these programs have to change for the programs to survive? Mr. Ryan?

RYAN: Absolutely. Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt. These are indisputable facts.

And not one word from Biden (that I can find) to object to Raddatz’s framing — and in the case of Social Security, the obvious falsehood as well.

Is the fix in? Looks like it to me, but feel free to judge for yourself.

GP

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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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