What does it mean to “protect Social Security?” What does it mean to work on “a bipartisan solution” to keeping Social Security solvent? What does it mean to “tweak” Social Security?
Those were all good questions that could have been asked in response to points made at last October’s presidential debate by President Barack Obama against his challenger, Mitt Romney. Today, we’re seeing the problem with not asking them.
None of the answers either candidate presented on the question were very specific, nor were they pressed for specifics by compliant political journalists, many of whom were more interested in Big Bird.
When asked about Social Security, Obama quickly shifted the question and rather than force an answer with a shred of substance from the president, moderator Jim Lehrer merely answered, “sure.” Obama then lapsed into yet another conversation about his grandmother.
Mitt Romney did Obama a favor at the debate by noting “neither the president, nor I, are proposing any immediate changes to Social Security or Medicare.”
No, that would come after the election. It was a sadly typical example of the rhetorical sleight of hand that politicians engage in during debates, and the only cure is a tough question and an insistence on an answer.
Today, the president proposed a $3.8 trillion budget featuring reductions in payments to Medicare providers and cutbacks in the cost-of-living adjustments paid to millions of recipients in Social Security and other government programs.
That, apparently, is the tweaking nobody could be bothered asking about during the campaign.