Top Republican: Make Social Security recipients pay for endless war

House Republican leader John Boehner gave a revealing interview to the conservative Pittsburgh Tribune-Review this week. He dismissed the need for more financial regulations, saying the draft Wall Street reform bill is like “killing an ant with a nuclear weapon.” Boehner also dabbled in Steve King-style rhetoric, accusing Democrats of “snuffing out out the America that I grew up in.” Then he spoke frankly about Republican priorities:

Boehner had praise, however, for Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan and stepped-up drone attacks in Pakistan. He declined to list any benchmarks he has for measuring progress in the nine-year war, at a time of increasing violence and Obama’s replacement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus.

Ensuring there’s enough money to pay for the war will require reforming the country’s entitlement system, Boehner said. He’d favor increasing the Social Security retirement age to 70 for people who have at least 20 years until retirement, tying cost-of-living increases to the consumer price index rather than wage inflation and limiting payments to those who need them.

“We need to look at the American people and explain to them that we’re broke,” Boehner said. “If you have substantial non-Social Security income while you’re retired, why are we paying you at a time when we’re broke? We just need to be honest with people.”

Boehner handed our president the opportunity to highlight the differences between Republicans and Democrats. Last year Boehner advocated a federal spending freeze, which would have made a severe recession much worse. Now this guy still doesn’t understand how serious the 2008 financial crash was. President Barack Obama plans to slam Boehner’s comments about financial reform at a town-hall event today.

Ideally, Obama would also bash Boehner’s plans for entitlement reform. The top House Republican wants to reduce Social Security benefits for future recipients in order to keep us on a war footing indefinitely. In other words, make working Americans pay the bills for endless war.

Unfortunately, our president seems less and less committed to a timeline for ending the war in Afghanistan. David Dayen predicts, probably correctly, that the July 2011 deadline for drawing down troops in Afghanistan will disappear now that General David Petraeus has replaced General Stanley McChrystal as commander in the theater.

Obama’s unlikely to go to the mat to preserve Social Security either, having just appointed Republican Alan Simpson to co-chair a deficit commission. Simpson wasn’t serious about addressing the budget deficit as a U.S. senator, and his “zombie lies” about Social Security are notorious.

I never expected Obama to be a partisan warrior, but if he can’t be bothered to help build the Democratic brand, could he at least protect Social Security, one of the greatest programs the Democratic Party ever created?

UPDATE: The president shouldn’t count on Americans supporting endless war in Afghanistan.

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Harkin, Grassley help sink deficit-cutting commission

Iowa Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley voted no on Tuesday as the Senate rejected an amendment to “establish a Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action, to assure the long-term fiscal stability and economic security of the Federal Government of the United States, and to expand future prosperity and growth for all Americans.”

President Barack Obama supported creating that commission, which is the brainchild of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad. The goal is to find some way to get big Social Security and Medicare cuts through Congress. Don’t get me started on why a Democratic president and a bunch of Democratic senators are so keen on cutting the most successful programs Democrats have ever enacted.

Anyway, Conrad’s idea was for the commission to work out a comprehensive deficit reduction strategy, which Congress would be not be empowered to amend before voting on it. Two decades ago, a similar procedure was developed for recommending military base closings to Congress.

Conrad’s amendment, offered to a bill that raises the U.S. debt ceiling, failed on a bipartisan 53-46 vote. 36 Democrats, 16 Republicans and Joe Lieberman voted for creating the deficit reduction commission, while 22 Democrats, 23 Republicans and Bernie Sanders voted no (roll call here). Bloomberg News reported,

Conrad’s idea was attacked from the left and right, with groups such as the Washington-based anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform saying it would mean higher taxes while the AFL-CIO and NAACP said it would lead to cuts in federal benefits.

It was also opposed by lawmakers who lead congressional committees with authority over tax and spending programs. Among them are Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Tom Harkin of Iowa, head of the health-care panel.

Senate Republican Conference Chair Lamar Alexander told Politico that Obama needs to “produce a Democratic majority in favor of” this idea if he wants more Republicans to vote for it.

During tonight’s State of the Union address, Obama is expected to announce plans to create his own deficit reduction commission. Bloomberg noted yesterday that “Such a panel’s recommendations ordinarily could be ignored by lawmakers, although Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, is trying to negotiate an agreement to guarantee a vote.”

Too bad the wrong North Dakota Democrat is retiring from the Senate.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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