Not again. It looks as if cuts in Social Security and Medicare may soon be pulled into the budget battles now under way on Capitol Hill.
In an op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal titled "Here's How We Can End This Stalemate," House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) describes changes in the two programs as "vital."
"Let's negotiate an agreement to make modest reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code," he writes, urging "structural reforms" to both Medicare and Social Security.
It's just one of the latest wrinkles in an impasse that led to the government shutdown on Oct. 1 and is inching its way to an even more perilous battle: one over default on the nation's debt. On Oct. 17 the government will run short of money to pay its already-committed-to bills unless Congress agrees to raise the debt ceiling - in other words, increase the amount of debt Uncle Sam can take on. Some economists predict that defaulting on the debt could wreak havoc on domestic and global financial markets - a prospect that most in Congress hope to avoid.
President Barack Obama has insisted that he's willing to negotiate changes in Social Security and Medicare, but not until the government reopens and the debt ceiling is increased. Today he announced a series of meetings with Capitol Hill lawmakers from both parties to focus on the festering fiscal stalemate.
"AARP is calling on the president and Congress to leave Medicare and Social Security benefit cuts out of any political deal," says Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of AARP's state and national group. "Americans have paid into Medicare and Social Security, and they've earned a say in the future of these programs, not a political deal that will cut their hard-earned benefits."
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