Clinton, Obama and the Social Security Table
The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend that, as the February 19 Wisconsin primary approaches, Sen. Hillary Clinton released a new ad, entitled "Deserved," criticizing Sen. Barack Obama for not agreeing to a Wisconsin debate. Then the ad threw out an incendiary charge:
The ad also . . . says [Obama] "might raise the retirement age and cut benefits for Social Security." That charge refers to televised comments Obama made in May that "everything should be on the table" in trying to resolve projected long-range shortfalls in the huge entitlement program.
"After 18 debates with 2 more coming, Hillary says Barack Obama is ducking debates? It's the same old politics. Here's the truth."Obama has a plan to protect social security benefits & the current retirement age. Hillary doesn't."
Stephanopolous: You've also said that with Social Security everything should be on the table.Obama: Yes.Stephanopolous: Raising the retirement age?Obama: Yes.Stephanopolous: Raising payroll taxes?Obama: Everything should be on the table.Stephanopolous: Partial privatization?Obama: Privatization is not something I would consider.
Russert: Senator Clinton, would you be in favor of saying to the American people, "I'm going to tax your income; I'm not going to cap at $97,500. Everyone, even if you are a millionaire is going to pay Social Security tax on every cent they make."Clinton: Well, Tim . . . I want to make three points very briefly.First, [blah, blah, fiscal responsibility, blah].Number two, [blah, blah, bipartisan process, blah].And, finally, [blah, blah, [consider] what else might be done, blah].Russert: But you would not take lifting the cap at $97,500 off the table?Clinton: Well, I'd take everything off the table until we move toward fiscal responsibility and before we have a bipartisan process. I don't think I should be negotiating about what I would do as president. You know, I want to see what other people come to the table with.
Russert: So, Senator, a simple question, a simple question: What do you put on the table? What are you willing to look at to say, "We're not going to double the taxes, we're not going to cut benefits in half; I'm willing to put everything on the table, some things on the table, nothing on the table"?Clinton: I'm not putting anything on the proverbial table until we move toward fiscal responsibility. I think it's a mistake to do that.
MR. RUSSERT: . . . You were asked at the AARP debate whether or not you would consider taxing -- lifting the cap from 97,500, taxing that, raising more money for Social Security. You said, quote, "It's a no." I asked you the same question in New Hampshire. You said no. Then you went to Iowa and you went up to Tod Bowman, a teacher, and had a conversation with him, saying, I would consider a -- lifting the cap perhaps above 200,000. You were overheard by an Associated Press reporter saying that. Why do you have one public position and one private position?SEN. CLINTON: Well, Tim, I don't. I have said consistently that my plan for Social Security is fiscal responsibility first, then to deal with any long-term challenges which, I agree, are ones that we're going to have to address. We would have a bipartisan commission. In the context of that, I think all of these would be considered. . . ..So when somebody asks me, would something like this be considered? Well, anything can be considered when we get to a bipartisan commission, but personally, I am not going to be advocating any specific fix until I am seriously approaching fiscal responsibility.
With respect to Social Security, I do have a plan. It's called start with fiscal responsibility. That's what we were doing in the 1990s, and we had Social Security on a much better path than it is today because of the irresponsible spending policies of George Bush and the Republican Congress.If there are some of the long-term challenges that we need to address, let's do it in the context of having fiscal responsibility, and then let's put together a bipartisan commission and look at how we're going to deal with these long-term challenges. But I am not going to balance Social Security on the backs of seniors and hardworking middle-class Americans. Let's start taking the tax cuts away from the wealthy. Let's take away the no-bid contracts from Halliburton before we start imposing a trillion-dollar tax increase on the elderly and on middle-class workers. I don't think that's necessary.So I have a very specific plan.
On February 16, 2008, in response to Obama's latest ad asserting he has a plan for Social Security (Obama's ad did not say the plan was a tax increase), Hillary posted a response on her site saying she did too have a plan: she
"is strongly advocating a bipartisan process . . . and when that gets set up, as I hope it will be when I'm president, then I'm going to see what the bipartisan members are going to come up with."
We can raise taxes, yes we can.
Rick Richman's articles have appeared in American Thinker, The New York Sun, The Jewish Press, and other periodicals. He edits "Jewish Current Issues."