Boehner: I Can Sell Voters on Benefit Cuts

March 4th, 2011 at 12:48 pm | 13 Comments |

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Wall Street Journal reports:

House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that he’s determined to offer a budget this spring that curbs Social Security and Medicare, despite the political risks, and that Republicans will try to persuade voters that sacrifices are needed.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Boehner said House Republicans would offer a budget for the next fiscal year that sets goals for bringing the programs’ costs under control. But he acknowledged that Americans aren’t yet ready to embrace far-reaching changes to Social Security and Medicare because they aren’t aware of the magnitude of the financial problems.

“People in Washington assume that Americans understand how big the problem is, but most Americans don’t have a clue,” Mr. Boehner said, speaking in his Capitol office. “I think it’s incumbent on us, if we are serious about dealing with the big challenges, that we go out and help Americans understand how big the problem is that faces us.”

He added, “Once they understand how big the problem is, I think people will be more receptive to what the possible solutions may be.”

Mr. Boehner also spoke forcefully in favor of raising the government’s debt limit, a move strongly opposed by many conservative House Republicans. He reiterated that the action would have to be coupled with significant spending cuts.

“I think raising the debt limit is the responsible thing to do for our country, the responsible thing for our economy,” Mr. Boehner said. “If we were to fail to increase the debt limit, we would send our economy into a tailspin.”

Even while Republicans and Democrats wrangle over cuts to the discretionary spending that is determined by Congress every year, the question of how to tackle the government’s promised Social Security and Medicare payments has loomed as a tougher challenge.

Entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid make up more than 60% of the budget. Annual outlays are expected to grow an average of 5.4% for Social Security and 6.8% for Medicare through the end of the decade.

Medicare’s trustees estimate its main program will have sufficient funds to fully cover expenditures through 2029. The comparable date for Social Security is 2037.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll this week showed less than a quarter of Americans support making significant cuts to Social Security or Medicare to tackle the government’s financial woes. But a majority supported reducing benefits for wealthier retirees and raising the Social Security retirement age.

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13 Comments so far ↓

  • Non-Contributor

    Because we all know how important it is to cut entitlements. I guess I missed that memo.

    Fix unemployment and you fix the debt/deficit.

    Fix health care and you fix Medicare.

    But most politicians are way to stupid to understand those basic facts. So I guess it is incumbent on us to vote their asses out.

  • dante

    Wait a minute, didn’t Republicans campaign on cutting waste out of the budget without touching defense or entitlement programs? Looks like giving the GOP the House was actually just giving them enough rope to hang themselves…

  • TerryF98

    “Medicare’s trustees estimate its main program will have sufficient funds to fully cover expenditures through 2029. The comparable date for Social Security is 2037.”

    So there is no immediate problem that some tweaking will not sort out. These entitlements are not in the red.

    The Orange man repeats the big lie.

  • andydp

    Did you explain to the Tea Party folks what the term “entitlements” actually means ? Because I guarantee you they think its Medicaid and Welfare, NOT Medicare and Social Security.

    I’m happy to see there is talk about these programs. Its a small step towards the “blinding flashes of the obvious”. I do think people who have retired on a few million a year should have a reduction in benefits. How that would work out I have no clue, but I would want to hear Mr Boehner explain how these people would be “hurting” if you take their SS away.

  • armstp

    Where are the jobs, jobs, jobs Boehner? Who cares about entitlements, you campaigned on jobs. Where are they Boehner?

  • medinnus

    I think he deserves credit for going as far as he has with what is almost certainly political damage.

    On the other hand, with the Tea Party beginning to tell the press how they need to give him a Primary Challenge in 2012, that he has to go, its easier to do the right, but unpopular thing.

    Still waiting for someone to commit to cutting the “government contractor” army substitutes and to bring in outsiders to find and end defense spending waste – which is rampant.

  • ottovbvs

    When Boehner insisted on adding 700 billion to the deficit last December he proved exactly how serious he was about the deficit.

  • Rob_654

    I’ll believe it when I see it. If the Republicans really did bring up serious cuts to Social Security and Medicare we would not see them in power for decades to come.

  • Nanotek

    Boehner@“Once they understand how big the problem is, I think people will be more receptive to what the possible solutions may be.””

    congressional Republicans may want to consider cutting their own full-luxury-pensions, perks and health care as well … just to show people what “shared sacrifice” means in practice

  • thosewhoserve

    Subject: Share the Sacrifice; Like Hell

    We now have Speaker Boehner telling us “… that Republicans will try to persuade voters that sacrifices are needed.” Mr. Boehner also said “”People in Washington assume that Americans understand how big the problem is, but most Americans don’t have a clue.”

    I believe Mr. Boehner is wrong on both counts. Sacrifices may be needed, but not from the employees, employers, and retirees to ensure the viability and solvency of Social Security. Regarding Mr. Boehner’s second comment; I would suggest that Americans understand how big the problem is, but most politicians don’t have a clue (not one that they would be willing to share).

    Politicians, corporations, and pundits love to talk about reducing the Federal deficit by “sharing the pain”. What we should be doing is demanding responsibility for their misdeeds from the people, business entities, and political entities that were directly responsible for most government deficit problems including local, state, and federal levels.

    Before any “sharing” begins, American voters should demand that the people who started the fire of near financial collapse bear the burden of repairing the damage they wrought.

    When a politician continues to parrot the business community and high income earner demands, she or he is saying that the middle class should assume both the costs and the pain of the problems that were primarily caused by others. Those “others” remain blissfully standing on the political sidelines while they count their profits and bonuses. Then on the run-up to the next election, they come out of the shadows to throw money (campaign contributions) at their political allies.

    During years in the military and civilian life, having paid local, state, and federal taxes, earlier generations were able to pay enough taxes to keep government services available and government programs functioning. I do not appreciate why some people believe that political comments supporting a refusal to pay up for what you got from government now equates to some specious “voter revolution.” There is a group of politicians who scream loudly about their taxpayer revolution that would eliminate taxes and deficits. Their plans would make the United States another banana republic.

    To feed their incessant greed, the wheelers and dealers and power brokers released their so-called “best and brightest” in finance, politics, and punditry in the mid-90’s to without conscience pillage the jobs, earnings, savings, and retirement of hundreds of millions of working and retired Americans.

    Not happy with wiping out pension plans and reducing employee and retirement benefits, they then pour more gasoline on the fire by deliberately driving corporate and personal income tax revenues down to levels they knew could not, and would not, sustain government operations at the local, state, or Federal levels.

    Now they are looking at the Social Security Trust Fund with scavengers’ eyes. The approximately $2.7 Trillion Dollars of assets is their next target. They well know that the trust fund consists of the accumulated Social Security payroll taxes of hundreds of millions of taxpayers and retirees and million of employers. China and Saudi Arabia are welcomed to redeem their U.S. Treasury securities (including earnings). However, meantime, the minions of greed try to slam the door on redemptions of both contributions to and earnings on identical bonds purchased by Social Security.

    I do not accept the socialization of the costs and damages of the problems created by the ethically challenged on the backs of the middle class while the pillagers continue to enjoy the accumulated excessive and unearned wealth.

    It is a fact that Social Security retirement can pay current levels of benefits into the indefinite future with changes that do not affect benefit levels or retirement age.

    Under President Reagan, Social Security payroll taxes were levied on approximately 90% of all earned income in America. Payroll tax is now levied on approximately 83% of the earned income. Restoring the amount taxable to 90% accompanied with an increase in the Social Security payroll tax from the current 13.6% level would ensure that the Trust Fund would never run out of money. There is no need to change the current retirement age for receiving Social Security benefits.

    Too many politicians are not interested in taking the mathematical, actuarial, and ethical steps available to them because their real end goal is to simplemindedly steal the $2.7 Trillion Dollars sitting in the Social Security Trust Fund. This they would accomplish by means testing, increasing the retirement age, and reducing retirement, disability, and death benefits. Instead, they should be frank with taxpayers in saying that a small increase in the payroll tax would effectively provide enough funding to keep Social Security solvent forever.

    Let’s be optimistic for a minute. Let’s hope that the level of derision and disrespect shown by Gov. John Kasich of Ohio is not typical. He referred in a speech to a police officer, who was doing his job, as “an idiot.” There are two possibilities here: either Kasich thinks that such a comment makes him seem like the “Average Joe” (wrong); or Kasich is not in control of what he says (whenever a pol does this, the next day a vague, most likely insincere apology is issued). Either situation is hard to swallow and just another insult to the intelligence of his constituents. Kasich’s self-described passion would preferably appropriately be applied to solving his state’s problems without politically picking and choosing which constituents will be financially punished.

    Constituents should let their representatives and senators and other government officials, and their staffs, know that they that they expect respect that is demonstrated on the level of civility given to “the boss.”

    After all, regardless of political affiliation or non-affiliation, whether or not they vote, and regardless of immigration status, the mass of people is the boss in any government.

    Politicians have taken the practice of making simplistic and false promises in every campaign to a level that has become ludicrous and reprehensible, and that’s why so many people do not vote. Therefore, putting the blame for bad results on constituents cannot fly. Where is full disclosure for the politician?

    It’s time that politicians are told that they cannot abrogate trust with hundreds of millions of employers, employees (including illegal alien contributions), and retirees who have been paying Social Security payroll taxes since 1937. In contrast, the Republicans are terrified at the prospect of refusing to redeem the U.S. Treasury securities held by China and Saudi Arabia.

    For the American people, this is a case in which a return to some past expectations and values seems to be in order. By that I mean that the politicians should not be allowed to follow legendary scam artist-bank robber Willy Sutton’s business model. He was asked why he robbed banks and replied “because that’s where the money is.” Nevertheless, he went to jail.

    Some politicians say they want to rob Social Security because the $2.7 trillion dollars of U.S Treasury securities (paid for by workers and held by the Social Security trust fund) is equivalent in numbers to approximately 19% of the current federal debt.

    Does anybody really believe that the money will go to anything or anyone other than the interests of the large contributors to their campaigns?

    If so, I have several bridges (with only minor repairs required) to sell you.

  • hisgirlfriday

    People in Washington assume that Americans understand how big the problem is, but most Americans don’t have a clue,” Mr. Boehner said, speaking in his Capitol office.

    Can you imagine the howling if Nancy Pelosi pronounced “most Americans” clueless while extolling the virtues of Washington wisdom?

  • busboy33

    Dear Mr. Boehner:

    I dare you. I double-dutch DARE you.

    Prove me wrong. Go tell your constituents that they need to lose their checks. Oh yeah, and that threy’re basically idiots too.

    You’re a very brave man when it comes to talk . . . but always seem to slink away when the chips are on the table. And this my friend, this would be a whole lotta chips.

  • Recommended Reading for Middle Class Americans | Entitled to Know

    [...] In other words, the Speaker doesn’t care about the deficit. Whatever “big challenges” we face financially are largely the making of his party’s policies on taxation, military spending, and — lest we forget — deregulation, which led to the trillion-dollar Wall Street crash and the BP oil spill. Fellow conservative David Frum has the Speaker pegged when he describes Boehner’s remarks this way – “Boehner: I can sell voters on benefit cuts.” [...]