Social Security reform on horizon? Maybe

March 23, 2010 at 3:02 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 23 (UPI) -- Tackling Social Security's alleged insolvency may be the issue for U.S. President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, budget analysts said.

The healthcare reform bill signed into law Tuesday contains reductions in Medicare spending over time while expanding Medicaid, effectively taking the two entitlement programs off the list for deficit reduction possibilities, The New York Times reported.

What's left is Social Security, which Obama has signaled he would be willing to tackle and represents the likeliest source achieving the savings needed to lower projected annual deficits to reasonable levels, budget analysts said.

"You would think that there ought to be a way to get together and talk about a balanced package of some changes in benefits and some increases in revenues that would actually help Social Security," said James R.Horney, federal fiscal policy director at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-of-center think tank.

The president's just minted bipartisan debt-reduction commission likely could force the issue, even though it isn't required to report its recommendations to Congress until Dec. 1, weeks after the 2010 midterm elections, the Times said.

Erskine Bowles, a chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, who is co-chairman with Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, said, "As Senator Simpson and I have said all along, everything is on the table. No one has mentioned to me taking anything off the table."

Few analysts told the Times they believe the commission, which requires 14 votes to make recommendations to Congress, will succeed in rallying around a package of short- and long-term deficit reductions. However, some Democrats in the administration and Congress said they expect some deficit reduction proposals, including Social Security, could be in Obama's budget next year.

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