Obama Puts Entitlements on the Budget Negotiating Table

Democrats wonder what the president is thinking.

Posted: 07/07/2011 05:06 PM EDT
Filed Under GOP, Barack Obama

In an effort to move forward negotiations on raising the debt ceiling limit, President Obama has thrown a few bargaining chips on the table that Democrats prayed he never would: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Based on their reactions, it will be very difficult for him to muster up support for such a proposal.

 

Black lawmakers said Thursday that there is enough pain in the communities they represent and they would find it very difficult to vote in favor of reduced entitlements, which they believe would be very damaging to African-Americans.

 

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) finds the mere idea “deeply disturbing.”  And although he’s still waiting to learn the details of what Obama is proposing, he also wants to know when American corporations will be asked to “do the patriotic thing and step up” to pay their fare share.

 

“We’re not asking to get all their money, but they’ve got plenty that they’re sitting on. Can’t Bank of America help? We helped them when they were in trouble,” Ellison says. “Can’t Boeing help? They get enough government contracts to help the American people when the American people are in need. The problem is that all of the pain is being put on the people who can least bear it.”

 

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that Obama aims only to make Social Security stronger “in a balanced way that preserves the promise of the program and doesn’t slash benefits.”

 

But according to Ellison, even the smallest reductions in benefits could be detrimental to many African-Americans. He paints a dire picture of people having to visit food pantries for the first time or more often than usual, splitting medication or not taking it every day or losing the ability to pay for the roofs over their heads.

 

Ellison applauds his Republican colleagues for focusing the American public’s attention on the need for the nation to get its fiscal house in order, but says their desire to make drastic cuts to vital programs is “extreme, irresponsible and the antithesis of what public service is all about.”

 

The Minnesota lawmaker suspects that Obama may have opened the door to reducing entitlements as a way to highlight how draconian and inflexible Republicans have been, but he doesn’t support the move.

 

Other Democrats are concerned that the president appears to be caving too quickly.

 

“You don’t even go there until the very, very end,” said one African-American lawmaker who did not wish to be named.

(Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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