Deal or No Deal?

By Richard Thayer

Perhaps it all boils down to one word.

Strengthen.

What does “strengthen” mean? Of course there’s the dictionary definition, but what does it mean when you’re talking about “entitlement” programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?

According to a Washington Post article Thursday evening, President Obama was seriously considering making changes to Social Security in an effort to get Republicans to give in on their refusal to discuss taxing the nation’s wealthiest citizens.

Up until then it was thought that the President–based on his claims back during his election campaign–was pretty much opposed to the idea of tampering with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

But now there had come word, through the Washington Post no less, that the President was considering a compromise deal on the big three.

Response to the news from the left was that of outrage and anger.

In an effort to douse the flames, White House spokesman Jim Carney said at Thursday’s press conference: “The President has always said that while Social Security is not a major driver of the deficit, we need to strengthen the program and the President said in the State of the Union Address that he wanted to work with both parties to do so in a balanced way that preserves the promise of the program and doesn’t slash benefits.”

So, what does he mean by “strengthen”? His definition and our definition of the words may differ somewhat. Maybe a lot.

But perhaps the most troubling words in that statement isn’t “strengthen,” it’s “work with both parties.”

Does the President still think he can work with the Republicans? And does he think that his plans for “strengthening” Social Security will tempt the Republicans to put taxes for the wealthy back on the bargaining table?

I don’t think so.

We didn’t find out the president’s meaning of “strengthen” in yesterday’s message. Perhaps it will become clearer today.

In the meantime…the clock is ticking.


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