Social Security False Alarm?
By Eran Lillestrand (not verified)
January 9, 2009 - 10:42am ET
The headline of a New York Times article tells readers that "Obama Promises Bid to Overhaul Retiree Spending." The first sentence warns that "overhauling Social Security and Medicare would be 'a central part' of his administration’s efforts to contain federal spending, signaling for the first time that he would wade into the thorny politics of entitlement programs."
This certainly makes it appear as though President-elect Obama intends to use the Wall Street-generated crisis as a pretext for cutting Social Security.
However, it is not clear that the headline and lead sentence accurately represents Obama's comments. At a press conference, he responded to a question about the deficit saying:
"We will -- we are working currently on our budget plans. We are beginning consultations with members of Congress around how we expect to approach the deficit. We expect that discussion around entitlements will be a part, a central part, of those plans. And I would expect that by February, in line with the announcement of at least a rough budget outline, that we will have more to say about how we're going to approach entitlement spending, how
we're going to approach eliminating waste in government, one of Nancy's tasks.
So we will have some very specific outlines in terms of how it's going to be done."
This statement does not indicate any intention to cut Social Security. It does indicate a desire to address entitlement spending, which includes both Social Security and Medicare. Medicare costs are in turn being driven by the explosive growth in health care costs in the United States. President Obama's health care reform plan should contain health care costs and in that way restrict entitlement spending.
President-elect Obama could correctly say that he intends to address entitlement spending by fixing the U.S. health care system. This would be a quite different policy than cutting Social Security. If the Times article is based solely on this comment from the press conference, then it has seriously misrepresented Obama's statement. If this is the case, then it owes its readers a prompt correction.
(President-elect Obama may also wish to explicitly correct such an important misrepresentation of his comments.)
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