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Will Obama regret offering to cut Social Security?
The president takes a risk to show he's willing to compromise with the GOP on reducing deficits
Did President Obama just reach too far across the aisle?
Did President Obama just reach too far across the aisle? CC BY: The White House
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resident Obama plans to send Congress a budget next week that includes cuts to the growth of Medicare and Social Security, administration officials say. Obama proposes trimming spending on the safety-net programs by lowering annual cost-of-living adjustments designed to help benefits from being eroded by inflation. The president, aides say, is trying to show that he's willing to compromise with Republicans who insist that cuts to these and other social programs must be a part of any deal to reduce the deficit, but who also refuse to consider Obama's demand for higher taxes on the wealthy as part of an effort to reduce the deficit by $1.8 trillion over a decade.

The move marks a "significant shift in fiscal strategy" for Obama, says Jackie Calmes at The New York Times. Obama usually sends Congress a "presidential wish list that Republicans typically declare dead on arrival." This time he's starting out with the best offer he made to House Speaker John Boehner late last year before their budget talks stalled. The idea is to demonstrate that he's willing to meet the GOP half way. The trouble is, liberals don't see this as a compromise but a cave to conservatives who gut programs millions of Americans truly need. The GOP insists these are "entitlement programs," says Jeralyn Merritt at Talk Left, but in reality the programs Obama's offering to slash are things "we've paid into our entire working lives."

This just sucks. As far as I'm concerned, we should be cutting the Defense and Justice Department budgets, not cutting health care payments to health care providers for the elderly, leaving them without adequate medical care, or restricting the already paltry amounts they receive for social security. [Talk Left]

Not everyone sees this proposal as something conservatives should be thrilled about, though. Obama is making an offer "some Senate Republicans may be unable to refuse," says Rick Moran at The American Thinker. The trouble is, "in exchange for some small cuts in entitlement programs," Obama has a wish list that includes "more stimulus spending, increased tobacco taxes," and hiking income taxes by closing loopholes.

In the PR fight over the budget, it might be a political version of "shock and awe." Obama is going to anger his base — they will go ballistic — and win no friends on the right. But most Democrats will probably stay with him and independents will wonder why the GOP won't accept most of what they've been advocating for months.

As a serious effort at deficit reduction, it falls considerably short. But as a political document, it will probably give the president at least a temporary advantage and make life difficult for Republicans running in 2014. [American Thinker]

Judging from the criticism from the left and the right, Obama's using a "risky strategy" here, says Matthew Yglesias at Slate. And not just because this is a proposal Republicans have rejected, so it's unlikely to succeed as evidence of "Obama's eagerness for a deal and willingness to compromise."

The risk here now is twofold. Inside the Beltway, Republicans can say "well, look, we disagree about taxes but why don't we just do these entitlement reforms that even the president thinks we should do." Meanwhile, outside the Beltway Republican candidates can run ads castigating Democrats for bankrupting the country so badly that they want to add Social Security cuts to the dastardly Medicare cuts they already implemented. Part of the point of the Senate Democrats' budget was to stake out a position of easily defensible high ground. This seems like the White House wading into a much more exposed piece of territory. [Slate]

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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