Feeling his oats, Barack Obama has decided to jettison his proposal from last year to use chained CPI (consumer price index) to calculate benefits, which would have cut Social Security benefits. Obama had proposed the ideas last year as a supposed gift to the GOP so they could reach a “grand bargain” on the nation’s debt, but he’s reversed himself now. His budget request for fiscal 2015 will not include chained CPI, the White House said Thursday, adding, “This year the administration is returning to a more traditional budget presentation that is focused on achieving the president’s vision for the best path to create growth and opportunity for all Americans, and the investments needed to meet that vision.”
The White House bleated that last year’s offer to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “remains on the table for whenever the Republicans decide they want to engage in a serious discussion.” Brendan Buck, a Boehner spokesman, said Obama is “already throwing in the towel” on deficit reduction. He added:
This reaffirms what has become all too apparent: the president has no interest in doing anything, even modest, to address our looming debt crisis. The one and only idea the president has to offer is even more job-destroying tax hikes, and that non-starter won’t do anything to save the entitlement programs that are critical to so many Americans.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) spokesman Don Stewart echoed, “If anyone was hoping for a serious budget that did more than increase Washington spending and find new ways to tax job creators, it sure sounds like they’ll be disappointed.”
Democrats on Capitol Hill, nervous that using chained CPI could hurt them in 2014, urged Obama to reject using it; over 100 House Democrats wrote a letter to Obama begging him to leave chained CPI behind. 16 Senate Democrats had already done the same.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) joyfully exclaimed:
Democrats applaud the president for eliminating chained CPI from his budget, and we look forward to working across the aisle to adopt a responsible fiscal framework. He put chained CPI on the table as a gesture of good faith; yet Republican leaders were unwilling to budge or close a single unfair tax loophole, and decided to walk away from opportunities to find common ground.
Stephanie Taylor of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said, “This is a huge progressive victory — and greatly increases Democratic chances of taking back the House and keeping the Senate.”
But Maya MacGuineas of The Center for a Responsible Federal Budget saw the political move differently, saying, “The president took an important step forward by offering this policy last year; his dramatic pull back is disappointing and bodes poorly for the fiscal health of the nation. Without his leadership, it will be virtually impossible for the country to get ahead of the long-term fiscal challenges we face.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama dropped using chained CPI because there has been “substantial progress in reducing the deficit.” He protested that Obama’s reversal “does not reflect any reduction in the president’s willingness to try to meet Republicans in the middle. The budget will show the tradeoffs and choices the president would make while adhering to those levels.”