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Cliff Notes: All Quiet on the Western Front

Posted: December 19, 2012 at 4:45 pm   /   by

Cliff Notes: All Quiet On The Western Front

As President Obama and Speaker Boehner continue to work out a framework for a budget deal, the National Journal is reporting that some Democrat lawmakers (Sen. Dick Durbin) are literally running down the hall to avoid talking about spending cuts.  Despite widespread agreement that entitlement programs are the major drivers of our debt and deficits, liberal special interest groups have maintained a stranglehold on any efforts towards real reform.  With pressure mounting in Washington, DC, to act, the question becomes whether Democrats will ultimately face reality and deal with these unsustainable programs or once again cave to the union bosses who helped get them elected.

Spending Cuts And Reforms Finally Part Of The Fiscal Cliff Discussion:

President Obama’s Latest Fiscal Cliff Proposal Includes Minor Reforms To Social Security As Part Of Larger Spending Cuts. “President Obama’s latest fiscal cliff offer to support deeper spending cuts to popular government programs puts his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill in a tough spot on Tuesday, driving them to dodge questions about whether they could support it. Obama’s plan calls for $1.2 trillion in spending cuts that include changes like slowing the cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries – a reform Senate Democrats declared off the table weeks ago.” (Chris Frates, “Dems Dodge Questions On Spending Cuts,” National Journal, 12/18/12)

Many Members Of Congress Are Afraid To Support The President’s Proposal Because Of Blowback From Liberal Interest Groups. “Democrats can’t embrace Obama’s plan for fear of getting hammered by liberal interest groups and giving Republican House Speaker John Boehner room to push for further entitlement cuts.” (Chris Frates, “Dems Dodge Questions On Spending Cuts,” National Journal, 12/18/12)

  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid And Dick Durbin Say No On Entitlement Reform. “But the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have indicated that they won’t consider cuts to Social Security as part of a deal. Moreover, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who is close to Obama, said on Tuesday that a cliff deal shouldn’t touch Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security.” (Robert Schroeder, “Democrats Must Move On Entitlements In Cliff Deal, Bowles Says,” MarketWatch, 11/29/12)

Members Of Congress Tried A Variety Of Tactics To Avoid Questions On Spending Cuts:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT): No Comment. “Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus refused to comment on Obama’s latest offer because it wasn’t a done deal. ‘I want to see what the deal is and I don’t want be negotiating, undermining the president by commenting on all of these different proposals that come out. They’re doing it, the speaker and the president. Godspeed, and hope they make it because it’s really important.’” (Chris Frates, “Dems Dodge Questions On Spending Cuts,” National Journal, 12/18/12)

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL): Pleading Ignorance. “And even after a lunchtime briefing by White House negotiator Rob Nabors, Democratic leaders were still dodging reporters’ question. ‘I haven’t seen their proposal,’ said Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. But hadn’t he just been briefed by Nabors? ‘He didn’t get into specifics,’” Durbin said, quickening his pace as he walked away from reporters.” (Chris Frates, “Dems Dodge Questions On Spending Cuts,” National Journal, 12/18/12)

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA): Old Talking Points. “Sen. Patty Murray, the No. 4 Democrat in the Senate, fell back on old talking points. ‘We have been consistent from day one. Unless there is significant revenue on the table that was fairly balanced, we are nowhere. And to this point we haven’t gotten there so there is no plan,’ she said before waiving off further questions and bolting for the senators-only elevator.” (Chris Frates, “Dems Dodge Questions On Spending Cuts,” National Journal, 12/18/12)

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO): No Comment. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a moderate Democrat and close Obama ally, said she plans to wait until a deal is struck before weighing in. ‘I am not going to comment on any of the parts until it appears something’s moving,’ she said.” (Chris Frates, “Dems Dodge Questions On Spending Cuts,” National Journal, 12/18/12)

Liberal Groups Have Been Pressuring Washington To Ignore Entitlements:

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, Opposes Any Cuts. “Congress should reject Boehner’s ‘Plan B’ and any cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, or Medicare, regardless of who proposes them” (Richard L. Trumka, Tweet, 12/18/12)

Unions Want Washington To Disregard Entitlements In Deficit-Reduction Strategy. “Several major labor unions joined together to release an ad campaign this week pushing members of Congress to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans and protect entitlement programs from major cuts as a solution to the looming fiscal cliff, the groups announced Tuesday.” (Kevin Bohn & Ashley Killough, “Labor Groups Rally Against Spending Cuts In Fiscal Cliff Ads,”, 11/20/12)

  • Groups Are Targeting Democrats With A Six-Figure Ad Buy. “The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the National Education Association say they’re spending $300,000 on an initial TV and radio buy for the ad campaign, according to a high ranking labor official. … In the upcoming week, the labor unions’ commercials will appear in states with Democratic senators considered by some on the left as potentially more willing to support some major spending cuts that the unions would oppose.” (Kevin Bohn & Ashley Killough, “Labor Groups Rally Against Spending Cuts In Fiscal Cliff Ads,”, 11/20/12)

AARP Is Running TV Ads With The Same Message. “The new ads come as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has also run television ads, educating viewers on the fiscal cliff issue and arguing to keep ‘Medicare and Social Security strong for generations to come.’” (Kevin Bohn & Ashley Killough, “Labor Groups Rally Against Spending Cuts In Fiscal Cliff Ads,”, 11/20/12)

Broad Agreement That Entitlements Are Driving The Debt:

Obama: “I Believe That We Have To Continue To Take A Serious Look At How We Reform Our Entitlements, Because Health Care Costs Continue To Be The Biggest Driver Of Our Deficits.” (President Barack Obama, Remarks By The President At A News Conference, The White House, 11/14/12)

“[Treasury Secretary Timothy] Geithner Targeted Entitlement Programs As The Key To Reducing The National Debt While Insisting That Social Security Benefits Remain Protected.” (“Geithner: Entitlement Programs Key To Cutting Deficit,”, 2/15/11)

FLASHBACK: In 2009, Obama Pledged To Reform Social Security And Medicare. “President-elect Barack Obama pledged yesterday to shape a new Social Security and Medicare ‘bargain’ with the American people, saying that the nation’s long-term economic recovery cannot be attained unless the government finally gets control over its most costly entitlement programs.” (Michael D. Shear, “Obama Pledges Reform Of Social Security, Medicare Programs,” The Washington Post, 1/16/09)

  • Obama: “What we have done is kicked this can down the road. We are now at the end of the road and are not in a position to kick it any further … We have to signal seriousness in this by making sure some of the hard decisions are made under my watch, not someone else’s.” (Michael D. Shear, “Obama Pledges Reform Of Social Security, Medicare Programs,” The Washington Post, 1/16/09)

The Washington Post: “Since 60 percent of the federal budget goes to entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, there’s no way to achieve balance without slowing the rate of increase of those programs.” (Editorial, “Mr. Obama’s time to lead on entitlements,” The Washington Post, 11/27/12)

Washington Faces Increasing Pressure To Address Entitlements:

The Washington Post: “Entitlement Reform Must Be On The Table” (Editorial, “Entitlement Reform Must Be On The Table,” The Washington Post, 11/14/12)

USA Today: “Cut Entitlements To Control Debt” (Editorial, “Cut Entitlements To Control Debt,” USA Today, 11/14/12)

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde: “[A]n agreement that would only extend tax cuts for the middle class without addressing spending or entitlements would be insufficient to reassure the rest of the world, she [International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde] said.” (Sandrine Rastello, “IMF’s Lagarde Says U.S. Fiscal Agreement Should Be Comprehensive,” Bloomberg, 12/9/12)

Former Chairman Of The President’s Council on Economic Advisers Austan Goolsbee: “Former chairman of the president’s Council on Economic Advisers Austan Goolsbee tells National Review Online that any solution to America’s economic ills ‘cuts on discretionary and entitlement spending.’” (Eliana Johnson, “Former Obama Economic Advisers: We Need Entitlement Reform,” National Review, 12/7/12)

Former Sen. Alan Simpson: “I mean, the bizarre thing, not touching the entitlements. The entitlements are the engine on the train driving us to the cliff. They were on automatic pilot.” (Alan Simpson, CBS’s Face The Nation, 12/9/12)

Former Clinton Chief Of Staff Erskine Bowles: “First of all, most important thing is if we’re going to raise revenue and if we’re going to raise it in any form, then we darn well better cut spending because spending is the biggest part of this problem, and the biggest part of that problem is the fact that health care is growing at a faster rate than GDP.” (Erskine Bowles, CBS’s Face The Nation, 12/9/12) is an educational project of Public Notice, an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit, 501(c)(4) organization dedicated to providing facts and insight on the effects public policy has on Americans’ financial well-being.

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Cliff Notes: All Quiet on the Western Front