Voters need specifics, not vague promises, on Social Security

The Social Security discussion is heating up. Good.

In the wake of President Obama’s debate statement that he and Romney share a “somewhat similar position” on Social Security — and the progressive reaction to that, at least from the bleachers — we’re starting to hear more calls for the President to re-clarify his clarifications.

In other words —

“Mr. President, if you’re going to cut Social Security, tell us how and where, now, before the election.”

The latest to weigh in on this is the always excellent John Nichols at The Nation. In a piece that excoriates Romney-Ryan on this issue — correctly in my view — he also point first to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ concern that Obama will also make cuts that are neither needed nor desired by Obama voters; then Nichols speaks in his own voice.

First the headline and lede:

Bernie Sanders: Obama and Biden Need to Get Specific About Social Security
John Nichols on October 8, 2012 – 9:42 AM ET

The first of three presidential debates is done. But the debate over the future of Social Security is far from settled. …

Indeed. I’ll skip through the Romney part — their privatization and voucherfication plan for the safety net is well understood in these parts. Needless to say, the statement …

[Romney-Ryan] intend to use [the Social Security trust fund] to fund tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and allow Wall Street to access American workers’ Social Security funds.

… is entirely correct. It’s Barack Obama’s plan to “fix” Social Security that has Bernie Sanders’ (and Nichols’) attention as well. Nichols again (my emphasis and paragraphing):

But this has do go deeper than debating points. Americans need real assurancesPoll after poll confirms the popularity of Social Security, as well as the strong preference on the part of voters of all regions, parties and ideological [t]endencies that the program should be protected from cuts when politicians address debts and deficits. Romney and Ryan can’t be allowed to spin their way around this issue. … But Americans also need to hear more and better from President Obama.

Last word, Sanders:

“I fear very much that there is a possibility that in a lame-duck session (after the election), President Obama and Democratic leaders will be pressured to make cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid in exchange for some modest revenue increases — much of which will end up coming not from the wealthy but from the middle class.”

Last word, Nichols:

Americans believe that no one who proposes to weaken Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid should be given the authority to do so. … [T]hey need specifics, not vague promises from Republicans or Democrats.

So what’s the news here? That the President wants to cut Social Security? Nope. That Sen. Sanders is calling him on it with a Senate coalition to oppose it? Nope. The news is that important voices like John Nichols’ are calling on the President to be specific in declaring his own cuts. More like John Nichols, please…

By the way, if you want to help out, click here for several ways to do that — starting with pressuring your own senator to sign Sen. Sanders’ letter. We need 41 to be filibuster-proof — 12 senators to go.

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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