These are items that we would be discussing if the political system were not so dominated by moneyed interests. So, in this context does Senator Reid have a chance?
Actually he has a very good chance. There is an important precedent for Senator Reid's defense of Social Security. In 1997, President Clinton had reached a deal with Trent Lott, then the majority leader in the Senate, to reduce the annual cost of living adjustment for Social Security. Their deal would have lowered the adjustment by about 1 percentage point annually. After 10 years this would mean that benefits would be almost 10 percent lower and after 20 years they would be close to 20 percent lower.
This plan might have gone through, except for the opposition of Richard Gephardt. At the time, Gephardt was the leader of the Democrats in the House. Even though the Democrats were a minority, everyone knew that if Gephardt spoke out forcefully against this deal, it would create too much political heat to carry it through.
This saved the day. As President Clinton said at one of the Peter Peterson deficit fests last spring: "I wanted to cut Social Security, but they wouldn't let me."Let's hope that Harry Reid and the American people also don't let President Obama cut Social Security.
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