President Obama told the nation Tuesday that programs aimed at retirement security need reforming but don't offer the solution to the nation's deficit woes.
In his 2013 State of the Union speech, Obama said across-the-board budget cuts scheduled to go into effect to tackle the deficit are difficult, but cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits instead would be a worse idea.
"Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms - otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations," Obama said.
"But we can't ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful," he said.
Obama touted his Medicare reform proposals, including "asking more from the wealthiest seniors" and reducing payments to prescription drug companies and changing Medicare payments to base them on quality of care.
"And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don't violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn't make promises we cannot keep - but we must keep the promises we've already made," Obama said.
Obama, who made it clear that deficit reduction is not as high a priority now that several deals with Congress have begun to attack the problem, said hundreds of billions in tax breaks for the rich need to be eliminated. "After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks?"