"Will you commit to not cutting a dime from Medicare or Social Security?
"I, like most Americans, favor taxing the wealthy, reducing military spending, and expanding rather than cutting Social Security and Medicare.
"Any cuts should be cuts to the military, the wars, the fossil fuel subsidies, the prison industry, or the banker bailouts.
"Cutting Social Security or Medicare less than the other party isn't good enough. We need your commitment to not cutting these programs at all."
In August, Vice President Biden guaranteed no changes to Social Security.
In September, 29 senators signed a commitment not to cut Social Security.
Contrary to much reporting and consequent public misperception, Social Security is fully funded for many years to come, and could be guaranteed full funding for the foreseeable future merely by eliminating the cap on payroll taxes and allowing the wealthiest of Americans to pay into the system at the same rate that over 90 percent of us do. Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced legislation to remove the cap for the very wealthiest, a proposal that President Obama has claimed to support four years ago and again during this campaign.
But President Obama has refused to commit to protecting Social Security and Medicare from any cuts. On the contrary, he's campaigning on the supposed virtue of being willing to do something he supposedly opposes. The New York Times reports on the President: "He particularly believes that Democrats do not receive enough credit for their willingness to accept cuts in Medicare and Social Security."
In the vice-presidential debate this month, both the moderator and Congressman Paul Ryan claimed falsely that Social Security is running out of money. And Vice President Biden refused to oppose any cuts, shifting instead to opposing any privatization. If Biden is falling in line behind President Obama's apparent plan to cut Social Security, he is moving away from public opinion.
Perhaps Democrats do not receive the credit that the President believes they deserve for their willingness to cut Social Security because the public is strongly opposed to any cuts. An AP-GfK poll in August asked misleading questions pushing the alleged need to cut Social Security, and then asked:
"If you had to choose, which would you prefer: raising Social Security taxes so that the benefits can be kept the same for everyone, OR, keeping Social Security taxes at the same rate they are at now, but reducing the benefits for future generations?"
The option of raising taxes by bringing the super-wealthy up to the same rate of taxation as the rest of us was not mentioned. And yet, by a margin of 53 to 36 percent, adults said that they themselves would rather pay higher taxes than reduce benefits.
In June of last year Pew Research Center asked U.S. adults which was more important, taking steps to reduce the budget deficit (the focus of a whole line of questioning in the first presidential debate between Obama and Mitt Romney) or keeping Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are. By a margin of 60 to 32 percent U.S. adults' interest diverged from the interests of debate moderators and most political commentators. By 56 to 33 percent, they also said it was more important to avoid cuts than to avoid tax increases. And when asked if higher-income people should pay, without the pollster even providing the information that higher income people are currently paying at a lower rate, a majority of U.S. adults favored that solution.
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