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Joe Guzzardi Social Security, Medicare should not be targets of cuts

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Joe Guzzardi

Posted: Saturday, November 13, 2010 12:00 am

Recapping the midterm election fallout wherein the Democrats lost at least 60 seats in the House: President Barack Obama visited South Asia for 10 days on a mission presumably to create jobs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who presided over the electoral disaster, announced that she will run again. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a post-election news conference said " ... he's comfortable where we are ... ." In Washington, that's business as usual.

Whose idea was it to send Obama to India? Dancing in Delhi after the Election Day message Americans sent him is unseemly.

Double digit unemployment is the cause for what Obama called the Democrats' "shellacking. " So going to India, a country synonymous with American job outsourcing, is an error of incalculable magnitude. As the New York Times' op-ed columnist Frank Rich noted, he hopes that Obama stops into a call center while he's in India to get a better idea of why Americans are still looking for the promised "change we can believe in"

If House Democrats reelect Pelosi, that would be akin to the Dallas Cowboys sticking with coach Wade Phillips even as the losses mount. Pelosi is a lightening rod across the country with little visible support outside the extreme left wing of her Democratic party.

As for Reid, he hung on in Nevada. But four of his Democratic rubber stamp "yea" Senate colleagues did not: Arkansas' Blanche Lincoln, Illinois' Roland Burris, Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter and Wisconsin's Russ Feingold.

Also gone from Reid's Senate are four Republicans who typically vote with the Democrats. They are Florida's Mel Martinez, Kansas' Sam Brownback, Missouri's Kit Bond and Utah's Bob Bennett.

To the revamped Congress falls the unhappy task of reducing the $1.3 trillion deficit that could drag the nation into a deep, dark fiscal hole from which there will be no exit. Some analysts project the abyss could reach $8 trillion over the next few years.

The question posed by Congressman Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.): "Is America ready for an adult conversation on the deficit?"

Considering the first salvo fired from Washington this week, I'd answer "No, we're not."

In his absence, Obama's administration floated a preliminary deficit reduction proposal that contains nothing but bad news.

Commission co-chairmen Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, and Alan Simpson, a Republican former Wyoming senator, proposed a $3.8 trillion deficit-cutting plan that would trim Social Security and Medicare and eliminate virtually every tax break Americans enjoy, including the mortgage-interest deduction.

John Courson, the Mortgage Bankers Association chief executive officer, said eliminating the mortgage deduction would drive home values down even further than they are today.

The White House proposal would also raise gas taxes, slash defense spending and farm subsidies and bring down health care costs by getting tough on frivolous medical malpractice suits. The Social Security retirement age would rise to 68 in 2050 and then to 69 in 2075. Social Security, Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor would take a $733 billion hit while defense cuts would reach $100 billion.

The plan contains some good news. Congressional and White House budgets would be cut by 15 percent, federal salaries as well as new hiring would be frozen for three years, and the federal workforce shrunk by 10 percent. The proposal would also end funding for NPR and PBS.

As an acknowledgment of how painful their plan is, Bowles joked that he and Simpson were entering a witness protection program.

Here's my suggestion: Let the government go first. Cut salaries, reduce its size, get serious about defense spending.

After all that is accomplished, then we can talk about Medicare and Social Security.

Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. Contact him at

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