House Speaker, John Boehner taking aim at Social Security and Medicare cuts
March 4, 2011
(ChattahBox US News) – In news that may concern those among us who currently receive Social Security or Medicare, House Speaker John Boehner made it clear today that he plans to introduce a budget in the coming weeks which is intended to ‘curb’ both benefits for millions of Americans in need.
In a frank interview with the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Boehner [R-OH] told reporters the GOP plans to present a budget for the next fiscal year aimed at bringing the costs of the programs under control. But while he acknowledged many people aren’t ready for such drastic change, this can only be due to being unaware of the scale of the problem;
“Most people don’t have a clue,” he told reporters. “I think it’s incumbent on us to help Americans understand how big the problem is. Once they understand, I think people will be more receptive to what the solutions may be.”
Among other plans to resolve the fiscal malaise Mr. Boehner insists it’s essential to raise the debt limit, while simultaneously introducing significant cuts in discretionary spending.
“I think raising the debt limit is the responsible thing to do, and the responsible thing for our economy,” he said. “If we were to fail to increase it, we’d send our economy into a tailspin.”
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid now account for more than 60% of the annual budget. Their costs are also predicted to rise by 5.4% a year for Social Security and 6.8% for Medicare. But the programs’ trustees predict Medicare could become insolvent in 2029, while Social Security may follow suit in 2037.
A recent WSJ /NBC poll shows less than a quarter of those surveyed support cuts, but more than half were in favor of reducing benefits for upper-income retirees and raising the retirement age.
But Mr. Boehner admitted the GOP has no firm plans or figures on how to achieve the reductions; Their proposed budget contains ‘Cost containment goals,’ but no specifics on how these might be achieved.
The Speaker says he has told President Obama he would join the predictably divisive debate over the cuts, but only if the President announces his readiness to tackle the oncoming problem.
“I suggested to the President we could begin the conversation,” said Boehner, “But I think he shrank from his responsibility to lead; He knows the numbers as well as we do.”
At a meeting on Thursday Mr Boehner heard both the President and VP Joe Biden outline cuts that would trim $6.5-billion from the budget for the fiscal year ending on September. 30th. But this is a fraction of the $60+ billion the GOP has insisted is needed.
Many observers strongly doubt the two parties can even reach a consensus before the March 18 deadline on which the current funding legislation expires. Speaker Boehner does not agree.
“We can do this in two weeks,” he says boldly. “I’m a glass-half-full guy.”
The Speaker also declined to reveal how he might persuade the 87 Republicans now enjoying their first term in D.C. to support raising the debt, especially when many ran blistering adverts last fall chastising Democratic opponents for supporting the very same plan.
Some new arrivals have also shown considerable resistance to following orders, even rejecting the initial 2011 budget proposed by their party’s own leaders. This led Democrats to suggest Mr. Boehner cannot control his own troops, but the Speaker dismisses such subdued anarchy as high spirits.
“I was one of those wild-eyed, bomb-throwing freshmen,” he recalls. “When they act like themselves, I’m very familiar with it.”
Yesterday, the Speaker held a meeting with some of the rebels and says he now has them on-board;
“Some think this is smart, we’re doing good,” he confirms. “Others think we should be doing more.”
The Speaker’s office at the Capitol Building brims with mementos from more than two decades in politics, but among his favorites is a ‘New Yorker’ magazine which features a drawing of Mr. Obama extending his hand towards Mr, Boehner — who offers a ‘fist bump’ in return.
Mr. Boehner told the reporters he loves the expressions the cartoonist had rendered, but admitted that given the tough decisions they face, he and the President could be looking at each other like that the whole year…