Team Obama declares ‘War on Social Security’

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Team Obama is declaring a War on Social Security.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s plans will slash Social Security payments “up to 40 percent,” claimed a breathless Friday evening message from Stephanie Cutter, President Barack Obama’s deputy campaign manager, only two days after Obama’s shocking loss in the first presidential debate Wednesday night.

Cutter reinforced the claim by assuring supporters that “President Obama will under no circumstances agree to put your retirement at risk by privatizing Social Security, and he will reject any plan that slashes Social Security benefits.”

The new claim matches the Democrats’ campaign-trail claim that Republicans have launched a “War on Women.” That tactic has helped Obama leap ahead of Romney among unmarried women.

“You know, I suspect that on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position,” Obama had told Jim Lehrer, the moderator, during the Wednesday debate.

“Well, Jim, our seniors depend on these programs,” Romney responded. “Neither the president nor I are proposing any changes for any current retirees or near retirees, either to Social Security or Medicare,” Romney said, effectively trying to seal a campaign-trail peace treaty on Social Security.

“And with regards to young people coming along, I’ve got proposals to make sure Medicare and Social Security are there for them without any question,” Romney added for the middle-aged voters in the audience.

In many elections, Democrats have tried to argue that the GOP will cut elderly voters’ Social Security payments. However, the issue has been overshadowed in 2012 by arguments over Medicare, where Romney has effectively trumped a normal Democratic advantage by citing Obamacare’s cut of $716 billion from future Medicare spending.

The result is that polls show Obama and Romney running neck-and-neck in the silver-haired state of Florida.

After Obama’s shocking debate defeat Oct. 4, the Obama campaign went back on the offensive, and charged Romney with serial lying.

“Whether he was talking about taxes, health care, Medicare, education, or clean energy, Mitt Romney didn’t tell the voters the truth in the first presidential debate,” said a Oct. 5 post on the Obama campaign’s “Truth Team” page.

Democrats have also pressured Obama to personally pick a fight over Social Security.

“One of the things that has some Democrats that I’m talking to kind of perplexed is Obama’s statement last night, ‘I suspect that on Social Security we’ve got a somewhat similar position,’” Sam Stein, a reporter at the liberal Huffington Post, told Obama’s chief strategist Oct. 4. “Is it the campaign’s belief that the two candidates have a somewhat similar position on Social Security?”

“I’m not sure what Gov. Romney’s position is, but I know what his running mate’s position was, which is that we should privatize the Social Security system,” the strategist, David Axelrod, replied. “The president wouldn’t support that at all.”

The next day, Oct. 5, the campaign claimed that Romney supports “privatizing” and “slashing” Social Security.

“In Wednesday night’s debate, Mitt Romney deliberately tried to confuse voters about where he stands on many issues,” said Cutter’s negative-mail. “I want to clear up where President Obama and Mitt Romney agree — and where they disagree — on one particularly important issue: Social Security.”

“President Obama and Romney agree that we need to make gradual changes to make sure Social Security stays solvent over the long term… [but] Obama and Romney have fundamentally different ideas,” she said.

“Romney opposes any effort to raise a single penny in new [tax] revenue, [so] his Social Security plan is forced to rely solely on big benefit cuts to maintain solvency — analysis of a similar plan showed current workers would see cuts of up to 40 percent,’ she insisted.

“Romney and [Vice Presidential candidate Paul] Ryan also supported the [George W.] Bush privatization plan that would have exposed Social Security benefits to the financial crisis that devastated many pension funds and retirement accounts,” she claimed.

Cutter’s declaration of war is backed up by statements on the campaign’s website.

“The choice is clear: President Obama will never privatize Social Security or undermine retirement security for middle-class Americans. The same cannot be said for Romney,” claims the ‘Truth Team” website.

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Neil Munro