David Corn points out that Social Security is a great big surprise package to be opened only after the election! Trust us!
While it is certainly true that a presidential contest tends to focus on silly frivolities (say, Paul Ryan’s workout schedule or Joe Biden’s photo with motorcyclists), and while it is undeniable that an election season tends to bring out the craziness in everyone, it is also true that those unfortunate realities are no justification to divorce the entire campaign from serious issues. Elections, after all, aren’t supposed to only be vapid exercises in bad reality TV. They are also supposed to be exercises in democratic participation, which means they are supposed to present We the People with a substantive policy discourse – one that helps us all cast informed votes.
This is a particularly important principle when it comes to Social Security – a program about which the Obama administration has been sending mixed signals.
The most recent signals, of course, came from the president himself, who has insisted that “what I’m not going to do, as a matter of principle, is to slash benefits or privatize Social Security.”
I’m just going to make sure you get less money!
Yet, during the first presidential debate in Denver, he nonetheless called for the program to be “tweaked” – a troubling reminder that last July, the Washington Post and CBS News ran stories headlined “In debt talks, Obama offers Social Security cuts” and “Obama proposes cuts to Social Security,” respectively, with both quoting unnamed Democratic officials leaking the prospect of big reductions in promised benefits. Likewise, at the Democratic National Convention this year, Vice President Biden criticized Republicans for not embracing the Social Security cuts championed by the Bowles-Simpson commission. Meanwhile, as some Democratic legislators have pushed to enact Obama’s own 2008 campaign proposal to raise the Social Security payroll tax cap, the White House has been noticeably absent in voicing its support for such legislation.
In light of these equivocations, the key questions should be ringing in every voter’s ear. If we can’t have a debate about Social Security before we make a presidential choice, at what point can we ever have such a debate in a way that honors our democratic ideals? In Hillel’s own words, if not now, when?
Corn’s right. It’s undemocratic. You can’t send out obscure smoke signals while you’re campaigning for no other reason than being able to claim, after you’re reelected, that “I told you I was going to do this!”