According to CBS News,
President Obama on Tuesday said he cannot guarantee that retirees will receive their Social Security checks August 3 if Democrats and Republicans in Washington do not reach an agreement on reducing the deficit in the coming weeks.
“I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven’t resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley, according to excerpts released by CBS News …
Mr. Obama told Pelley “this is not just a matter of Social Security checks. These are veterans checks, these are folks on disability and their checks. There are about 70 million checks that go out.”
This is all patently ridiculous.
During the 1995-96 budget crisis, much of the government was shut down. Government workers were sent home and the national parks were closed. However, there was never the hint–nor the threat–that Social Security or Veterans benefits would be touched. Indeed, since Social Security benefits are kept on a separate ledger from the rest of the budget, and since Social Security is–for the moment–still solvent, Social Security benefits should be the last thing affected by this debt showdown.
What is going on here? It is pure theater. Clinton and the Democrats believe that they somehow benefited from the 1995-96 budget crisis, so Clinton has been counseling Obama not to waver and to force the GOP to back down or to precipitate a government shutdown. Either way the Democrats think Obama will win. Obama, not knowing any kind of restraint, has done Clinton one better–instead of threatening to close down the government, he has threatened retirement checks. If no deal is reached and there is a shutdown, he wants senior citizens to hurt, and Republicans to take the blame.
Can he succeed in this gambit? In the short-term, Obama may benefit in the polls if enough people have their heads in the sand and are confused about the issues. However, he and the Democrats learned the wrong lesson from the budget crisis of 1995-96. While Clinton experienced an uptick in the polls after the crisis was over, his reelection in 1996 can be credited not to the budget crisis, but to Ross Perot and to a feckless Republican candidate who soon became a spokesman for Viagra (no lie). The Republicans lost eight seats in the House in that election, and gained two in the Senate, so the government shutdown was a wash in terms of the 1996 election.
However, in this case, one wonders if Obama has pushed things too far. Is he a President working in good faith to solve America’s problems, or a hostage taker? Somehow, looking at Obama’s words, what was brought to mind was this magazine cover from years ago: “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.” Except, in this case, Obama appears to be serious, and he is threatening old people and veterans.
What won’t Obama do to get reelected?
As shown in the graph below, on August 3 there will be enough cash on hand for the US government to pay for defense, Medicare, Social Security, and interest on the national debt.
The President is bluffing, or he is a fool. Either way, the American people should not be held hostage to these kinds of threats, and Social Security payments should not be the subject of political theater.
- OBAMA THREATENS… Says Social Security Checks May Not Go Out (politicons.net)
- Obama Declares Moral Bankruptcy: ‘No Social Security Checks Next Month!’ (theothermccain.com)
- Time to Scare Grandma: Obama Says SS Checks Might Not Go Out in August (jammiewearingfool.blogspot.com)
- Obama: If We Don’t Get a Deal, I Can’t Guarantee We’ll Be Sending Out Social Security Checks on August 3rd (michellemalkin.com)