If Cutting Social Security Is Off the Table, Why Won't the White House Say It?

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Ezra Klein:

What people at the White House have told me on Social Security -- and what I wrote in the post she's referencing -- is that there's no intention to touch Social Security in the foreseeable future.

In Robert Gibbs' just concluded press conference, questions about Social Security reform were posed by five different reporters. Gibbs does not say that "there's no intention to touch Social Security in the foreseeable future." The full exchange is after the fold, but here he responds to Helen Thomas:

HELEN THOMAS: Why tinker with Social Security when it's solvent until 2040, there are other issues in front of us.

GIBBS: There are many issues in front of us, but we are not going to get ourselves onto a sustainable path of fiscal responsibility unless or until we address many of those issues. The president wants to...

HELEN: Why is it an issue?

GIBBS: I don't know the exact year, but there is an inflection point in the funding where the trust fund is, if we haven't already passed the line, we're soon to pass the line where what is going in and what is coming out no longer adds to that solvency of the trust fund and is no longer equal to each other. I think that...

HELEN: Some people just want to take from it. And there's great suffering going on now, so I don't see why you ought to...

GIBBS: Well Helen don't posit that what the President wants to do is institute great suffering. But understand that the way the program is structured, and although the solvency may go to 2040 or 2041, there I think is great concern that the number of people that are paying in, and the number of people -- what is paid in no longer equals what is is going out, therefore in order to get to some sustainable path to fiscal responsibility the President understands that some hard choices are going to be made. And he's going to...

HELEN: Raising taxes?

GIBBS: Well, the President talked about some specific ways to do that in the campaign. I think you can't have a discussion without people bringing a lot of ideas to the table to hash through.

If "there's no intention to touch Social Security in the foreseeable future," why doesn't Gibbs say it? Why is he saying that we're "not going to get ourselves onto a sustainable path of fiscal responsibility unless or until we address" it, and that "it's going to be hard to address a lot of our challenges without dealing with all of them at the same time"?



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