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American People Fight Obama’s Treacherous Cuts to Social Security and Medicare

The attack on our most basic economic rights may open a new chapter in the post-crisis narrative.

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In a spin worthy of the Tasmanian Devil, the mainstream media are casting the reaction to Obama’s proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare as a case of division among progressives.

Actually, there is no division; not among progressives, nor among the American people. The vast majority, left, right and in-between, have repeatedly made it clear that they do not want cuts to either of these vital programs. A CBS News poll conducted last month shows that 80 percent of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, opposed cutting spending on Medicare to reduce the budget deficit, while 79 percent were against cutting Social Security for that reason.

The people don’t want the cuts, and the facts don’t support them. There are certainly no economic excuses: The federal deficit politicans howl about is shrinking, as none other than Goldman Sachs’ chief economist has attested. And even if it wasn’t, Social Security doesn’t affect it – a fact that many Americans have copped onto despite the best efforts of politicians to deceive them. Clearly, in a time of growing economic inequality, there is no justification for taking more money out of the hands of the elderly and the vulnerable.  

Let’s be blunt: The only folks in favor of the cuts are those serving the interests of financiers who seek to privatize retirement accounts on which they can charge fees and those among the wealthy who don’t wish to pay taxes. This group includes a large swath of politicians and media pundits we’ve been hearing from. And yet despite all the smoke and mirrors – the phony budget crisis, discredited deficit hysteria, the rhetoric of “shared sacrifice,” cuts cloaked in wonky language like “chained CPI,” and excuses about the need to play “3-dimensional chess,” the American public has not been fooled. We know that Big Money has bought and paid for Obama’s budget (which, by the way, also rescues the Pentagon from cuts even as it throws seniors overboard). We know that the President is not representing the will of those who elected him. How do we know? Because Obama himself told us.

Back in 2008, Obama, the "Yes we can!" candidate, gave voters his word that he would not use trickery to cut the social insurance programs hard-working Americans rely upon: "John McCain's campaign has suggested that the best answer for the growing pressures on Social Security might be to cut cost-of-living adjustments or raise the retirement age,” said the would-be president. “Let me be clear: I will not do either."

Obama lied to us. So what are we going to do about it?

Since 2008, something crucial has shifted in the American consciousness. Beltway pundits like the Daily Beast’s Robert Shrum are working overtime to sell snakeoil defenses of sticking it to poor and middle-class people, but a quick scan of the comment section reveals how few readers are buying it. Memo to Mr. Shrum: We’re at a bit of a different moment than the one back in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan, Tip O’Neill and Alan Greenspan arranged to cut Social Security by gradually raising the retirement age (a move that knocked many seniors onto disability rolls, which conservatives have the nerve to complain are rising). Since the good old days of Reagan, we’ve seen the folly of supply-side economics used to justify such cuts exposed. In fact, Greenspan himself explained the flaw in his economic ideology to Congress in the wake of the 2008 crash. We now know that trickle-down doesn’t work, and that ordinary people have been left high and dry. The need of the people to be protected from economic calamity has never been greater in living memory.