President Obama said both sides have to be willing to sustain some political pain in order to reach a deal on cutting the nation’s long-term debt, and he urged his own party to accept changes to entitlement programs in order to wrangle some targeted tax increases out of Republicans.
Recognizing that he has a lot of work still ahead of him to convince Democrats to agree to altering Medicare or Social Security, Obama tried to lay some ground work Monday at a press briefing.
“The vast majority of Democrats on Capitol Hill would prefer not to have to do anything on entitlements, would prefer frankly not to do anything on these debt and deficit problems,” he said.
But doing nothing is irresponsible and is really not an option, Obama argued.
“If you look at the numbers then Medicare in particular will run out of money and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up,” he said. “It’s not an option for us to just sit by and do nothing. if you’re a progressive that cares about he integrity of Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid … then we have an obligation to make sure that we make those changes required to make this sustainable in the long term.”
A Sunday evening White House summit between Congressional leaders and Obama ended without a breakthrough and talks are continuing at the White House Monday. The negotiations over the weekend stalled when Rep. John Boehner’s (R-OH) late Saturday put the kibosh on the chances of achieving a grand bargain of $4 trillion in debt reduction over 12 years. At the time, he said Republicans are never going to be willing to consider tax increases, especially if Democrats are not budging on entitlement reforms.
Instead House Republicans began pushing a smaller goal of $2.4 trillion in savings — but even that was impossible to achieve Sunday when discussions broke down over taxes. Right now, both sides have only agreed to roughly $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions.
Talks about spending cuts and savings focused on Medicare and Medicaid, as well as changes to Social Security, including imposing a different measure of inflation that would result in pushing down payments to seniors. Yet, with Republicans still balking at a request for $200 billion in tax increase on the wealthy and corporations, Democrats were unwilling to give way on entitlement spending.
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