As high-stakes deficit talks resumed Tuesday at the White House, Sen. Bernie Sanders prodded President Barack Obama to keep his 2008 campaign promise not to cut Social Security. "If you told the American people you're not going to cut Social Security, then don't cut Social Security. Keep your word," Sanders said in a Senate floor speech.
Sanders also said the president must keep faith with the vast majority of Americans who want him to stand up to right-wing Republicans who refuse to do away with tax breaks for the rich and close tax loopholes for profitable corporations.
As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders strongly opposes cuts in Medicare and Social Security.
In a Senate floor speech, Sanders focused on the White House's newfound interest in Social Security as a target for cuts. "Where does this come from?" Sanders asked. "The president understands that Social Security hasn't contributed one nickel to our deficit. In fact, Social Security has a $2.6 trillion surplus today, can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 25 years. Social Security is funded by the payroll tax, not by the U.S. Treasury."
Sanders noted that during Obama's campaign for president he made clear he would not cut Social Security: "The American people are sick and tired of candidates who run for office and say one thing and then, after they are elected, do something very different."
Sanders cited Obama's statement from Sept. 6, 2008, when he spoke in opposition to suggestions by Sen. John McCain's campaign to raise the Social Security retirement age and to reduce cost-of-living adjustments. "Let me be clear," Obama said at the time, "I will not do either."
Changing how inflation is measured to determine Social Security benefits is one option the White House injected at the eleventh hour as part of the budget negotiations. Switching to a so-called Chained Consumer Price Index results in lower inflation levels than the current formula used to adjust benefits. The result would amount to a significant cut to Social Security benefits for today's seniors. Beneficiaries who retire at 65 would get $560 a year less when they turn 75 and $1,000 a year less at age 85.
"So, Mr. President, when you ask why the American people are frustrated with politicians, and are increasingly cynical, it has a lot to do with candidates who say one thing and do another thing," Sanders said.