Entries in Entitlement Programs (15)


Pew Research Finds US to Be an Entitlement Nation

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As much as the federal government’s major entitlement programs have been lambasted lately and targeted by politicians for cuts, the truth is you're more likely than not to live in a household in which someone benefits from these handouts.

The latest Pew Research center survey finds that at least 55 percent of Americans have received benefits from at one or more of the following: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps or welfare.

While 59 percent of these recipients cast a vote for President Obama in the November election, 53 percent of those who picked GOP nominee Mitt Romney are also indebted to entitlements.

Overall, Pew said that 71 percent of households contain one or more members who've benefited from various major programs.  And if one factors in veterans benefits, federally subsidized college loans and grants, that number rises to 86 percent.

Just over one-in-four Americans have gotten an unemployment check and/or received Social Security payments.  About 20 percent are Medicare recipients, while around the same number use food stamps. 

Meanwhile, one-in-ten Americans have received Medicaid payments and 8 percent were on welfare.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sen. Bernie Sanders Calls on Dems to Reject Entitlement Cuts

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Entitlement reform may offer an area of compromise on the "fiscal cliff," but Bernie Sanders is having none of it.

The independent Vermont senator, who has described himself as a “democratic socialist,” is widely regarded as the most liberal member of the Democratic caucus.  In a speech Wednesday at the National Press Club, Sanders offered his take on fiscal cliff negotiations: Don’t cut social programs, at all.

“We have CEOs from Wall Street making millions of dollars a year, coming to Washington and saying we’re gonna have to cut not only Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid -- we’re gonna have to cut benefits for disabled veterans,” Sanders said.  “Let ‘em take that argument to the American people.”

Sanders took particular aim at two options that have been proffered as middle grounds: raising the Medicare eligibility age by two years and calculating inflation differently.  The latter idea, swapping the current consumer price index (CPI) for the 0.3-percent-smaller “chained CPI,” would affect multiple entitlements, including Social Security and veterans’ benefits.

Democrats are being asked to consider entitlement reforms as part of a deficit-reduction plan to avoid automatic cuts set for the end of the year.  Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., appeared at the Center for American Progress last week to ask progressives to consider cuts as part of a compromise.

“We can’t be so naive as to believe that just taxing the rich is going to solve our problems,” Durbin said in his speech there last Tuesday.  

At the National Press Club, Sanders offered a progressive counterpoint.

“We have got to stand tall and say that, in the middle of this recession, we’ve got 50 million people who have no health insurance at all.  We ain’t gonna cut Medicare.  We’re not gonna throw children off of Medicaid,” Sanders said.

“And yes, despite all of the power that our friends on Wall Street have, and the fact that they own many of the politicians here in Washington, some of us are gonna stand with working families, low-income families, disabled veterans and senior citizens,” he added.

Sanders proposed allowing the high-income Bush tax cuts to expire, eliminating corporate tax loopholes, ending tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies, cutting Pentagon spending and allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Congress Brainstorms Options to Avert Defense and Poverty Cuts

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Back when Congress was trying to reach an agreement to raise the debt limit, leaders from both parties decided they’d only be able to work together with the threat of across-the-board spending cuts hanging over their heads.

So they passed a bill in 2011 that pledged just such across-the-board cuts starting next year, which would affect social spending and the Pentagon budget if Congress couldn’t find a way to work together to find a larger solution to Washington’s problems.

And now, after failing to reach that bigger solution, the drastic across-the-board cuts are looming.

Congress is trying to find a way to undo some of the spending cuts on Capitol Hill before they take effect.  They call it “sequestration” for shorthand, and the automatic budget cuts would drastically reduce social spending and lead to the smallest U.S. military since 1940.

But which priority should be saved?

The drastic automatic spending cuts that could kick in at the end of this year have launched a new congressional quarrel over national priorities and which budget should be saved -- the Pentagon or social services.

The law requires $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts equally divided between defense and domestic programs, over the next decade, with the first $109 billion in savings due to take effect on Jan. 2, 2013.

The House Budget committee began marking up a bill on Monday that would replace the sequestration cuts with alternative spending reductions.  Later this week, the House is expected to vote on the GOP’s proposal.

Republicans warn that the cuts would place an unfair burden on troops and military families, who would suffer the brunt of Washington’s failure to budget responsibly.

“In our view, we shouldn’t be taking more from hardworking Americans to fix Washington’s mistakes,” Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget committee, said on Capitol Hill Monday.  “Instead, we should be solving the problem with structural reforms to our entitlement programs to make them strong and sustainable.”

The vast majority of Democrats agree with most Republicans that Congress must avoid the devastating effects of the sequestration, but assert that the GOP goes about it the wrong way, prioritizing defense spending and protecting tax cuts for the wealthy, while undercutting the country’s social safety net and other programs intended to build the middle class.

Even if the House successfully passes its alternative package -- a vote is expected Thursday -- the Senate is unlikely to approve an identical version of the cuts, further complicating replacing the sequestration.

Congressional sources say they don’t expect the sequestration problem to be resolved until after the November election, during the lame duck session.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Campaign Sees Class Divide in Romney Deficit Plan

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As Mitt Romney rolls out his plan to curb the federal budget deficit, the Obama campaign is honing its election narrative based on a clear class divide: by warning the Republican’s economic plan would devastate the middle class while lining the pockets of the rich.

In a memo to reporters, Obama for America policy director James Kvaal said the Romney plan, which the former governor previewed in a speech Thursday night, would “end Medicare,” impose “deep cuts” to education and infrastructure spending, and enact tax cuts that would largely benefit millionaire families and corporations.

“While a balanced, responsible approach to reducing the deficit is needed, Romney will not ask everyone to contribute their fair share,” Kvaal wrote.  ”As a result, his plan requires deep spending cuts across government, everywhere outside of defense spending.”

Obama also favors spending cuts, including some “modest adjustments” to entitlement programs, but only if coupled with tax hikes on wealthier Americans making more than $200,000 a year.

Emphasizing the contrast between President Obama and Republicans on taxes and spending has been a key objective for Democrats, who see a path to victory in 2012 if the electorate is acutely aware of the tangible trade-offs at stake.

Underscoring the campaign’s focus on the GOP frontrunner, Kvaal’s memo repeatedly invoked the name of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., whose austere and controversial budget plan has become a political prop in arguments on both sides of the aisle.

Polls show much of the concern with Ryan’s plan centers on proposed changes to Medicare, one of the primary drivers of the federal budget deficit.  Under the proposal, for which Romney has voiced support, the federal government would provide subsidies to seniors through the states to help them purchase private health insurance plans.

“I’d like to take some of these programs like Medicaid and take the dollars the federal government has been spending and give those back to states and let states craft the programs in the ways they think best to care for their own poor,” Romney said Thursday night in Exeter, N.H.

Democrats believe that vision will be a non-starter among elderly voters, who are worried about their financial security and health care costs now more than ever before. Republicans in turn have accused Dems of using "Mediscare" tactics -- including President Obama's own claims in April that the Republican budget "ends Medicare as we know it" -- to try to scare up Democrat votes.

Romney, “would cut taxes for the most fortunate Americans at the same time he makes reckless cuts to the very programs that help strengthen and build the middle class and provide security to seniors, children with disabilities and the most vulnerable Americans who are working harder and harder to make ends meet,” Kvaal claimed.

For his part, the former Massachusetts governor says the government has a “moral responsibility” to balance the budget through cuts alone.  He is expected to lay out additional details of his deficit reduction plan in a speech Friday at the Americans for Prosperity convention in Washington.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Details His ‘Balanced Plan’ to Reduce Nation's Deficit

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama outlined a revamped plan Monday to reduce the nation’s debt by more than $2 trillion in new deficit reduction through tax increases and entitlement reforms, asking “everybody to do their part so that nobody has to bear too much of the burden on their own.”

The plan, however, will likely be deemed dead on arrival by Republicans, who have vowed to reject tax increases as part of any plan to bring down the deficit.

“We can’t just cut our way out of this hole,” Obama said Monday in the Rose Garden.  “It’s going to take a balanced approach.  If we’re going to make spending cuts … then it’s only right that we ask everyone to pay their fair share.”

The bulk of the savings in the president’s plan comes from $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction through new taxes for high-end earners and $580 billion in cuts to entitlement programs, including $248 billion to Medicare and $72 billion to Medicaid.

The president’s recommendations for the Congressional “super-committee,” which is already tasked with identifying $1.5 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving, are an attempt to quell criticisms that he has failed to offer a detailed outline of his vision for a “balanced approach” to deficit-reduction.

“Everybody, including the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations, have to pay their fair share,” the president said.

In total, the president’s plan will claim more than $4 trillion in deficit reduction through entitlement cuts, tax increases and war savings, in particular, including $1.2 trillion in savings from the Budget Control Act and $1.1 trillion from drawing down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the proposal is likely to please Obama’s Democratic base, the president is seeking to draw contrasts with Republicans and force them to align with corporations and the wealthy.  Obama made clear on Monday that he will veto any plan that seeks to cut the deficit through spending cuts alone and does not include tax increases as well.  

The move puts the White House at odds with Republicans who have already spoken out against the president’s plan to raise taxes, calling it “class warfare.”

Republicans are specifically taking issue with the president’s “Buffet Rule” proposal.  Named for the billionaire investor Warren Buffett,  the rule means those making more than $1 million a year would not pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle-class families pay.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


GOP Leader Accuses Obama of Fostering Class Warfare

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Congress may be in recess but that doesn't mean Republicans aren't hearing President Obama accuse them of putting "party ahead of country."

With Obama planning to outline his proposals for creating jobs after Labor Day, GOP lawmakers are gearing up for more battles with the White House on how to best improve the sputtering economy.

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is firing back at the president for suggesting Republicans are trying to sabotage his attempts at putting Americans back to work in order to appeal to the far right and Tea Party.

In an op-ed appearing in The Washington Post, Cantor says that Obama's demand to end Bush-era tax cuts is "fueled by efforts to incite class warfare" because he wants tax breaks ended for individuals earning $200,000 or more and small businesses that make over $250,000.

The Virginia Congressman alleges the president is trying to make a clear divide between the financially well-off and the rest of America in an effort to "permanently increase the size of government."

Cantor goes on to say that Obama is the real hindrance to lowering the deficit and balancing the budget, calling him inflexible and an obstructionist.

The House Majority Whip contends that although the president is aware of the pending insolvency of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, he won't touch these entitlement programs even if Republicans agree to raise revenues by increasing taxes.

According to Cantor, "We have found President Obama to be an unwilling partner when it comes to getting America’s fiscal house in order."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Democratic Officials: Still No Debt Deal, Not Even Close

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Democratic officials familiar with the ongoing debt talks said on Thursday night that they do not have a deal to reduce the deficit, and aren't even on the cusp of an agreement.

President Obama continues to push for the biggest deal possible and believes there is still time to reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the deficit before the Aug. 2 default deadline, but the difficulties remain the same.

According to officials, the president hopes for a balanced deal that includes deficit reduction, entitlement reforms and revenue increases.  Any deal would have immediate cuts to discretionary spending, paired with a commitment to make entitlement cuts and enact tax reforms.

However, Democratic officials said that major disagreements persist over both entitlement and tax reforms.

Some of the big issues left to tackle include the scope of the changes and how to enact mechanisms that ensure a deal is balanced.  For instance, negotiators must determine how much to raise revenue through tax reform and how to make sure Congress follows through with entitlement cuts.

While both sides will have to compromise, this deal may cause more turmoil for Democrats who expressed outrage Thursday at the possibility that Obama would accept a deal that does not include immediate tax increases.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Debt Talks Continue; Consensus Needed on Deficit Reduction

The White House/Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Officials familiar with the negotiations say Monday’s meeting began with President Obama asking House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to lay out what was agreed upon in the deficit reduction talks led by Vice President Biden.

Cantor outlined around $2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade: $1-1.1 trillion in discretionary spending; $200 billion in mandatory discretionary spending, such as civilian military retirement and farm subsidies; $200 billion in Medicare and Medicaid; and roughly $200-300 billion in saved interest on the debt.

After Cantor’s presentation, the president said the two sides might be able to reach consensus on roughly $1.7 trillion, though there were still some issues to resolve.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said the amount they agree to in deficit reduction needs to be equal to -- if not more than -- the amount they agree to raise the debt ceiling.

There seemed to be consensus in the room that the amount by which they need to raise the debt ceiling is $2.4 trillion.  That would get the government to February or March 2013.

Why that date?  No one thinks a lame duck Congress should take this on from November 2012 to January 2013 and that would allow the new Congress and maybe a new president to get his or her sea legs before again addressing the issue.

So Tuesday’s homework assignment, the president said, is for the congressional leaders to figure out how to get from $1.7 trillion to $2.4 trillion.

Republicans are still insisting on no new taxes.  Democrats say they need some revenues -- a “balanced approach” -- to get Democratic votes.

As House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said Monday, “Republicans must be prepared to make concessions of their own and not put the entire burden on seniors, the middle class and the most vulnerable among us."

The president on Monday continued to make the case for a big deal, arguing that if they’re going to draw heat for the deal, they should at least do more than make a down payment on the deficit -- they should get the country on sounder financial footing and begin to seriously bend the deficit cost curve.

The meeting broke after about an hour and a half.

“We’ll meet tomorrow at the White House at 3:45,” the president said.

“A.M. or P.M.?” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., joked.

“It may come to that,” the president said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House Debt Talks Make Little Progress, Will Continue Monday

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama told congressional leaders Sunday night that he is prepared to make the tough decisions on entitlement spending to reach a deal on raising the debt ceiling and cutting the deficit, a Democrat familiar with the negotiating process told ABC News.

But if Republicans are not willing to do the same regarding taxes, the president asked them during a meeting at the White House, what is their alternative?

After meeting for 75 minutes, congressional leaders will be back at the White House Monday afternoon to continue negotiations.

On Monday morning, the president will hold a news conference on the matter, making his case to the American people about why tax rates for wealthier Americans and corporations need to be raised as part of a deficit reduction package of at least $4 trillion over the next decade.

Republicans say House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sought a similarly sized package that would reduce and reform entitlement spending and cut and cap discretionary spending.  The bill -- which would also raise the debt ceiling through November 2012 -- would contain language committing to principles of tax reform, which key House and Senate committee chairmen would then turn into actual numbers.

Talks broke down, Republicans said, when the president would not commit to the principle that everyone's tax rates would come down.

Also in Sunday night's meeting, Obama again took the idea of a short-term debt ceiling fix off the table.  Whatever Congress passes in terms of deficit reduction, the debt ceiling needs to be raised until after November 2012, a Democratic briefing on the discussions told ABC News.

The president also told congressional leaders to come back Monday with a view on what could pass both the House and the Senate.

A Democratic aide familiar with the process said that Boehner "put on the table letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire and banking the revenue and then he bailed.  The speaker couldn't take the heat from the Republican caucus."

Although Boehner warned Saturday evening that the two sides should "focus on producing a smaller measure, based on the cuts identified in the [Vice President Joe] Biden-led negotiations," Democrats involved in the negotiations say they still prefer to go for the "grand bargain" that would cut closer to $4 trillion over 10 years.

"We came into this weekend with the prospect that we could achieve a grand bargain," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement following the meeting.  "We are still hopeful for a large bipartisan agreement, which means more stability for our economy, more growth and jobs, and more deficit reduction over a longer period of time."

"This package must do no harm to the middle class or to economic growth," the California Democrat said.  "It must also protect Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries, and we continue to have serious concerns about shifting billions in Medicaid costs to the states."

A senior aide to the speaker said Boehner told the leaders that he still "believes a package based on the work of the Biden group is the most viable option at this time for moving forward."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Debt Crisis: Can Congress Reach a Solution?

Stephen Chernin/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As Congress turns its attention to the budget and the country's fiscal situation, the debt ceiling debate that has been simmering underneath the surface could come to a boil in the near future.

The Treasury Department estimates the United States will reach its debt limit between April 15 and May 31.  Administration officials are ringing alarm bells and warning of dire consequences if the $14.3 trillion ceiling isn't raised.

But Republican lawmakers say they won't commit to such a move until President Obama takes bold steps in tackling entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that are weighing down the country's pocketbook.

"Republicans in the Senate will not be voting to raise the debt ceiling unless we do something significant about the debt," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said earlier this month.  "I don't think he has to lay out in public exactly what he's willing to do, but we need to begin serious discussions, and time's a wasting."

Senate Republicans reportedly are working on a Balanced Budget Amendment, a Constitutional amendment that would require a balanced budget every year, as a condition to raising the debt ceiling.

While the debate over the debt limit and budget is taking place far from the purview of most Americans, its repercussions can be significant.

Raising the debt limit doesn't mean the federal government will be allowed to spend more.  Rather, it's a tool to allow Treasury to make payments to vendors under the budget passed by Congress.

If the debt ceiling is not raised, the Treasury may not be able to make payments to agencies, which could result in delayed Social Security and Medicare checks.  The Treasury has mechanisms in place that could delay the negative ripple effects for some time, and experts say the two parties are likely to come to a resolution before that tipping point is reached.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio