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Social Security: Can Democrats Save Obama From Himself?

The plan to cut Social Security will destroy any hope of recovery.

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What we need is an increase in core Social Security benefits, and a second tier of Social Security as a universal, fully portable pension. It could be funded by raising taxes on the rich, whose effective tax rates have been steadily cut for four decades, and who now command more of our national income than ever before.

If you don't read any other piece of policy wonkery this year, you owe it to yourself, your parents, and your own golden years to read "Expanded Social Security," the recently published report from the New America Foundation (co-authored by my Demos colleague, Robert Hiltonsmith.) It provides a politically serious blueprint for expanding the retirement income of the elderly, rather than selling them out. If we had a Democratic Party worthy of the name, it would get behind this proposal and change the entire dynamics of the Social Security debate.

The Beltway pundits and supporters the view that the economy can deflate its way to prosperity love to take the president and the Republicans to task for "kicking the can down the road," meaning refusing to make a grand bargain that trades cuts in social insurance for increases in taxes. But that can looks pretty good compared to what's under discussion.

Every Democrat in Congress should be standing up to the White House and refusing to back a budget that cuts a nickel from Social Security or Medicare. Yes, we need to reform those programs, but not in the context of an ill-advised set of general budget cuts that will only sandbag the fragile recovery. In the case of Social Security, reform means increasing, not cutting the income support of the elderly. In the case of Medicare, reform is spelled National Health Insurance.

In the past, Republicans have saved Obama from himself by refusing to consider any tax hikes. Now, I'm beginning to think, it's time for Democrats save him from himself. And the Democratic Party. And us.

Robert Kuttner is the former co-editor of the American Prospect and a senior fellow at Demos. His latest book is "Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency."